People eager to see solutions to the numerous issues plaguing the estate segment in Nigeria, need wait no more. A maverick investor, Dr Chukwuma Rome Iwuanyanwu, the Founder/CEO of Landlord Tenant Management System, says the firm is fully dedicated to ensuring that both landlords and tenants are not just availed of bespoke solutions but get good returns on investments. He spoke with our reporter recently.
My names are Chukwuma Rome Iwuanyanwu, DBA. I am the Founder and CEO of a maverick tech firm, Landlord Tenant Management System, LTMS – https://LTMSystem.com. I hail from Isi Ala Mbano in Imo State. My early education was at Central School School, Umunchi, Osuh and Aquinas Secondary School, Umunachi, Osuh, all in Isi Ala Mbano Local Government Area for primary and secondary schools respectively.
After my high school education, I went to Lagos and worked in National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NICON) for three years before gaining admission to study Chemical/Petrochemical Engineering at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (Rivers State University), Port Harcourt.
As part of my early contribution to national development, I did my NYSC primary assignment at Dukku Secondary School, Dukku, Bauchi State (now Gombe State) where I taught Mathematics and Physics in the 1990/91 service year. I did some temporary jobs with NNPC and I tried to secure job there but I was frustrated, so I left the country for the USA in 1994. In the USA after going through a lot of challenges, I studied at the California State University, Los Angeles to qualify as a Credentialed Chemistry Teacher. I also earned an Advanced Post Graduate Diploma in Education and a Master’s Degree in Education Management (Curriculum and Instruction) at the Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles. Because I was not quite satisfied with teaching, I left teaching immediately after my master’s degree and enrolled at the Argosy University Graduate School of Business and Management, Los Angeles to study doctorate in Organizational Leadership. The University turned down my application to study Business Administration due to lack of the necessary prerequisites for the course.
After one and half years in the study of Organisational Leadership, I reapplied to study Business Administration and was admitted because my performance was brilliant. My goal was to learn how to run a business and be an entrepreneur. In all, I spent five years to earn a doctorate in Business Administration, including the year I spent in traveling from Los Angeles to Abuja and Lagos writing my dissertation.
How did you conceive the Landlord Tenant Management System idea?
I have always aspired to being an entrepreneur. So, while I was studying for my doctorate, I experimented with a lot of business ideas that did not perform well. In that process, it dawned on me that where I was missing the point was that I was not meeting any need that people wanted. I was following the bandwagon. However, when I took a course called Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Strategy, my eyes opened and my thought process changed. We read and analyzed a book called Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph A. Schumpeter, in which he came up with a term called “Creative Destruction”, the dynamics of innovation, a strategy in which if an organization does not apply will either see it going down, or killed by the war of competition.
In the middle of the course, our professor, an Iranian guy challenged us to come up with a need or a problem and its solution. He told us that he would not like to produce a paper doctor of business but a practical, problem solving doctor of business. He did not limit us by space; he told us that most of us that came from developing countries were swamped by uncountable problems that were begging for solutions. I scratched my head for days and I remembered that one of the troubles hindering housing development in Nigeria was the important relationship between landlords and tenants, rent payments and comfort of the tenants. Innovation, to my own understanding from many books and research I have done is nothing other than tweaking what is already in existence to produce a new products or services; there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Invention is different from innovation; the former is discovering something entirely new that was not in existence before. That was how Landlord Tenant Management System can about, to restore sanity in real estate industry in Nigeria.
During your research while in school, you might have read or heard of some students that produced notable ideas that made big commercial enterprise. Which notable feats come to your mind in this regard?
Of course, I remember an erudite law scholar and Jurist, Kayode Eso; he said knowledge was tied to the books. Google was a dissertation by Larry Paige and Sergey Brin at the Stanford University in the Computer Department, FedEx was a class assignment by Fredrick Smith at the Yale University in 1965, Microsoft was nurtured at the dorm of the Harvard University by Bill Gates and Facebook was a toy project by Mark Zuckerberg, also at the Harvard University dorm. There are many of such whiz kids in America and this places a big question mark on the type of university education we do have in Nigeria.
