By Ebun Babalola
In this part of the world, landlords are perceived as demi-gods whose bidding must always be respected.Â So many reasons have been adduced by several people as alibi for the master-servant-like relationship between landlords and tenants.
Poverty, greed and the craze for shelter are some of the reasons for this usual unhealthy relationship. Usually, landlords seem to have edge over their tenants in most cases between both parties, perhaps as a result of the ownership right.
Victor Edobor, a landlord in Oke-Aro area of Lagos may be finding it tough with one of his tenant, one Charles Ezeugo who seems to be determined to take a pound of flesh on his landlord.
When SaturdayVanguard visited the residence of Edobor where his tenant, Charles Ezeugo also resides, it was more like a titanic battle between the two.
The bone of contention we gathered was as a result of a construction going on in the compound which activities were said to have damaged the car belonging to Charles Ezeugo, a tenant in the house. This was fueled by allegation of non compliance to the tenancy agreement, non-payment of NEPA bills and other sundry issues.
Narrating his own side of the story, Victor Edobor, the landlord said, right from the first day Ezeugo packed into his house, he has been constituting himself in a manner that sparks ungentlemanly attitude.
â€œThis man packed into this compound on the 27th of September 27, 2007 contrary to the agreement we had when he came looking for an apartment. The excuse, he gave was that, he wanted his tenancy agreement to commence from October 1, 2007 few days after he packed in, precisely on September 27, 2007. He actually called that same day, at about 2.45pm that he would soon be with us, then I replied and said, â€œwe are still working on your apartment, that was not what we agreedâ€.
Surprisingly, he moved into the house even when some construction were still going on.Â I asked him, what was the reason for packing in at that time without a proper notice especially when the date given to him has not lapse. Then, he said, â€œhis intention was to pack in so that his house rent would start counting from October 1. Then, I said, even if you want the rent to start counting from October, it shouldnâ€™t be September 27.
I insisted that, he would go back since it wasnâ€™t the right time for him but people including the maison working on the house pleaded that I should allow him that there was no how, he would go back to where he was coming from.
So, I agreed but right from the time, he packed into this place, it has been one problem or the other.
The landlord lamented that Ezeugo since he packed into the house has overstretched the peace and temperament of other tenants in the house so much that he could no longer bear any of his stunt, even when he showed him some love and care.
â€œIt started from his agreement fee which he refused to pay I didnâ€™t believe, it was going to turn this way. And because he told me, he was a Lawyer, I believed him just because I believe he knows the law.
Edobor continued that I showed him love and care but he remained unyielding, adding that â€œat a time when his wife was heavily pregnant, I asked him if there was any housemaid to assist his wife in cleaning the environment but, he pleaded that as soon as his wife puts to bed, he would employ an house-help. Behold, his wife puts to bed although through a more pathetic circumstance and we never bothered to ask him for anything again.
At a point, the agent that introduced him came calling for his commission but he remained recalcitrant. Those people were on his neck in such a way, that it became difficult for him to walk freely but we intervened to save him from that embarrassment.
He continued,Â â€œI accommodated everything he was doing until I had to confront him over his inability to join in keeping the environment clean through whatever means of doing it.
Edobor further stressed that heÂ later paid for the agreement but refused to sign or collect a copy saying, â€œHe paid N20,000 for the agreement later but he returned it, saying he would not concur to the content of the letter. He rather opted to draw the agreement himself, it was then I asked him, if he was a tenant or a landlordâ€ he said.
Edobor contended that his behaviour sparks off suspicion asÂ a practicing lawyer saying â€œif he is a lawyer he should know the law, how it works and be guided by it, but he chose to stab the law in its face.
â€œThe same man that claimed to be a Barrister, stays in the house from morning till night without going anywhere, I donâ€™t know, the kind of law, he is practicing. And all the trouble he has been causing is due to the fact that he stays in the house without going out. We have been moving from one controversy or the other.
