Renting an apartment in Abuja is not just an expensive venture, it is characterised by terrible experiences and exploitation from agents and landlords.
Just like Lagos, Abuja is experiencing a heightened migration and this is reflecting on everything, from traffic to housing and even its hotel industry.
The United Nations World Population Prospect reckons that the current metro area population of Abuja is 3,840,000, a 5.15% increase from 2022.
The cost of living in the city is also rising as more people migrate into the Federal Capital Territory. House rent has risen to over 200% in the last four years, Ngozi Onyedinefu, a house agent in Abuja note
Shanties and slums are also building up especially in Jabi, Utako, Lugbe, Asokoro, Gwarinpa and all area councils, where the master plan is increasingly violated.
Lokogoma and Galadimawa, inhabited largely by the middle-class, are in hot demand. A three-bedroom apartment is between N3.5m and N5m. Lugbe provides abode to the working class and self-employed citizens. Several new estates are springing up though the neighbourhoods are largely surrounded by slums where a room goes for as much as N250,000.
A three-bedroom apartment in Kubwa attracts between N850,000 and N2.5m annually.
Jikwoyi is 17 minutes-drive from the city center and has seen considerable population expansion in the last two years. Here a three-bedroom apartment with power and water is between N600,000 and N1m.
Rents in the city center and business district cost quiet a fortune. A three-bedroom apartment in Wuse, Maitama, Asokoro and Guzape ranges between N3mi and N6m.
Tenants who narrated their experiences, lamented on extortion and disappointment faced while looking for apartments in various part of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Onyedinefu who has over eight years-experience as a property agent noted that cost of building and inflation has adversely affected house rent across the country.
Mr Stanley Okpanachi, another property agent in Wuse disclosed that the influx of people into the city has adversely affected the cost of rent. “When demand is high, prices go up too, beside it costs a fortune to build a standard house in the FCT hence you don’t expect to get the houses at give-away prices,” Okpanachi explained.
Achetu Agbo, a civil servant in Abuja, narrated her traumatic experience after hunting for a house for over three months and eventually moved into a friend’s house.
“It was terrible and traumatizing especially with the rising increase in cost of rent. The good houses were too expensive, the affordable ones are either in terrible areas or lacked in one major amenity like water or light,” Agbo narrated.
She said some of the houses especially in shanties have crumbling walls, tattered roofs and when complaints get to the landlords, they make false promises to fix it but when tenants pay rent, they ignore the issues raised earlier.
Credible News observed that though houses in the slump cost lesser than those in the city center, security and basic amenities like water, power supply, good access roads are driving factors why people prefer the city center the satellite towns.
However, the imposition of compulsory levies by property agents and landlords have created frictions between prospective tenants, agents and home owners. Often, such levies are considered outrageous by Abuja dwellers.
COMPULSORY AGENT FEE
Apart from the rent paid to the landlord, property agents demand extra 10% – 15% of the rent for serving as middle men. This implies that if the house rent is N1 million, a tenant will be required to pay at least N1.1 million, even where the agent performed no role beyond peddling information!
“The entitlement placed by agents has become worrisome. Some house agents show up out of the blues demanding for fee even when transaction began and ended with the landlord/landlady. In the same vein, some landlords require you to pay the agency fee even if no agent was involved in the transaction,” Agbo explained.
Most agents demand as much as three thousand Naira as fee before letting you inspect the houses. In many cases, intending tenants pay at least N15,000 for every day’s search because agents maliciously take them to terrible places just to rake in more money from the inspection.
“I spent so much for inspection. Every day I inspect about five houses, each for three thousand Naira. I also paid my transport fare and that of my agent who carried me about,” exclaimed. She also bore an extra cost by taking along a friend during the inspection for security reasons.
“It’s dangerous going on a house hunt with just the agent because there are cases where intending tenants fell victims of kidnapping, rape and even ritual murder hence an escort whom you have to cater for comes along,” Chidimma explained.
Our findings shows that more often than not, tenants are demanded to pay other dues such as legal fee, estate dues, water and crazy power bills owing to lack of prepaid meter
Ugochukwu Obiora, is a pharmacist living in Area 1. He said he pays four thousand Naira monthly for estate dues, seven thousand Naira for power and ten thousand Naira yearly for soak-away maintenance.
