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WRIT OF SUMMONS REGULARISES DEFECTIVE NOTICE TO QUIT

Dictum

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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TENANCY BY ESTOPPEL

Now tenancy by estoppel is a well known principle of common law and equity. Under this principle, a landlord cannot question the validity of his own grant, nor can the tenant question it while he is enjoying possession of the land.

– Nnaemeka-agu, JSC. Ude v. Nwara (1993)

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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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LANDLORD CAN BE LIABLE IN TRESPASS TO A TENANT OR LICENSEE

Trespass, of course, is a wrong against possession of land. It is not in dispute that by virtue of his employment the plaintiff was let into possession of the premises situate at 4 Benue Road in the defendant Company’s estate at Ogunu and was paying rent to the Company. Under the contract by which he held the premises he was to quit the premises within one month of his ceasing to remain in the employ of the Company. When plaintiff’s employment was terminated on 18th August 1981, he was given notice by the Company to quit the premises by 18th September 1981. If he remained in possession after that date, he would become a trespasser. But this fact did not give the defendant company right to forcibly evict him. If it did so, it would be liable to the plaintiff in trespass. It is immaterial, in my respectful view, that he was a tenant or a licensee.

– Ogundare, JSC. Chukwumah v. SPDC (1993)

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CONDUCT OF PARTIES MAY DECIDE IF A TENANCY HAS BEEN CREATED

Isaac v. Hotel de Paris Limited (1960) 1 ALL E.R. 348, it was held that the intention of the parties and the conduct of the parties must be the deciding factor whether a tenancy has been created or the relationship was merely that of a licensor and licensee even though there was exclusive possession by the appellant and the acceptance of the amount of the rent by the respondent company.

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RENT CAN BE COLLECTED DESPITE SERVICE OF NOTICE TO QUIT

The fact that a landlord collected rent on a property still in occupation or possession of the tenant after notice to quit cannot by any stretch of the law, equity or imagination amount to a waiver of the notice to quit even where the notice had expired and the tenant refused to yield possession in time. The notice to quit would subsist until it is formally rescinded by the landlord and or when a fresh tenancy agreement is entered into.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Pillars v. William (2021)

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TENANCY-AT-WILL DETERMINED ANYTIME

Wheeler v. Mercer (1956) 3 All ER 631, Lord Simonds said at page 634: “A tenancy at will though called a tenancy is unlike any other tenancy except a tenancy at sufferance to which it is next of kin. It has been properly described as a personal relation between the landlord and his tenant; it is determined by the death of either of them or by one of a variety of acts, even by an involuntary alienation, which would not affect the subsistence of any other tenancy.”

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