I must say it has been a stressful, frustrating journey looking for an apartment in Lagos. It’s more of a hunt than a journey. But after all the trials and tribulations, I can tell you that you need one thing: luck. That’s luck in terms of apartment/accommodation and luck in terms of the real estate agent hired.

A friend of mine started looking for a place one Sunday and moved in the next day. One can say she was quite lucky. I, on the other hand, have been looking for a place for a month now and I have still not found a suitable one. But while I may be homeless, I have learnt six very important things.

Agents can make your hunt more hopeless

All real estate agents in Lagos do NOT have your interest at heart. They seem to take you to the worst apartments first (making you pay them more for every inspection) then when they see signs of you losing interest, they start taking you to reasonable apartments in terms of surrounding, size and amounts you can afford.

When you feel that is happening to you, don’t panic. There are not only bad apartments in Lagos, it’s just a business strategy. To avoid that in the first place, explain in detail what exactly you want with the amount you can afford.

You can also make it clear that he /she is dispensable (and don’t act desperate). This advice holds true in dating too.

Commission fees are a one-time wallet drain

Don’t believe otherwise. In Lagos, a new tenant is expected to pay the rent fee plus the agreement fee, commission fee and other charges that vary from landlords to landlords.

Agreement and commission fee usually come up to 10 per cent of the rent paid. Some real estate agents in Lagos would either want to take more than 10 per cent or charge an agreement /commission fee for two years which makes no sense since those fees are not recurrent like the rent fee (you only have to pay once).

Do not compromise, I repeat, do not compromise.

You can negotiate it down to its normal terms (except if you really like the apartment, then you can compromise).

Landlords are also lawbreakers

Don’t believe otherwise. There is this rule that has been made effective in Lagos since 2011 regarding the accommodation fee called ‘Tenancy Law 2011’.

The Tenancy Law 2011 states ‘It shall be unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive from a new or would-be tenant rent in excess of one (1) year in respect of any premises … Any person who receives ….rent in excess of what is prescribed in this Section shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100, 000.00) or to three (3) months imprisonment.’

Shockingly, a lot of landlords do not obey these rules.

So in your search, you will encounter landlords (even the so-called lawyer landlords) demanding two years’ rent. There are two things you can do to landlords like this. You can either sue him/her (which will involve extra cost of hiring a lawyer) or find a landlord that will collect a year’s rent.

(They still exist, trust me.)

A year's rent is a long time

Do not compromise. When inspecting an apartment, be very observant. Check if the roof leaks (or have marks of leakage) and check for ventilation (Very Important). Some people prefer to inspect houses during the raining season to see if the house gets flooded or not.

Apartments that actually gets flooded can never be detected during the dry season so be very careful.

Getting an apartment prone to flooding means waking up one morning to see all your luggage floating. If you are a light sleeper like me, check if there are churches with large speakers nearby (You would not want to have a coerce vigil every church service nights when you should be sleeping just because of the noise being produced).

There is such a thing called 'an Apartment Scam'

‘Apartment Scamming’ in Lagos is when payment for a particular apartment is made multiple times by different prospective tenants that do not know each other at the same period of time.

Most times, none of the prospective tenants gets the apartment nor their monies refunded. The point I am about to make is very important. As you are handing over payments for the apartment of choice, make sure you are collecting the keys to the apartment in return (If the landlord refuses to give out the keys immediately, that is likely to be an apartment scam).

After getting the keys, move in some of your belongings that day even if you don’t plan to stay there immediately.

'An en-suite mini flat' is never 'an en-suite mini flat'

Living conditions in Lagos are generally terrible and apartment spaces are worse. For example, I once went to inspect a place where half of the roof was on the floor, the toilet was more or less a pit and it was called ‘an en-suite mini flat’ (which normally consist of a room, parlor, kitchen and a water closet toilet).

Then I went to a compound (or should I say a dog kennel?) where there were lots of dogs which was inconveniencing for me because I do not like dogs (plus they don’t cage their dogs. Scary).

But you know what? 

You can as well ignore my advice because, hey, what do I know? I still have not gotten a suitable apartment. Just be prepared for ‘The Hunt’ and I will surely give you updates on my ‘Hunting’ experience.