“Those who don’t have pre-paid meter, pay through their nose for power supply and in most cases the supply isn’t stable. Most estates I lived in pay either yearly or monthly/dues as maintenance fee that is often unreceipted,” Obiora lamented.
LANDLORDS/LANDLADIES POLITICS AND SENTIMENTS
Most landlords and landladies have preferences and biases in choosing their tenants. While tenants choose the kind of house they want, property owners choose the kind of tenants they want based on gender, tribe, social and marital status.
Single ladies are sometimes not welcome by property owners due to assumptions and wrong perceptions while married couples tend to have more regards from landlords due to their status.
Chidinaza Ikedi, a tenant in Lokogoma lamented that in her estate, meetings are usually held by the landlord and other married tenants. The single ladies are ignored and never heard when decisions are reached.
“I once complained about my neighbour tampering with my water pipe thereby diverting supply away from my house. The landlord made no intervention to solve the problem. He said my neighbour is a married man and it will be impolite to go question him. I stayed for over one month without water running through the pipe in my kitchen until the house agent intervened,” Ikedi narrated.
Abdullateef Isa who lives in Kabusa said after paying three thousand Naira for inspection on several occasions, he finally got the apartment he liked but the landlord denied him the house because of his looks.
His words: “It was a terrible and hectic experience. After toiling for weeks, you finally see a befitting house, then you will be asked to fill series of forms. One traumatic experience for me is to discover that there were other prospective tenants seeking the same house and whoever the landlord chooses gets the house.
“Unfortunately, the landlord told my agent that he doesn’t like me because of my dreads. I was born with a locked hair but never in my life have I thought I would be discriminated against for my natural look,” Isa exclaimed!
HOUSING DEFICIT IN NIGERIA
The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria reckons that Nigeria’s housing deficit is about 18 million units as at January 2023. This number is poised to reach 22 million by 2030.
Similarly, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, estimates the housing deficit for the nation’s capital at 1.7 and 2 million.
Despite the growing deficit, data from the FCTA shows that there are at least 600 abandoned and unoccupied buildings in the capital city with most of them located in Gwarimpa, Wuse, Garki, Maitama, Asokoro and Apo. There are currently over 3,000 housing estates in Abuja.
Many of these dwellings, especially those within gated estates, have remained unoccupied due to their expensive nature. Some owners cannot be reached. People who live in the high-brow areas are usually politicians, diplomats, top ranking civil servants and successful businessmen and women.
It is no surprise that a considerable number residents of the Federal Capital Territory sleep in slumsand other unsafe places like motor parks, bus stops, filling stations, street corners, under the bridge and in uncompleted buildings.
Indeed, the high rent in the FCT also explains why over 80 percent of Abuja residents reside mainly in the satellite towns and remote communities where they can easily afford the rent. On the fringe of Maitama is Mpape, an urban slum with very high population density. Also, at the back of Asokoro is Asokoro extension, a attractive slum with a huge number of dwellers.
Amid the huge housing deficit, the population of Abuja has increased on average at 8 per cent annually. The need for housing has increased and is increasing significantly as a result of the expanding population.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POSITION
The Federal Government in reaction to housing gaps claims it has created decent housing programmes across the country one of which was the recent opening of N9.5 billion Federal Housing Authority, FHA, estate in Zuba, Abuja. President Muhammadu Buhari while commending the management of the FHA for the timely completion of the estate, noted that the project was part of measures to address the housing deficit in the country. The 748 unit-estate sits on 18.5 hectares land with 75 blocks of flats.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola said government adopted the rent-to-own scheme to accommodate those who cannot afford outright payment and mortgages.
Managing Director, FHA, Gbenga Ashafa explained that the Zuba housing estate was birthed as a result of the grant approved to the Federal Housing Authority by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2014.
Ashafa disclosed that the project was delivered at the sum of N9.5billion with the subvention of N7.5billion from the government, adding that the balance of N2billion came from the Authority’s other project and was ploughed into the Zuba scheme to ensure its completion.