This is a guide to evicting a stubborn tenant from your premises, enforcing your legal rights as the landlord and taking over lawful possession of your premises.
What You Should Note
It is important to note that the relationship you have with your tenant is contractual or statutory in nature. Therefore, even if a tenant holds over your property after his tenancy had been terminated, you still must take lawful steps to recover possession of your property and must not take the laws into your own hands or employ extra-judicial steps at forcible ejection of the tenant.
Action You Should Take
If your attempt at amicably recovering possession of your premises from a tenant after the determination of the tenancy agreement has not yielded any meaningful result; the bold step to take is to consult a lawyer. Don't resort to self-help or use the police against the tenant - as the court frowns at extra-judicial steps at recovery of possession of premises.
The tenancy law is skewed in favour of the tenant. Failure of tenant to vacate your property is a civil wrong and not a criminal offence. If you resort to self-help or any extra-judicial action at evicting the tenant, you may be liable for criminal trespass and your tenant may successfully prosecute an action for civil trespass, breach of contract, and claim for the award of monetary damages against you, which may by far exceed the amount of rent and mense profits that you may be entitle to. It is strongly recommended that you seek legal help from a lawyer. At the interview with your lawyer, you will need to present evidence that may include rent receipts, invoices, written agreements, letters, emails, etc.
What Your Lawyer Will Do
After due consultation and evaluation of your claims, your lawyer will obtain a letter of authority from you to act as your Solicitor and to proceed against the tenant.
Your lawyer will issue and serve the following statutory notices on the tenant:
Notice to Quit (issued where the tenancy has not expired)
Notice of Owner's Intention to apply to Court to recover possession (also known as “7 Days' Notice” – issued where the tenancy was effectively terminated).
Proceeding for the Recovery of Possession
On the expiration of the time stated in the Notice of Owner's Intention to apply to Court to recover possession of the property, if the tenant/occupant neglects or refuses to give up possession, your lawyer may apply to the appropriate court (depending on the amount of rent involved) for the issuance of a writ or to enter a plaint against the tenant/occupant.
Grounds for Recovery of Possession
The grounds for the recovery of possession of rental property and eviction of tenant may be that the tenant/occupant is in arrears of rent; constituting a nuisance; conducting illegal activities in the lease property; violated a term or condition in the lease agreement; seriously damaged the rental property; has sublet the demised premises to a 3rd party; or that you or your family member want to personally use the premises; or you want to renovate the premises.
Where the court finds the merit of your claim, the court shall thereupon enter judgment in your favour and may make the following orders:
Order for immediate possession;
Order for the delivery of possession within a specified timeframe;
Order for payment of arrears of rent;
Order for payment of mense profits.
It must be understood that this article is for general information purposes only and not a substitute for legal guidance. If you are currently in dispute with the occupants of your premises, or concerned about your legal rights as the landlord, or want to evict stubborn tenants who are holding unto your property; you should seek proper advice, help and professional guidance from a legal practitioner. Action for eviction of tenants and recovery of possession of property are highly technical in nature with procedural complexities skewed against the landlord. Talk to a lawyer for an assessment of your case.
EdoAbasi Udo is a Barrister, Solicitor and Consultant at Lex Artifex, LLP.