EDITED BY VICTORIA OKON
One could easily think the hardest part of searching for a house is gathering funds for rent, furnishing etc. That may be the case for other cities anywhere in the world, but not Lagos. Here in Lasgidi, having your rent money is only one-third of the entire frustrating process of house-hunting, particularly if you’re a single lady trying to find your footing in life.
“Where is the house?” I asked.
“Na im be this.” His name was Samson.
I remember the first time I met him. It was a wet morning, and this man who I discovered on a popular property website a few days before, was standing in front of a dilapidated building motioning for me to cross the street. I hissed and covered my hair with my scarf as I made my way to where he was standing.
Technically, these house agents connect their clients to prospective landlords but some have become lazy extortionists. I was stunned when one requested that I pay a consultation fee for each time he took me to see a vacant apartment – regardless of whether I liked it or not. This was asides from his transportation cost, agency fee and of course the house rent.
“You mean… this one?” I asked in utter disbelief.
The house was a disappointing contrast from the photos I saw online. I took a silent walk with him into the cobweb-infested passage that led to the dusty terrazzo floor of the sitting area. It was a mini-flat with one bedroom, a sitting room and a kitchen.
As he attempted opening the door to the kitchen, the knob dropped to the floor with a loud thump. He ignored it and walked me inside as he tried to convince me about how beautiful my life would be if I hastened up with payment.
I wish I had conversed more with Samson over the phone, I would have noticed his sour mood plus his countenance seemed like he held a perpetual grudge with the world.
I noticed there was no tap in the kitchen. When I asked him why, he replied, “Ehn…. Them go do am now,” as though I had no right to ask in the first place.
“How much you call this one?” I managed to speak in my half-baked pidgin.
“Rent na 500k, service charge 300k, then 100k for the agency, 100k for agreement.” He responded, smiling for the first time since we met.
“That’s one million naira?! For this place?!!” The money was not the problem, I had more than enough in my Zenith Save4Me account, it was the fact he could think of cheating me into paying for a run-down shack plus what service am I paying for that costs 300k? I thought to myself.
“I won’t even pay a hundred thousand naira for a place like this!” I shouted, eyeing him from top to bottom.
The momentary smile on Samson’s face faded slowly as he headed for the door, leaving me in the middle of the room. That was the last time I saw him.
My experiences with other agents didn’t differ much until I met Mr. Daodu. He was a tall, dark, elderly man who wore very thick spectacles, but he was calm. There was a way he made the stressful long hours of searching feel better. And he never tried to exploit me. At least, I paid his consultation fee just once, and he was never tardy to our appointments.
I remember how ecstatic I felt the day I found a decent apartment at the heart of Yaba. It was new, moderately priced, and there were just three tenants in the compound.
When I met the landlord, I noticed that he kept eyeing my finger, before he eventually asked,
“Where is your husband?”
“I’m single,” I responded honestly startled by the question.
The next day, Mr. Daodu informed me that the landlord preferred to give the apartment to a young man of my age because he was sure that men “can pay rent”.
For several days, I complained bitterly to anybody who cared to listen and nobody seemed the least bit surprised. Apparently, they had gone through worse.
The discrimination against single women in this society made my heartache, and I hurt even now because this was one particular battle I didn’t win. No matter how hard I argued and fought, the Landlord insisted I keep my money.
At the end of the day, my uncle had to step in as a guarantor before I was allowed to pay my hard-earned money for an apartment that I intended to live in.
However, the long and short of it all, is that I now live on my own, which is a really big deal for me – in a comfortable mini-flat on Montgomery Road, Yaba.
Now that that’s out of the way, I can concentrate on surprising Cynthia for her wedding which would be holding at Ibadan in a few days. She would be so pleased to find out that hers and her bridesmaid’s outfits have been taken care of, courtesy of Zainab and Tomi. It was my job as Chief bridesmaid to coordinate and make sure things work out smoothly. So much to do, so little time…