At a point, he warned me against asking his wife to be involved in any environment activity that he purposely told his wife not to do anything in that house. It was from that day, I knew that he was in for something strange.â€
On the issue of security fees, Edobor maintained that one house is only entitled to one receipts and all those receipts are documented.
He continued, â€œSince 2007, this car hasnâ€™t been moved out of this house. When he brought it, he packed it outside, according to him, the vehicle overheated and stopped. He left it there and after some hours, he kicked the car, but never responded, so, he beckoned on some people to help him push the car.
It wasnâ€™t anything serious until we got a letter from his lawyer demanding we pay the sum of N2.5million for assault and other damage to his car and consistent breach of contract in respect to his tenancy.
He continued, â€œall, I know is that, this man is trying to intimidate me with his profession. He has promised that, any money he spent while he is a tenant in this house, he would make sure that, I payÂ the money in ten folds and that is what he is trying to do now.
There hadnâ€™t been any fracas between us until this issue of car and whenever he comes with his trouble, I try to calm down the situation. Since he packed into this house, it has been trouble all the way.
The mistake I made was that, I didnâ€™t bother ask him, why he left his former place perhaps, I would have known what he was up to. This is my first experience.â€ he said.
Hearing his own side of the story,Â Barrister Charles Ezeogu said, he has never been such embarrassed by a landlord, that he had wanted to be a model tenant and ensure good harmonious relationship between his landlord and fellow tenant but things changed as soon as he got into the house.
â€œFrom my experience as a lawyer, there is always a relationship between the landlord and his tenant,Â Iâ€™ve worked for a tenant and also a tenant and so, I know what it is.
â€œI came in here, thinking, I was going to be a model tenant, and pay my bills which is first and foremost job of a tenant such as NEPA bills, Security fees, Water bills, maintain the cleanliness of the environment.
And ever since, I came in, Iâ€™ve lived up to my expectation but unfortunately, the person who called himself a landlord has failed on his duties. And ever since, we moved in, here, he has been disturbing us to pay security fees, even when there was no receipt to show.
Barrister Ezeugo continued, â€œFor me, security fees shouldnâ€™t be mandated on the tenant yet, I pay for it.Â But, at a point, I told him, I wouldnâ€™t continue the payment unless there was a receipt to show. I challenged him, to provide receipts for the nine months that Iâ€™ve paid before I make any further payment.
On his car allegedly damaged, Ezeugu said, â€œhe asked me to move my car because of the construction going on, but I told them that, since they have been living in the area before us, they would know the best vulcanizer to call, so I told them to call vulcanizer themselves. And because I know, they deal with cars, they sell some and use them to maintain this house, then, I said, â€œokay, since, you have a vulcanizer, call your vulcanizer to come and move the car.
But, he misinterpreted the whole thing and said, I asked him, to call his vulcanizer. Since, Iâ€™ve not been using this car, I donâ€™t know much about vulcanizer.
EzeugoÂ however was not clear on the extent of damage to the car but said heâ€™ll be filling a suit against the landlord and requesting N2.5million in lieu of damages he has incurred.
On the possibility of truce between both parties, Ezeugo argued that until they show remorse, there is no going back on his decision.
â€œMaybe, if they have come to apologize, this problem wouldnâ€™t have gone this far. They would have shown some sense of concern but they wouldnâ€™t. The way they reacted wasnâ€™t too good. Then, I summed all the problems together and filed in a report in my chamber, perhaps, he doesnâ€™t know who I am.
Then, I said, let me just prove to him, who I am and that is exactly what I am doing,. So, it is now left to him to meet up with the demand. And if I want,Â I allow the sleeping dog lieâ€ he said.
He however denied that the landlord gave him any agreement saying, â€œif he gave me an agreement, the worse, I could have done as a lawyer was to make corrections but I can tell you categorically that, I didnâ€™t see any agreement letter. If it was not a standard agreement, I will make corrections.â€ he stated.
Even when you donâ€™t look for trouble, trouble finds you, but the ability to recognise it as a temporary visitor that brings needed lessons, the better.