Tenancy relationship, like any other contractual relationship, has an end. The most popular mode of terminating a tenancy agreement is by the service of a notice to quit. The notice to quit is the most important notice in the process of recovery of possession. Most times, a notice to quit is often issued by the landlord to the tenant where the tenant has breached the terms of the agreement. For instance, where the tenant sublets the property, or refuses to pay his rent, or alters the structure of the demised premises, the landlord may serve him a notice to quit determining his tenancy.
Also, where the landlord requires the premises for personal use, he or she can serve a notice to quit on the tenant. It is important to note that a notice to quit is not tantamount to eviction, but rather it is the first step to take in the process of initiating the process of recovery of the premises from the tenant. When the notice to quit expires and the tenant refuses to give up possession, a statutory notice of owner’s intention to apply to court to recover possession is served on the tenant and where the tenant still refuses to give up possession, the landlord may apply to court for a summons of possession. From here, the court issues an order for the tenant to be forcefully ejected from the premises.
ESSENTIAL PARTS OF A NOTICE TO QUIT
- The name of the landlord or his authorized agent must be clearly stated in the notice. Where an agent acts on behalf of the landlord, he is expected to state that he is acting for the landlord. See Bashua v. odunsi ((1940) 15 NLR (Pt 1) 52, where a notice was held to be invalid because it was issued by a landlord’s son without reference to his father as the landlord.
- The tenant’s name must also be inserted even if a sub-tenant occupies the property. This is because the agreement was entered into by the landlord and tenant, not the subtenant.
- The nature of the tenancy (whether monthly, yearly, or fixed term) should also be stated as this helps the court to confirm whether the notice validly terminates the tenancy.
- The fact that the tenant holds the premises of the landlord as a tenant. The landlord has reversionary interest (that is, right to have his property back at the expiration of the tenancy) hence where the tenant gives up possession; the property goes back to the landlord.
- The notice must also describe the premises. This is to avoid any uncertainty. To this end, the street, the number of the apartment and the location of the apartment must be inserted in the notice to quit. See Oshodi v. Okafor(1957) CCHCJ 1093
- The date the tenant is expected to give up possession must also be included in the notice.It is pertinent to note that it is the date that the notice was served that is material. Thus the statutory length of the notice must be complete between service and the expected date of delivery. In Nnadozie v. Oluoma (1963) 7 ENLR 77, a notice to quit a monthly tenant was dated 29th March and expected the tenant to vacate on 30th April, the notice was not served until 1st April. It was held that the effective date was the date of service and since the notice gave the tenant only 29 days to quit, it was held invalid as it was less than the statutory one month. It is therefore necessary for the landlord to give evidence of date of service if he must succeed in his action.
LENGTH OF NOTICE.
According to S. 13 of the Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011, where there is no stipulation as to the notice to be given by either party to determine the tenancy, the following shall apply
- A weeks’ notice for a tenant at will
- One (1) month notice for a monthly tenant
- Three (3) months’ notice for a quarterly tenant
- Three(3) months’ notice for a half-yearly tenant
- Six (6) months’ notice for a yearly tenant.
SERVICE OF NOTICE
According to Section 18 of the Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011, proper service on a tenant on a residential apartment shall be by personal service. Personal service includes but is not limited to the following:
- Service on the tenant in person
- Delivery to any adult residing in the premises to be recovered
- By courier where the tenant cannot be found, by delivering same at the premises sought to be recovered and the courier shall provide proof of service or
- Affixing the notice on a prominent part of the premises to be recovered and providing corroborative proof of service.
Furthermore, Section 19 0f the Lagos State Tenancy Law also provides that service on a tenant of a business premises shall be by delivering to a person at the premises sought to be recovered or by affixing the notice on a prominent part of the premises to be recovered and providing corroborative proof of service.
In practice, the corroborative proof of service is the photograph of the affixation.
SAMPLE DRAFT OF A NOTICE TO QUIT
There is no hard and fast rule as regards the drafting of a notice to quit in as much as it contains the essential ingredients as earlier mentioned. A template of a notice to quit can be found in Form TL2 and TL3 of the schedule of the Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011.
FORM TL 2
NOTICE TO QUIT SIGNED BY THE LANDLORD IN PERSON
I give you notice to quit and deliver up possession of the (house, flat or room) and premises with the appurtenances situate at ———————————– in the —————- Judicial Division/Magisterial District of ———————which you hold as —————–tenant, on the ———————— day of ————–20———————————–
Dated the ——————-day of ————————-20—————
NOTICE TO QUIT GIVEN BY AN AGENT OR THE LEGAL PRACTITIONER OF THE LANDLORD
I hereby, as agent (Legal Practitioner) for (A.B) your Landlord and on his behalf give you notice to Quit and Deliver up possession of the (house, or flat, or room) with appurtenances, situate at————————-in the —————–Judicial Division / Magisterial District of ————————which you held as a tenant, on the ——————–day of ——————20———————
Dated this —————day of ———————–20———
Legal practitioner / agent of the Landlord
In conclusion, landlords often give authority to agents to issue notices to quit. It is however advisable for a legal practitioner to issue a notice to quit. This is because a lawyer understands the intricacies of the law, hence he would be meticulous to avoid mistakes which might be pitfalls to his client’s case. A notice to quit is an integral part of recovery of premises action, hence it shouldn’t be taken lightly and if a notice to quit is held to be invalid, an action for recovery of possession would fail and the claim for arrears of rent, if any, would also fail as the tenancy was not properly determined(terminated). Hence, it is advisable for a lawyer who is in tune with the whole process of ejecting a tenant to be engaged to commence same by issuing the appropriate Notice to Quit on behalf of the landlord.