Without question, house-hunting in Nigeria is the ghetto.
On top of paying agents outrageous inspection fees to show you overpriced apartments that look like crack dens (looking at you Lagos), you can also occasionally encounter ridiculous rules that border on discrimination.
“The area does not flood, as long as it doesn’t rain.”
Added to all this, your prospective landlord wants you to pay a year’s rent in advance. Or two years. Or three, if the wickedness is sponsored by your village people.
That last part may be changing soon if things work out well in Abuja.
A bill to regulate annual rent payment was introduced for the first reading in the Senate on January 18, 2022.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West – APC) and was presented for second reading and debated in the chamber on February 1.
We don’t have the document because it’s not been made public yet, but here’s everything we know about it from what has been said in the Red Chamber:
The bill only applies to the FCT
Non-FCT tenants feeling intense jealousy
The full title of the bill is “A Bill for an Act to Regulate the mode of payment of rent on Residential Apartments, Office Spaces, etc in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and for other matters connected therewith, 2022 (SB. 893).” It’s a mouthful, I know.
One thing the title tells us is that this bill only applies to residents of the FCT. This is because housing is a state issue, and the National Assembly can only make a law of this nature for the FCT which it has state legislative control over.
Only the Houses of Assembly of the other 36 states can separately legislate on the same issue for their territories if they want.
Rent advance reduced to 3 months maximum
The rent control bill, if passed, will stop landlords from asking tenants to pay advance rent of more than three months in the FCT. This is to be followed by monthly payments starting from the fourth month.
The average advance rent requested by landlords tends to be one year, but Senator Adeyemi and others who support the bill believe it places a huge burden on tenants, especially low and middle-income earners struggling in these Sapa times.
When the bill passed first reading last month, the lawmaker said, “Many people are involved in corrupt practices to get their rents paid, while the ladies took to prostitution.”
From where to where?
There’s opposition to the bill
Of course, the bill has haters. Chief among them is former Enugu state governor turned lawmaker, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu East – PDP) whom we cannot say for certain is not a closet FCT landlord.
In his argument against the bill, he said advance payment timelines should be determined by market forces such as availability of land, cost of building materials and income.
The senator implied that if the government has such a hard-on for resolving pressing housing issues, “Government can go into housing schemes, mortgage schemes, housing credit facilities, not control the business of private individuals in an emerging African democracy.”
“They may take our lives, but they will never take our three years advance rent!”
The rent control bill is set for public hearing soon
The bill has been passed for a second reading and referred to the Senate Committee on Housing to report back within four weeks.
The committee is charged with conducting further legislative action on the bill. This process includes a public hearing that you can attend to contribute to the final draft. So if you only want to be paying your landlord weekly, they will at least hear you out.
The bill will then be returned to the chamber for a third reading and will be passed or rejected.
If passed, it will be forwarded to the president, who is an FCT homeowner himself, to sign into law or reject.
“So I must sign this and block my own bag? Is this a prank?”
The bill is long overdue
The annual rent system in Nigeria has come under public attention many times, and the only real surprise here is that it took this long for the National Assembly to attempt an intervention.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has long campaigned for landlords to switch to a monthly rent system which is practised in many developed countries.
Supporters of rent control argue that the annual payment system has worsened inequality in housing supply, but real estate developers have argued that there are no adequate frameworks to protect landlords if tenants default in a monthly payment system.
If passed into law, Senator Adeyemi’s rent control bill is expected to encourage similar legislation in other states (looking at you, again, Lagos).
Non-FCT tenants calling their state legislators right now to start cooking their own rent control bill