“We tried to arrest him the second time,” says Mr Olusegun Andrea, “but he absconded. Since then, he has been avoiding us.”
After eight months of part-paying 150,000 naira to Mr Fatai- an Agent in Obanikoro area of Lagos State, for a two-room self-contained apartment. Andrea and his two friends had searched, caught and handed him to the police. This happened after facetime meetings and phone conversations, of which, he lied that the apartment is yet to be completed. Meanwhile, the apartment has been completed and rented to another person. He confirmed collecting the money, but the police officer requested he refunds in instalments and freed him back into the society.
“I didn’t even get a receipt for the payment, so stupid of me.” Andrea glomming says. “It’s almost three years now and I’ve not gotten a kobo, I’m not expecting it anyway.” Andrea is not the only one in this mess, there were six of them.
It is not uncommon that people source for Estate Agents before renting an apartment or acquiring properties anywhere in the world. There’s hardly a place in Lagos where you won’t find local estate agents’ phone numbers and available properties written on boards or walls, some on main roads parapets.
This line of service delivery requires almost no expertise, all it requires is to know a landlord who wants to rent out an apartment, get someone who needs it, link both parties and as the middleman, get paid a commission. The network could be longer when many agents inform themselves of properties in several locations.
Usually, most of these local estate agents are not registered, so it becomes difficult for people to nib them down should they dupe a client or charge exorbitant and unreasonable fees. The registered ones basically overlook the guiding laws as the socio-economic level of the people in such environment.
Some don’t even know the housing laws. Those registered estate agents under recognized bodies such as the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors or Association of Estate Agents in Nigeria, and are likely to be found in the “Lekkis” of Lagos, and likely not certain in the outskirts.
Many reports state that agency fees for tenancy agreement should be 10% of the yearly tenancy rate and 5% of the total price in cases of an outright sale. Also, the legal fee, otherwise known as the agreement fee, should be between 5% and 10% of the yearly fee, but these are not the case. According to the survey sample of 40 estate agents in Lagos State, from phone numbers picked from walls and boards, intimation with agents and fair bargain, the snippet of the analysis shows.
Basically, estate agent fees are decided upon by the estate agent using two criteria, the clients estimated pocket/ requirements and the standard of the house. In 2016, I was able to negotiate the charged 50,000 naira estate agent fee to 25,000 naira when I dressed down and made a pity face. And this was for a 200,000 naira two bedroom apartment In Igando, Lasu-Isheri Road.
According to NBS (Nigerian Bureau of Statistics) 2017 report, amongst the active citizens, the unemployment rate- which has been increasing since 2016, recently stands at 18.8%, combined with the underemployment rate, it builds up to a whopping 40%.
On the grey side of the economic and sustainable livelihood mismatch, there are youth entrepreneurs trying to survive in the Nigerian un-enabling environment. Without success, many retire to the 9-5 job. Another report, from trading economics, revealed that in Nigeria, an employee earns 40,100 naira on the average. For instance, should an unmarried youth rent a one-room apartment, which is less likely, that means he’s investing 12.5% of his monthly wage on housing every month.
Due to this unbalance, many youths resolve to remain with their parents or migrate to live with other family members, mostly in areas closer to their places of work. The issue of privacy gradually creeps in here. “Not that they’re treating me badly in any way, in fact, they’re doing more than my parents,” Safiya whines, “I just don’t feel comfortable, I need to get an apartment before this year ends.”
When youths talk about their privacy issue, the revelation always is striking. Back in 2011, I left home for the unknowns of Ilorin. Despite the comfort of sharing a master’s bedroom with my younger brother, the privacy was absent. Staying at home distorts my thought process, so I left.
Estate agents exorbitant fees discourage youths to rent an apartment, leading to prolonged dependency. Prolonged dependency leads to psychological health problems. In a research about privacy and psychological health, it was related that limited privacy caused anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, and addictive and risk behaviour. Though the participants in this research are of age range thirteen and seventeen years, but it is relevant and worse in higher age range.
7 out of every 10 employed youth who still live with families or friends are actively looking for the next exit route to unlimited privacy. One employed youth who still live a family member added, “I don’t have problems when they disturb me too much, I just go out and take 3-4 bottles. Then I go to sleep.”
The trouble is that change is difficult. Though there is a law in place which everyone neglected. It’s a thing of, if you can’t pay for the apartment, leave it, another person will pay. And sure, particularly in central mainland areas of Ogba, Ikeja, Yaba and Surulere, another will pay for the apartment. In areas where people know their rights, this might not be rampant, but apartments in those places are pricey. And since estate agents services are typically grassroots business, it’s a job for persons who understand the community terrain and has connections.
“Most people can’t identify a quack Estate agent,” ESV. Kunle Adedeji, the National Chairman, Association of Estate Agents in Nigeria (AEAN), speaks, “since it’s traditionally a free-entry-free-exit model.” So, it’s difficult to grab defaulters at the arm when they err. He continued that the association conducts training and re-training of estate agents so they can be ethics- compliant and also uphold best practices in Estate agency.
Change is possible but it has to be strategic. The AEAN National Chairman further advised that house seekers should discern quack estate agents by ensuring they pact with registered ones with the AEAN crest or check the member’s database online. In homogeneous communities where “man -know -man” disrupts transparency. Housing developers and community development associations, through the State ministry of youth, sport and social development, can push and develop modest and cost-effective houses in centralized locations. With this, youth will benefit and there might be a drastic decrease in drug abuse such as codeine, smoking, excessive drinking. Policymakers could also place strict rules on breaches of these housing laws and have it totally implemented to the alcove of grassroots. This would make estate agents be on an alert of possible reprimands.
Until we curb this menace, many youths, despite recognized by the law as independents, will yet be chronic dependents. And, they will indulge in hard drugs, addiction and moral misconduct to fight back the depression, anxiety and other psychological refrains. The future is really at stake.