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RECOGNITION OF TWO CLASSES OF TENANTS

Dictum

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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STATUTORY TENANT & TENANT-AT-WILL

Hence when the initial occupation of premises is lawful, the occupier, even if holding over becomes a protected tenant qua the landlord. This is a status arising from a statute creating the tenancy. The difficulty arises when the contractual tenant who enters into possession lawfully continues at the expiration of the contract and against the wish of the owner of the premises without any contract. This is the situation described as tenant-at-will at common law. Under the 1976 Rent Edict, as soon as the contractual tenancy expires, the tenant, who becomes so by operation of law becomes a statutory tenant. He occupies the property as a tenant, and enjoys the restrictions against recovery imposed by the Edict. He enjoys protection and security of tenure and is at par with the contractual tenant. Although the tenant is protected from eviction except in accordance with the law, he is liable to pay for his occupation and use of the property.

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

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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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OPTION CLAUSE IN A TENANCY AGREEMENT BINDS SUCCESSIVE LESSORS

An option clause in a tenancy agreement is a covenant which runs with the land and binds the successors of both the lessor and the lessee in possession. It is immaterial that the lease is not registered provided the lessee has entered into possession and paid the rent pursuant to the agreement, he acquired a legal tenancy. Both parties in such a case are bound by the terms of the agreement and the parties are treated as having the same rights and as being subject to the same liabilities as if a valid lease had been granted. See Manchester Brewery Co. v. Coombs (1901) 2 Ch. 608, p.613.

— Coker, JSC. Okoye v Dumez & Ors. (1985) – SC.89/1984

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TERMINATION OF STATUTORY TENANCY

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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CUSTOMARY TENANT CANNOT BE IN POSSESSION WHERE LANDLORD NOT IN POSSESSION

A customary tenant is a tenant from year to year liable under Customary Law to pay rents or tribute to the landlord for the use of the land and barred from alienating the land or disputing the title of the landlord without consent. He cannot be in possession if his landlord is out of possession as the possession he enjoys is that given by the landlord. The landlord is the
holder under the Land Use Act and the tenant does not come within the definition of holder. Where there is a holder, the tenant although an occupier, is not entitled to a customary right of occupancy.

– Obaseki, JSC. Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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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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