Sunday Magazine

COVID-19: Landlords, tenants’ face-off: Evictions loom

Sequel to harsher cash-flow predicted to hit the Real Estate Industry in year 2021, couple with the challenging impact of COVID-19 pandemic and high cost of goods and services in the country without a proportionate increase in the households’ earnings, the relationships between landlords and tenants are bound to be severed due to expected inability of some tenants to renew their rents upon expiration. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA writes

 

• ‘Understanding between landlords, tenants will save defaulters – FHA

• It’s time to throw bad the tenants out, Says estate developer

•‘Leaders at all levels should appeal to landlords on tenants’ behalf’

• We need our money for feeding, medical treatment, says 86-year-old landlady

 

 

For his university contemporaries, who were generous enough to raise the sum of N350, 000 needed for his rent renewal, Amos Ibeh, whose earnings was adversely affected by the challenging global economic downturn occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic, would have been thrown out of his two-bed-room apartment in Lagos, few weeks ago.

 

The father of two, who is an IT specialist, was issued with a notice to give up the continuous possession of his apartment, which sits at 8b Dan Ajayi Street, Alasia, Lagos, owing to his inability to renew his rent, which was due for renewal since August 12, 2020.

 

Belonging to Chief Ozo Awulu, it’s either Amos, who hails from Ikeduru Mbano in Imo State, leaves the property or pays his rent on or before February 12, 2021, which of course, he wasn’t able to pay four days to the expiration of the final notice to quit.

 

Amos, whose belongings were supposed to be thrown out or confiscated by the court in February 12, 2021 for nonpayment of rent, neither had the money to pay nor knew where to go, should he be evicted.

 

“I have less than three days to move out, but I don’t have anywhere to go. I’m struggling to find hope; please, I need your help,” he voiced out to one of his school’s Alumni, whom he approached for a loan.

 

In his despair, the graduate of computer science at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, cried out for a loan of N100, 000 from Paul Athanasius, who felt that a loan at that point (pandemic era) wasn’t necessary as it would subject him to undue pressure.

 

He, rather, sought and got Amos’ consent to raise the sum of N350, 000 for him through their Alumni within 24hours. According to him, Athanasius, one of the executive members of his school alumni, advised him to come down from his high horse and have his problem solved by soliciting for support via the alumni WhatsAapp platform instead of borrowing and going through the stress of loan servicing.

 

Athanasius, however, called on some of their university contemporaries privately, appealing to them to respond positively towards his planned open appeal for support for Amos on their social group chat platform. He did this in order that their responses would spur the rest of others to follow suit.

 

He shielded Amos’ name from the members of the group until after the money was raised and transferred to his UBA account and uploaded the transaction’s receipt on their Whatsapp for record purpose and this automatically unmasked the beneficiary.

 

In his strategy, Athanasius told other associates that one of them was about to be thrown out of the house if he didn’t renew his rent within 72hours. He uploaded the quit notice to the group’s chat and members who were moved with compassion, saw it as an injury for all, responded accordingly, both home and abroad.

 

The next day, a total sum of N420, 000 was realised but N350, 000 was given to Amos, while the balance went into the group’s purse.

 

“This is how I was able to clear my rent and I pray that such experience never comes my way again. It was bad. Our economy needs to pick up fully before my next rent, so that I may not experience this again,” he quipped.

 

According to Amos, his savings were greatly depleted by the ransom he paid to get his mother-in-law off kidnappers’ net in February, 2020, but Covid-19-induced lockdown and the resultant poor personal cash-inflow became the straw that broke the camel’s back, as these didn’t afford him the opportunity of recouping the lost earnings.

 

On the other hand, the father of two, Amos, is not alone in this struggle as there are many other Nigerians suffering the same fate due to Covid-19 induced hardship as well as bad economic policies in the country. Sequel to this, many more will still go through this rough path, except the economy picks up, or a flexible payment plan for next rent is agreed upon between the tenants and the landlords.

 

Thus, there is no doubt that the trio of Covid- 19 pandemic, poor economic policies and the rising costs of goods and services without commensurate increase in workers’ salary/wages (Household’s cash inflow) are having a far-reaching bang on the poor Nigerians. Sunday Telegraph’s investigation revealed that the year 2021 will witness a number of skirmishes between tenants and landlords over nonpayment of rents due to paucity of funds, or zero cash inflow to the families.

 

This will, proverbially, see a rise in tenantlandlord’s possession processes in a bid for the landlords to get their rents while the renters will be praying the court for more time to enable them to pay their outstanding within a stipulated time.

 

According to some experts, who spoke to Sunday Telegraph in different interviews, the looming legal battles may coerce the government to intervene and play a mediatory role, by engaging the landlords to sheathe their swords and allow their tenants some months more to recuperate.

 

The experts held that the government may also request the landlords to accept payment by installments as the economy strives to pick since the renters might find it most difficult to make huge sums available for rents.

 

According to a proprietor of Childville Nursery and Primary School, Festac, Mrs. Grace Balogun, many teachers are currently counting their losses as the year 2020 ended with little or no earnings as their incomes were put on hold since March 2020, following the current downward review of their salaries as the schools and other businesses struggle to make money.

 

Mrs. Balogun believes this will make it impossible for the renters to have a pool of resources from where to foot their bills as the average Nigerian teacher or businessman dipped hands into his or her savings during the COVID-19 lockdown for day-to-day running of the family.

 

Across Nigeria, there is no doubt that relationships between landlords and tenants in the private rented apartments will go sour. Many tenants can no longer afford to pay their rents; a number that is set to soar in the next couple months in the country,” she added.

 

More so, a cash-trapped tenant, a seamstress, Josephine O. Josephine (Pseudo name), who pays a rent of N800, 000 per annum recently was said to have had a showdown with her landlord regarding her rent renewal, a situation that no one was able to conclude whether it culminated into eviction or legal battle.

 

Josephine, who usually renews her rent on yearly basis, is unable to pay her rent due to lack of rewarding businesses in the previous year as well as the current year, which has affected her income. She managed to raise and paid the sum of N500, 000 to the landlord and said she doesn’t have more money to pay when the landlord requested for the balance of N300, 000.

 

A real estate practitioner, who doubles as the Chairman, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Nigeria Group, Mr. Gbenga Ismail, earlier, said the impact of Covid-19 in real estate would be felt later due to the tenancy/rent structure of the sector.

 

He stressed that unlike what obtains in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA), where rents are renewed on a monthly or quarterly basis, Nigeria may not feel the pressure as at last year, seeing that rents are paid in one or two years advance

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