Alhaji Ali just finished negotiations and payment for a 4 story building containing several flats in Gwarinpa area of Abuja. The building is fully occupied by paying tenants. The agent has assured him that he will serve a quit notice to all the tenants with immediate effect to enable him take full possession.
The above scenario usually plays out in a sale of property transaction, but what is the legal position and approach in the circumstance?
The clear position of the law is that all covenants reached in a tenancy agreement are binding on the Landlord, tenant and anyone who subsequently buys the property while the tenancy is still in existence. So, once a landlord sells his property, the assets and liabilities in it, including the tenants are inherited by the new owner of the property. This is because the new owner automatically replaces the landlord in the tenancy agreement.
The above position emerges from the fact that, in tenancy agreements, there is usually a clause in the introduction of parties which expressly states that the terms and conditions in the agreement are binding on the ‘successors-in-title and assigns’ of both the landlord and tenant respectively. Therefore, a new owner is regarded by law as the Landlord and as such bound by the agreements reached by the original parties, since he is a successor-in-title and assign’ of the previous owner. This was the decision of the court in the case of Chaka v. Messrs. Aerobell (Nig.) Ltd. (2012) 12 N.WL.R. (Pt. 1314) p. 296 @ 320 CA.
Based on the above court decision, a new landlord is bound under the law to give proper notices to the existing tenants of any decision to have them vacate the property or wait till the tenancy is determined properly by effluxion of time in line with the tenancy agreement.
On the whole, a new owner cannot outrightly eject existing tenants during the pendency of their tenancy term merely by virtue of the sales transaction. Rather he/she need to use the appropriate instrumentality of law by issuing proper quit notices, in line with the tenancy agreement between the landlord and the existing tenants.