A tenancy is a relationship in which a party (the tenant) is given exclusive possession of a property (the demised premises) by another party (the owner or landlord) for a specific period of time in exchange for a fee (rent) or for free.
The rights of a tenant include:
- Right to a payment receipt and written agreement: The landlord is required by law to give the tenant a written evidence acknowledging the collection of rent from the tenant. Also, the landlord and tenant are to state in clear terms the conditions upon which the tenancy relationship shall exist as well as when and how the relationship will be terminated. A tenant is expected to request and obtain a tenancy agreement as well as read same carefully before the commencement of the tenancy.
- Right to peaceful enjoyment and exclusive possession: This is the hallmark of a tenancy and distinguishes it from other types of possession of property. The landlord must give the tenant the right to use the demised premises to the exclusion of all others including the landlord except for the landlord’s right of entry for periodic checks on the property. There must however be adequate notice before the landlord’s right of entry is exercised. The modalities of same shall be stipulated in the tenancy agreement.
- Right to a habitable premises: The demised premises must be one that is befitting for humans to live in. The landlord is to ensure that the building is structurally sound. Structural defects or external damages are to be promptly repaired. It is unlawful for the landlord to do things that will make the building inhabitable for the tenant like removing the roofing sheets or blocking the septic tank.
- Freedom from unlawful eviction from the property: A tenant is protected by law from being arbitrarily evicted by the landlord. If the tenancy is to be brought to an end, the landlord is required by law to give the tenant a valid “Notice to Quit”. If the tenant fails to leave the demised premises after the stipulated time in the Notice to Quit, the tenant will be given a “7-days notice of owners intention to recover possession”. After the expiration of this notice and the tenant still fails to deliver up possession, the landlord has the right to take the tenant to court and the court will evict the tenant. The tenant will however be liable to pay for the period of time he stays over in the premises after being told to leave.
- Freedom from unreasonable increase in rent: The law protects the tenant from unreasonable increase of rent by the landlord. The rent of the demised premises must be at par with that of similar premises in the same locality. However, the law recognises special circumstances where such increases are justified but there must be evidence showing such special circumstances.