With the advent of Landlord Tenant Management System in Nigeria, which problem would you say you have solved for landlords?
We have been able to solve the problem of returns on investments. ROI is a recurring factor in all areas of business and investments. Primarily, investments come with returns. If you buy a stock in the stock market, you will expect returns and if there are no good returns after waiting for some years, you will sell off that stock. Traders, who buy goods, sell them off at a profit. The sole motivation for entering into any business endeavour is to make profit. Even those who fix money deposits with banks expect some profits quarterly or yearly at certain percentages. So, it flows naturally that landlords who invested huge sums of money in constructing their houses expect good returns from such investments.
So, how would the Landlord Tenant Management System (LTMS) be helping landlords earn good returns on their investments (ROI)?
Simply, tenants are supposed to pay rents as at when due, at the agreed rate provided for in the tenancy contracts entered into with landlords for the tenants to live in or use the property (house). But this is not always the case in Nigeria. Some tenants pay the initial rent and move in and at the expiration of those payments; and the next rents become a problem. I don’t know what goes in the mind or the heads of those tenants, but there are cases where landlords have lost their houses to banks due to default in payment of the loans they got from banks for the construction of those houses, owing to failure or refusal of the tenants to meet rent obligations. I have heard a case where tenant stayed in a house for five years without paying rents and the case lingered in the court and at the end, the tenant was pushed out of the house by court eviction. It does appear that landlords are holding the short-end of the stick, so the woes are endless. Tenants owing rents and damages to the properties they occupy, without much option for the landlord to recover or earn from his/her investments in building abound in Nigeria.
One of our basic services would be get such behviours lodged in the LTMS database so that when such a tenant goes to another place to rent another apartment or house, the new landlord would just search the name of such prospective tenant in the LTMS database to guide him/her make the right decision. This way, the behaviour of any tenant goes with him/her as it is done in advanced countries. With this, people will be careful that it is no more business as usual. Another benefit for the landlords is free listings of their properties for six months in the LTMS database for potential tenants to rent or others to buy.
How will those who pay their rents as at when due be impacted?
When I was teaching in Los Angeles, our principal told us not only to report those bad students to their parents, but we should also send a good letter home for the good students that showed sterling behaviours. It is also the duty of landlords to lodge the good behaviours of good tenants, so that it will all be detailed in the report sheet when landlords subscribe. Those good tenants need to have some incentives for staying loyal to contractual agreements. For instance, a good tenant can earn “move in special” if he/she is leaving the present apartment to a new one or rent reduction after some years, if he/she retains the present apartment. This is because they are not risky tenants; it is at the discretions of the landlords.
Is LTMS only for landlords?
No. We protect the interests of both the landlord and the tenant. Interestingly, LTMS is the only organisation in the world that can hold landlords accountable without going to court. All the advantages the landlords have, tenants also do, and it is a fair game. Tenants have the right to live in a conducive and trouble free environments. There are also some troublesome landlords and the behaviours of such landlords need to be captured in the LTMS database to forewarn the tenants that subscribe to our services when seeking to rent properties from landlords.
What do you perceive as the expectations of landlords and tenants in Nigeria?
On the LTMS website, https://LTMSystem.com, there is a section called Legal Angle, it is for landlords and tenants to read that section carefully so as to understand their limit of their actions. LTMS does not challenge the laws of the land and we do not enforce the laws; what we primarily do is to capture the behaviours of the landlords and tenants in our database which they input so as to ensure sanity in the rental real estate industry in Nigeria. These services will save many landlords and some tenants from convoluted court cases in Nigeria.
What do you think that landlords should require from tenants before leasing or renting his or her property out?
We have tried to spell out everything in the frequently asked questions (FAQs) link on the website. Every user is asked to read it and our Terms and Conditions documents before use. However, I want to call out the importance of the use of National Identification Document as the only recommended photo ID landlords should ask from tenants before letting properties out. We counsel that the character of the prospective tenant should be placed over the initial rent that landlord stands a chance of earning.
Where do you place tenants who have difficulties with rents because they lost their jobs?
