The Founder, Landlords and Tenants’ Rights Initiative, Mr Valentino Buoro, has urged state governments to bar landlords from evicting tenants during the lockdown or 90 days after it might have ended, for owing rents.
Buoro, a lawyer and mediation expert, made the call while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.
According to him, the issue of non-payment or delayed payment of rents, following the adverse effects of economic standstill due to the COVID-19 lockdown, is a time bomb waiting to explode.
He said that state governments should take urgent steps to stem what could lead to breach of peace in many households in the country as soon as the COVID-19 lockdown was over.
Buoro noted that tension was already brewing all over the country between many landlords and tenants during the period of lockdown, where majority of people had lost their earnings.
He said that as a result of the potential danger which the scenario had posed, proactive measures needed to be put in place by authorities barring landlords from evicting their tenants either during or 90 days after the lockdown.
“In the United States of America, practice directions have been issued to the effect that even where such eviction lawsuits are filed, the court registries shall withhold serving summons until such times as provided by the practice direction.
“Affected tenants are given up to 12 months to liquidate their outstanding rents.
“Respective states in Nigeria may, therefore, wish to prescribe their own length of time to repay outstanding rents,” Buoro said.
The legal practioner, however, said it was regrettable that landlords would be subjected to loss of rental incomes for sometime due to no fault of theirs or the tenants.
According to him, the reality of the circumstances demands that humanity should stand up, as a collective entity, to walk through the challenge from which everyone must suffer some inconveniences.
He opined that the way out of the challenge would not be through any lawsuit but through good faith negotiations between the affected parties.
Buoro noted that “though the issues may be ascribed as purely contractual between the parties, government cannot play the ostrich while the society boils from a crisis no one appears to know its origin.
“It appears that the best approach, therefore, is for government to legislate a cooling-off period within which parties can talk to each other or engage in mediation processes.
“Landlords must understand that no one is asking for a rent waiver. What is being requested is an extension of time within which tenants can pay,” he said.
Buoro, however, advised tenants against being unruly or constituting nuisance to their landlords and co-tenants, saying that an unruly tenant could be removed on sufficient proof at anytime. (NAN)