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TERMINATION OF STATUTORY TENANCY

Dictum

In point of law and of fact, once there is an incident of statutory tenancy, the tenant becomes a weekly, monthly or yearly tenant, depending upon the term of the original grant. As it is so, his tenancy can only be lawfully terminated in accordance with the manner and length of term of the original grant between the landlord and the tenant.

– Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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RECOGNITION OF TWO CLASSES OF TENANTS

It is now well settled, by decided cases of this court that for the purposes of the Rent Control and Recovery of Premises, the law recognises only two classes of tenants. These are the contractual tenancies, and the statutory tenancies.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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TENANCY AT SUFFERANCE & STATUTORY TENANCY

A tenant who enters upon premises by reason of a contract with the landlord is a contractual tenant. Such a tenant holds an estate which is subject to the terms and conditions of the grant. Once that tenancy comes to an end by effluxion of time or otherwise and the tenant holds over without the will or agreement of the landlord, he becomes a tenant-at-sufferance. This is strictly a common law concept. But sometimes there is a statute which gives security of tenure to such a tenant after his contractual tenancy has expired. Where such a statute exists he now holds the premises no longer as a contractual tenant because there no longer exists a contract between him and the landlord. But he nonetheless retains possession by virtue of the provisions of the statute and is entitled to all the benefits and is subject to all the terms and conditions of the original tenancy.

– Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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LAND CANNOT BE GIVEN OUT WITHOUT CUSTOMARY TENANTS CONSENT

A very important factor is that the grantor of the land, once it has been given to the grantees as customary tenants, cannot thereafter grant it or any part of it to a third party without the consent or approval of the customary tenants. The grantor is not allowed to derogate from his grant.

– T.O. Elias, CJN. Aghenghen v. Waghoreghor (1974)

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WRIT OF SUMMONS REGULARISES DEFECTIVE NOTICE TO QUIT

The ruse of faulty notice used by tenants to perpetuate possession in a house or property which the land lord had slaved to build and relies on for means of sustenance cannot be sustained in any just society under the guise of adherence to any technical rule. Equity demands that wherever and whenever there is controversy on when or how notice of forfeiture or notice to quit is disputed by the parties, or even where there is irregularity in giving notice to quit, the filing of an action by the landlord to of the property has to be sufficient notice on the tenant that he is required to yield up possession. I am not saying here that statutory and proper notice to quit should not be given. Whatever form the periodic tenancy is whether weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly etc., immediately a writ is filed to regain possession, their regularity of the notice if any is cured. Time to give notice should start to run from the date the writ is served. If for example, a yearly tenant, six months after the writ is served and so on. All the dance drama around the issue of the irregularity of the notice ends.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Pillars v. William (2021)

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THERE IS PRESUMPTION OF OWNERSHIP IN CUSTOMARY TENANT UNLESS REBUTTED

In Raphel Udeze & Ors v. Paul Chidebe & Ors (1990) 1 NWLR (Part 125) 141 at 160-161 this Court per Nnaemeka-Agu JSC stated: “It is left for me to mention that the courts below also found that although the appellants pleaded that the respondents were their customary tenants who occupy the land in dispute on payment of tribute, they failed to proved such tenancy, It is significant to note that a customary tenant is in possession of his holding during good behaviour and until it is forfeited for misbehaviour. Once it is the case that such a person is a customary tenant and therefore in possession, then like any other person in possession of land, there is a presumption of ownership in his favour. Although the presumption is rebuttable by due proof of a tenancy, the onus is in the adversary to rebut it if he can. Where, as in this case, the customary tenancy is not proved, such a pleading may turn out to be a dangerous admission of possession in the opposite party upon which the trial court may base a presumption of ownership, unless, of course, it is rebutted.”

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THE PAYMENT OF RENT IS IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN

In Property Holding Co. Ltd. v. Clarke (1945) 1 All ER 165 at 173, Evershed, L.J, approved a passage in Holdsworth History of England – “In modern law rent is not conceived of as a thing, but rather as a payment, which the tenant is bound by his contract to make to his landlord. From all indications, rent is in a class of its own, and it also stands very tall because the agreement to pay the rent outshines any other considerations. In other words, a tenant is not at liberty to engage in a rent strike because its covenant to pay rent is independent of the landlord’s obligation to effect repairs.”

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