Covenants of Landlords and Tenants under the Law

Last revision: Last revision:August 10, 2022
Rating Rating 5 - 5 votes

Finding accommodation that fits one's specifications can be extremely difficult. The person will consider the size and location of the rental property, rent, use of the property, and other salient features of the property. The most important thing is that when a person finds their desired rental property, they should read and understand the clauses in the lease agreement and ask relevant questions before signing the agreement.

Whether it is a residential or commercial lease, the law specifies certain covenants of tenants and landlords. These covenants are the obligations the parties must adhere to as failure to do so constitutes a breach of fundamental terms of the lease. To this end, this article will explain the nature of a lease, the parties to a lease agreement, and the covenants of landlords and tenants in a lease agreement.

Definitions of Key words

A lease is the process of granting the tenant the right to the exclusive use and occupation of the landlord's property for a specified period of time. The tenant does not become the owner of the rental property, but is only entitled to the exclusive use and occupation of the rental property for the period stated in the lease. The main parties to a lease agreement are:

The tenant, also known as the lessee, is a party who possesses the exclusive right to the use and occupation of the property of the landlord for an identifiable period; and

The landlord, also known as the lessor, is the person that grants the tenant the right to use their property for a given period. They retain the ownership of the rental property and have reversionary right to property after the expiration of the lease term.

The rental property is the property which the landlord lets to the tenant.

Covenants of the Landlord

Covenants in leases are those undertakings and obligations a tenant or landlord is required to adhere to.

1. Quiet enjoyment of the rental property

This simply states that the landlord promises to ensure that nothing, within the landlord's capacity can interfere with the tenant's entitlement to enjoy the peaceful use of the property. The term 'quiet' does not necessarily mean that interference will be noise related and the landlord need to commit an act for it to be interference. The omission of the landlord can also interfere in the tenant's peaceful enjoyment.

The landlord will breach this covenant if there are activities carried out by the landlord or authorized agents or disruptions on the property that restricts the tenant's right to the peaceful enjoyment of the rental property. For example, when the landlord engages the services of construction workers to carry out repairs on the premises, and the tenant is denied access to their property. This amount to unlawful interference unless the lease agreement authorizes the landlord to carry out such activities with the tenant's consent or the landlord issues the tenant a Notice of Entry and the tenant consents to it.

According to the Lagos State Tenancy law, 2011, the tenant's right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the rental property includes:

  • the right to privacy;
  • freedom from unreasonable disturbance; and
  • exclusive possession of the premises subject the landlord's restricted right to inspection and the use of common areas for reasonable and lawful purpose.

2. Covenant to repair

The landlord has an obligation to repair structural and external parts of the rental property while the tenant will repair and maintain internal repairs and minor wear and tears, such as changing the lightening of the tenant's property, repairing and maintaining internal and household fixtures and fittings. According the Lagos State Tenancy law, 2011, the landlord has the obligation to repair and maintain external and common parts of the rental property if notified of such structural damage. The landlord may be notified either orally or in writing.

3. Duty to insure

According the Lagos State Tenancy law, 2011, the landlord has the obligation to keep the premises insured against loss and damage. The reason behind this principle is that the landlord, being the legal title holder of the rental property, should be able to insure his property. However, in some cases, some landlords share this responsibility with the tenant due to the fact that some incidents such as fire, resulting to the damage of the rental property, may be caused by their tenant's acts or omission.

4. Duty to pay rates and outgoings

The landlord is required to pay rates and outgoings as stipulated under the law. There are certain rates and outgoings the landlord is required to pay under the law. For example, in Lagos state, a landlord is required to pay ground rent.

Covenants of the Tenant

1. Covenant to pay rent

The tenant has the obligation to pay rent at reasonable times and in manner stipulated in their lease agreement. Rent is the payment for the use and occupation of the rental property.

The lease agreement stipulates how rent should be paid. It may be paid in a lump sum or periodically (i.e monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc). The agreement also provides the method and date of payment. If the rent is not paid on the required date, the landlord should notify the tenant in writing of the tenant's failure to pay rent using a Late Rent Notice.

After rent has been paid by the tenant, the landlord is required to issue a Rent receipt to the tenant as evidence that the rent for that specific period has been paid. In all cases, the tenant should pay the rent when due as failure to do so will constitute a breach of contract. If after several demands have been made to recover the rent but the rent remains unpaid, the landlord can terminate the lease by issuing a Notice to quit on the tenant. In extreme cases, the landlord can institute an action for the recovery of rent in a court of competent jurisdiction.

2. Covenant to pay all future rates and outgoings

The tenant is required to pay all future rates and outgoings not payable by the landlord. These rates include electricity bills, water bills, service charges, etc. Some landlords incorporate these rates in the rent, while others require the tenant to pay these rates when the need arises.

3. Covenant not to make alterations without the consent of the landlord

The tenant is mandated by law not to make any significant alteration or changes to the rental property without the consent of the landlord, which can be given orally or in writing. The tenant can obtain this consent by requesting the landlord to authorize them to make such alterations, which can be done either orally or in writing. After the landlord gives their approval, the tenant can make the desired alterations.

4. Not to assign, sublet any part of the premises without the landlord's consent

A sublease is when a tenant grants a lease of a rental property to a subtenant. The tenant is not authorized to grant a sublease to another party without the consent of the landlord. The obvious reason for this is that the landlord, being the owner of the rental property is the only party that has the right to grant a lease on his property.

5. Covenant to keep the premises in good and tenantable repair, with reasonable wear and tear

The tenant is required to keep the rental property in the same condition as it was at the beginning of the lease with reasonable wear and tear. This implies that the tenant will be responsible to repair any fixture or fittings they have damaged during the lease.

Most landlords usually request for damage/security deposits or caution fee which will be utilized for the repair of any damage that has been discovered at the expiration or termination of the lease.

Note that if at the termination or expiration of a lease, no damage has been discovered on the rental property, the tenant can simply request for the return of security deposit by sending a letter of request to the landlord.

6. Duty to permit the landlord and authorized agents entry into the rental property to inspect the condition of the property and carry out necessary repairs

According to the Tenancy Law of Lagos, the landlord has the duty to make structural and external repairs on the rental property. The landlord can only do so with the permission of the tenant who is mandated by law to grant such permission to the landlord to carry out such repairs at reasonable times.

Note that, the tenant's failure to adhere to the fundamental duties, obligations and covenants in the lease agreement constitutes a breach of contractual terms, which is a ground for evicting a tenant from the rental property. Hence, the importance of complying with all the terms of a lease, can not be overemphasized.

About the Author

Vivian Umelue is an attorney and legal templates programmer at Wonder.Legal and is based in Nigeria.

Templates and examples to download in Word and PDF formats

Rate this guide