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Skyrocketing rents drive tenants to city outskirts

Many Nigerians are faced with a consistent increase in annual house rents; some of them have resorted to living in uncompleted building instead of renewing their rents. Oluwafemi Morgan explores their experiences

A secondary school teacher in Ejigbo,Lagos State, Kola Oriola, was disheartened when he left his job because he had to relocate to his uncompleted property in Ikorodu. Oriola, who was living in a two-bedroom apartment and earning a sum of 50,000 monthly, received painful news on Saturday evening. His landlord sent a letter to him, informing him of an increase in his house rent.

Oriola’s landlord had been increasing the rent every two years. When he rented the apartment, he paid N72,000, but as of May 2020, he was asked to pay above N200,000. On reading the details of the letter, Oriola burst into tears, confused about how to meet up with the recent payment. With a few months to eviction, it dawned on the teacher that he had to take a drastic step to move his family to his uncompleted building.

With the help of a thrift loan from his wife, they were able to complete the roofing, secure the doors and windows, and move into their uncompleted home. The teacher had since taken up freelance home schooling while improving the property within his meagre capacity.

“I left Ejigbo in May 2020 after spending 17 years there. I had to leave because of high rent, and many people who were unable to pay. At a time, the Lagos State Government had a meeting with the representative of the landlords and advised that they should be receiving the rent two times a year. Even with that adjustment; many of us were still unable to pay.

“People were going back to their villages for lack of rent payment. So, with the help of my wife, she collected money from her school’s cooperative and we were able to make our property habitable. Then we moved from Ejigbo to Ikorodu. The property was there but it was when the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted that we rushed to roof the place.”

“The house is not completed yet; it has been roofed and it has windows and ceilings, but we have not painted it. We have only been able to fix the front door and the back door. Only the front windows are ready, but other windows have nets. Since I left my work at Ejigbo, I decided to be doing homework teaching. I now move from house to house, teaching pupils for a small fee,” a crestfallen Oriola told Sunday PUNCH.

Also, An accountant, Chidi Ihenacho, spends N1,700 from his Ikorodu home to his workplace in Arepo, Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State every day. Before he was forced to move out of the rented two-bedroom apartment in one of the estates in Arepo in November 2022, going to the office was a walking distance.

Ihenacho, who earns N150,000 monthly, was shocked when his landlord visited his tenants on a Saturday afternoon and declared an increase in the rent from N500,000 to N800,000.

For Ihenacho, this was beyond his and his wife’s monthly salaries, coupled with the fact that the educational needs of three of his teenage children were increasing by the day as they mature into young adults.

He had no choice but to use the little funds at his disposal to move his family to his uncompleted property in Ikorodu, while he continued to navigate between his workplace at Arepo to Ikorodu every day.

“It is very stressful but I have no choice but to forge ahead. It is not easy but as a breadwinner, I had to do something about the situation. I now live in my house. Although it is not completed yet, it can only get better. While I am still trying to replace the wire that was stolen during the building of the house. and to handle some minor fittings. I am pleased that I will no longer be paying rent anymore,” Ihenacho said.

He, however, explained that outrageous rents from shylock landlords would only force tenants to get property and develop them, adding that no reasonable tenant would want to stay in another man’s house for long without thinking of erecting a structure.

“Yes, shylock landlords are everywhere. Those who built their houses in the 80s are asking for outrageous rents from tenants. That is why most tenants always consider saving to buy plots of land and erect structures rather than paying rents.

“I knew that one day, I would not be able to pay the huge rent. That was why I began to save to get a plot of land and began to build. The moment the landlord gave me a hint of an increase in the rent from N500,000 to N800,000, I began to plan to leave the apartment. Currently, I have moved to my building, which is only 70 per cent completed,” Ihenacho said.

In a similar vein, a computer analyst, Omirin Olusola, was working for a food and snack company four years ago and was earning N30,000 as his wage while his house rent was N84,000. He was married and they were coping in a one-bedroom apartment in Ojoo, Lagos.

Olusola said, “I was at work when my wife called me that the landlord had increased the rent from N84,000 to N150,000. There was no way I could afford it.”

He was forced to move to a room self-contained but he fell on hard times in the new place so much that he felt the place was filled with ill omens. Olusola and his wife decided to move to their property in Igbo-Oloyin in Ibadan.

“The room was not even plastered. We packed here in 2018 and built little by little. As I am talking to you, if you come to visit, you will give glory to God. There should always be a plan for tenants to beat some of these landlords to their game. While you are in a rented apartment, try to save to secure at least half or a plot of land and build gradually. If you fail to do so as a tenant, then be ready to face landlord frustration,” he said.

Cost of living

As of November 2022, the National Bureau of Statistics said inflation rate rose from 20.47 per cent in October 2022, to 21.47 per cent. Although the inflation rate eased down in December to 21.34 per cent, the increasing rate of house rents in Lagos, Ogun, and many states has forced many families relocated to their uncompleted property.

The NBS also stated that Nigerians spent a total of N57.1tn on household consumption in the first half of 2022. This includes spending on food, accommodation, and utilities amongst others, and it represents an increase of 14.4% year-on-year compared to N49.89bn spent in the corresponding period of 2021.

The above shows how residents continue to struggle to keep their heads above water in the provision of basic needs, such as food, water, shelter, and clothing for their families and dependents.

According to an online money management advisory, BalanceMoney, the popular financial rule says that one should not spend more than 30 per cent of one’s income on rent so as to have funds to engage other needs.

Unfortunately, many Nigerians spend more than 50 per cent of their incomes on rent, especially in the major cities. The rent of many residents eats deeply into their daily, monthly, and yearly incomes, leaving little or nothing to save and invest for the future.

Rent prices in major cities

Checks by Sunday PUNCH show that the rent for a one-bedroom flat in Berger and Arepo areas of the state is between N350,000 and N500,000, while a two-bedroom in the same areas goes for between N700,000 and N900,000.

In Ejigbo, Lagos, a two-bedroom apartment is rented for between 700,000 and N1m, while in Lugbe, the outskirts of the Central Area in Abuja, a room self-contained apartment is rented for between N250,000 and N500,000, while a two-bedroom apartment could go for between N900,000 to N2m.

In the Rumolumeni area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, a decent two-bedroom apartment is rented for between N700,000 and N900,000, while a single room is for N350,000 or 500,000 depending on the quality.

Expert speaks

Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, a real estate expert, Akinropo Abraham, explained that such movements do affect the real estate market in two ways. He stated that while many people were forced to develop their property and move into it to avoid paying rent, the movement takes them away from the centre of their work, leading to huge financial stress, which if calculated would be almost equivalent, if not more than the rent they had avoided paying to the landlords.

However, a landlady in Ketu, Lagos, Mrs Yemisi Adetunji, said landlords usually considered increasing their rents in order to recoup losses incurred from repairs done to the house. She also said that the rising cost of living was affecting landlords to the extent that they would opt for increasing the rents to cater to their own needs.

“I increase the rent of my block of flats every four years, and I don’t think it is fair to increase it every two years, because the tenant’s rent starts counting as soon as he pays. Many landlords respond to the high costs of goods and services to increase their rent,” she said.

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