Bisi Kalu, a software developer in his late twenties, would love to have a place he can call his own. But being unmarried, he had a hard time convincing house owners of his suitability to be an ideal tenant. That’s apart from realtors devising clever schemes to extorting him.
“The landlord, a sixty-something-year-old man, said he can’t rent his house to me because I wasn’t married and this is not the first or second house owner that will turn me down,” said Kalu bitterly.
Kalu is one of the thousands of people who are deemed too risky to rent houses to. In a lot of cases, people like him are rejected because of preconceived biases.
In a country where public housing is acutely shrinking due to a burgeoning population, these biases put Kalu in a disadvantaged stead.
Our society is rife with negative preconceptions against a person or a group of people on the basis of religion, fashion style, tribe and some instances, political affiliations.
In this case of Kalu, it was his marital status that counted against him. Single people are stereotyped, stigmatized, and discriminated against because of their status.
Rental housing in Nigeria is mired in myriads of problems ranging from sporadic rent increase, violation of tenancy agreement, and discrimination, which is largely perpetrated against single adults not just ladies.
Although, a number of cultural and religious beliefs ingrained in Nigerian society encourage the policing of the activities of women. One of the major prejudices against women is hinged on financial independence, that most women cannot afford to rent a property on their own.
In an interview with BBC Africa, Coleman Nwafor, a property owner and landlord said that the bulk of his tenants are men because they have more money than women. “Most single ladies are under the responsibility of their lover or their parents. You can never tell what will happen after the first year. Every landlord wants a tenant who will pay without stress,” Nwafor said.
Single men are also confronted with this nit-picking attitude of house owners based on their employment status and probed concerning their means of livelihood. Akin Oloyede, a banker said, he was denied rent twice because the landlords mistook him for a ‘Yahoo-Yahoo guy’ because of his dreadlocks.
The landlords believe they have a legitimate reason for their action. Olisa Ekeh, a property owner in Maryland, Lagos, said random scrutiny of prospective tenants is an important aspect of house leasing. “It is crucial for us (landlords) to ask these questions; it helps to investigate and know the type of persons renting our houses especially single people.”
Regardless of the double standards which lead to more discrimination against single women, the other of the story, what the media doesn’t often report is single men also experience their own fair share of stigmatization. Besides the prejudice that especially female single adults struggle with, this is a common issue that affects all unmarried individuals regardless of gender or age.
Online survey conduct by The Guardian shows that 73.6% of Men and 83.3% of Women have experienced discrimination as single adults. Also, the two major age demographics with the highest experience of discrimination are (21 – 25) and (31 – 35) are respectively.
Marital and Employment Status
Single adults formed the larger percentage of the respondents with 75.6% while 53.3% of individuals who have experienced discrimination are employed. This reveals that contrary to popular opinion, a large number of landlord still hold back from renting their spaces to people who are gainfully employed.
Areas of Prevalence in Nigeria and Type of Property
The major areas of prevalence include Lagos, Abuja and other parts of Nigeria such as Kano, Enugu, Ondo, Ogun, Niger and Ebonyi. The property types with the highest rate of denial are Single room/Mini flat and 2 Bedroom flat. It is important to note that urbanization plays a major role in the high tide of rental discrimination that single adults face in many of our big cities.
Frequency of Rent Denial and Reasons for Discrimination
According to the survey, 33.3% of the respondents were denied rent twice, 28.8% were denied rent once while 28.9% have never experienced. Amongst the reasons for discrimination experienced by 42.4% reported being single, tribal and religious differences ranked second at 21.2% while 18.1 claim its due to poor financial capacity.