Misfortune can fall on the doorstep of anyone unannounced. In that case, it would have to depend on the past behaviours of the tenant and the cultivated relationship with the landlord. The tenant can negotiate with the landlord for some time until he or she finds his or feet. But this cannot be for an infinite period. I remember in 1996, I lost my job and paying rent was difficult and I had to negotiate with my landlord, a Jew. Again, the saving grace was the government’s unemployment benefit I was getting. My rent then was $575 for one bedroom and I was getting $$250 a week and I was struggling when the utility bills, other sundry expenses and food were taken into consideration, so I had to do odd jobs to survive. Unfortunately, in Nigeria there is nothing like unemployment benefits, so the guy that lost his or her job in Nigeria would be in a very serious situation. The government that is supposed to provide this short-term lifesaving benefits do not do that rather they fritter our money to overseas and squander the rest through stealing and corruption. What should the landlord do? Remember that he or she is not running a charity organization, so he or she must make money from his or her investment. Jack Welch, the former General Electric, CEO and Chairman said that businesses were not run on compassionate ground or divine intervention. The tenant must pack and give way to those that can pay the rent, unfortunately, that is how businesses are run to survive.
Q. How do we see behavioral adjustments in Tenants and landlords?
A. This is a very good question because it will highlight the essence or the relevance of Landlord Tenant Management System (LTMS). When people start embracing LTMS and subscribe to our services, there will be a paradigm shift in the behaviors of housing stakeholders, the landlords, Tenants and even banks and other investors in real estate industry. In the past, pre-LTMS time, it was nothing short of chaos, impunity and brazen shows on the part of mostly tenants. The reason was that there was no system in place to tract the behaviors of people, so they did not care. But now, there is no hiding place for all that is involved, in the sense that your behaviors will follow you to anyway you go. If you are a tenant and you contracted an eviction notice by the action of the court due to refusal of rent payment or you are a habitual rent defaulter, that history will be attached to such tenant and other landlords will see it if reported to LTMS database. The same applies to landlords who are bad. The evolving scenarios will encourage a lot of people to invest and lend money to housing construction because people will now pay rents and they will not risk of bad status reports by refusing to pay rent as at when due. I have a lot of friends in USA, who said that the last thing they would do in Nigeria was building houses for rents, because tents do not pay rents in Nigeria. LTMS is a disruptive innovation and many people who like status quo will not like it, but that is what innovation and pervasive technology are all about. We have to embrace it, innovation is a continuous process and organizations that want to survive and be on top make innovation a priority. Joseph A. Schumpeter, the father of Entrepreneurship saw it in 1934 (Creative Destruction) which I pointed out earlier in the beginning of this interview.
What else, do you think that the public should know about LTMS?
It is important for all to know that LTMS is built for all in Nigeria. It is either you are a landlord or you are a tenant, so we are for all at LTMS. There is another important service offering at LTMS, and that is Building Professionals Listings. Architects, Surveyors, Structural Engineers, Electrical Engineers etc. and artisans like Carpenters, Masons, Plumbers, Borehole Drillers, and Tillers and so on should subscribe to LTMS services for the public to hire them in any locality across the federation. The beauty of this service is that it places the power in the hands of end-users to vet and rate the professionals in stars as a reference for others to use or not to use their services. We also have a segment for entrepreneurs, called “Entrepreneurship Suite” and News/Blog.
How do you intend to address any form of abuse of the reporting system at https://LTMSystem.com, by landlords and tenants?
We are transparent and understand that issues might by some people not being very straightforward. We have put a system in place so that any landlord or tenant can log in and request reports about himself or herself. If he or she has any issue or observation, resolutions can be made by evidence of documents, so preserve your documents in your relationship with one another. For the sake of space, we spelt out lots of questions and answers that may worry the minds of many Nigerians in FQAs link.
How can those, who still have nagging questions, reach to you?
We have several contact emails on the website, depending on the nature of one’s question but my personal email is: Chumaiwu@ltmsystem.com and another handy one is: firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also telephone numbers to reach us and we plan to expand that in every state in the nation. We are also on various social media.