Mixed reactions have started to trail the recent directive by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, which compels landlords to collect their rents in arrears.
Fashola made this directive on July 7 at an event for real estate operators in Abuja while speaking on the theme “innovative housing finance model as a catalyst for home ownership.”
According to the minister, the directive was to ease the burden of salary earners since they are not receiving their salaries in advance but in arrears.
“If you ask me to go and bring in advance one year’s rent from what I’m going to earn monthly, how feasible is that?” Fashola said.
“Even my salary as a minister is paid at the end of every month, not even at the beginning; then you the landlord is now asking me to bring next year’s salary, and we’re complaining that there’s corruption,” he added.
Divergent feelings were expressed by both landlords and tenants on the directive. While some believe it is a good idea, others are of the opinion that it cannot be possible.
Eji Oyero, a landlord from Kosofe, termed the ministers statement as a coax because of the upcoming election. He feels it’s a political agenda.
“What about people that just built their houses? Some get loans to build them. How are they supposed to pay their debts,” Oyero questioned.
Oyero also complained about the fact that the government promised to control the price of cement and building blocks, but they did nothing.
“This is a political agenda. He has been in office for three years but didn’t bring up such directive. Now that election is coming up next year, he’s bringing it up so as to get the support of the masses, because he knows the masses are the poor people.” the landlord further stated.
Another landlord, John Chukwuma from Ojodu, said, “With the economy of the country, how is that feasible? Everything is expensive. They have done nothing about food, fuel, nothing! How do they expect people to survive?”
Not all landlords are happy with this but some landlords don’t mind, are far as the rent is paid. Paul Obong, a landlord from Anthony, stated, “I feel the directive is good because of the economy, sometimes because of the paying in advance, there are so many problems that crop up between landlords and tenants. So it will be easier for me. To get money from my tenants after their rent is due is always a problem, so if they can pay monthly, I can accept it.”
The government recently increased the Land-Use Charge for land owners to 50 percent, and landlords were not happy about it. With this, Mrs. Boluwatife Ogunleye, a landlord from Ojota, is of the belief that it will be difficult to get paid in arrears.
Mrs. Ogunleye, while sharing her concern stated, “How can I collect my rents in arrears with all the charges by government? We have the Land Use Charge that was formerly five percent, now it’s 50 percent and also a tenement fee. How will I survive? How will I pay all these charges?”
Other tenants expressed reservations over the directive despite the advantages it portends to them. Some of them feel it’s a bad idea and that it will definitely lead to conflict between landlords and tenants. Buttressing this point, Tobi, a tenant from Berger, stated “I don’t think this is a good idea, there would be many disputes and eventually they will allow the tenants to space the payments depending on their finances because most tenants have a lot of bills to pay every month and in this part of the world rent has always been annual or biannual.”
Tobi further pointed out that, “To just wake up one day and say people should start paying monthly is unrealistic, impractical and insensitive. The landlord might end up taking some of them to court, embark on forceful eviction among other things but the landlords still won’t get their money if the tenant in question can’t afford to pay, and trust me, most tenants fall into this category.”
However, most tenants agree with the fact that this directive will help them live comfortably without worrying about debts. “This is a good idea, it reduces the financial load like paying of school fees and all of that. If the landlords agree with this directive, then I will also have peace of mind” a tenant, Alhaja Laide Sherifat opines.
By Oluwaseyi Jeje