By Oji Odu
“ Landlords in Lagos state have gone bonkers. It seems the new Lagos state Land Use Charges have empowered them to hike house rents without cogent reasons.
“ Since they got wind of plans by the state government through the state legislature to review the charges upwardly, more than 70 percent of them have either increased their rents or served their tenants with quit notices. According to them, they cannot afford to bear the burden while they have tenants living in their houses. Who will save these tenants from these mean landlords, as government seems to be interested in making their money to make Lagos a mega city at all cost?”
Lamenting, Mrs. Christiana Dolapo, a housewife and teacher in one private school, told the Magazine that the threats and bad attitude of her landlord to her family since he got wind of the review of the Land Use Charge is better imagined.
“ I have lived in this house with my family for over six years now and at peace with my landlord without owing any years rent. But his attitude towards changed recently following the increased Lagos state land use charges. Since then, it has been threats and more threats of quitting any tenant that refuses to pay the new rent,” she said.
The visibly disturbed and shaken mother of four whose husband lost his job last year and has been struggling to make ends meet, stated that they don’t know what to do if they are forced to move. “ Where are we going to find the money to pay for the newly increased house rent.
“ Although government may be right in the review, what both I and many others fault is the timing, and it’s inability to protect the masses who are definitely going to bear the brunt of the new charges,” she added.
The recently increased the Land Use Charges in the state after it was enacted in 2001 has continued to generate contrversy. Speaking on it, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said the review which is in line with present economic realities is in the overriding interest of Lagos as a mega city, and would raise the much needed funds to increase infrastructure and provide social services in the state.
“The law was made in 2001. It provides that every five years, we should review it and also find a way to increase. Fifteen years after (up until 2017), the law has never been reviewed. Now, the question is this; those who are having commercial properties, the rental income they were getting in 2002 as against the rental income they are getting in 2017, is it the same?
“The level of infrastructure that existed in 2002, as against what has happened in the last 15 years, is it the same? Did it not come at a cost? So, why is the market value of the property that you built with N1 million naira, 15 years after, you are selling at N20 million. Why do you think somebody who is a buyer will pay N20 million for it? Is it not because of the facilities around the property? So, we have to sacrifice; that is how it works everywhere.
“So, somebody comes and says, we have increased by 400 per cent. The question is, the 400 per cent of what? You were paying N10, 000 before, now we say you should pay N50, 000 and you are calculating and turning statistics upside down by saying it is 400 per cent,” he stated.
He went further to explain that while the revised law requires owner-occupiers to pay just 0.076 per cent, pensioners, churches, mosques, non-governmental organisations and government institutions are exempted from payment. “So, who is the one that will take care of the ones that are free? If you are owner-occupier, you don’t need to pay. So, it’s the commercial part that people are complaining about.
“Why have we increased the rate? We should have been doing this every five years but I am looking at it if I must sustain the level of my vision, I have to give something back to the people.
The governor regretted that out of about two million out of the eight million taxable adults in the state that filed their tax returns last year, only 700,000 actually paid their taxes last year.
Ambode revealed that the current tax returns were not enough to cater for the ongoing capital projects across the state which would help take care of the increasing pressure on infrastructure and social services in the state, while adding that major cities across the world with thriving economies are sustained by the taxes paid by residents.
But in a chat with the Magazine, Kehinde Owulade, a legal practitioner, while welcoming the new charges, regretted that the already pressurised tenants will still be the final bearers of the burden of the new increase.
“ It’s a pity that the tenants somehow are helpless in this situation because it seems there is nobody to help them. If the landlords increase their house or shop rents, will the state government actually stop them? Rather they will tell the affected tenants to seek alternative accommodations and avoid unnecessary problems with their landlords.
“ With the new Lagos state tenancy law which favors landlords and permits them to make ‘mean’ profit at times, landlords could just wake up and quit his tenants if he wants to increase rent. If this happens, who will save them? And with this new increase whereby some landlords have reciprocated with increase in tenement fees, will the state government whose is bent on generating revenue by all means protect the tenants?”, he asked.
It is good for Lagos to be a mega city. It is equally good for the citizens to pay their taxes. However, it is best that the citizens who grow Lagos not to be pressurised and stunted by some ‘timely’ laws that can make the “ Centre of Excellence” a jungle.