Why homeowners refuse to rent out houses to single women in Nigeria revealed

In Nigeria, most landlords refuse to rent out their houses to single women and the reasons is that they suspect them of being prostitutes.

The foremost reason why landlords avoid renting to single women is that they suspect them of being prostitutes. A single woman who wants to get a house might have to be accompanied with a man or experience difficulties finding an apartment to rent.

A successful career woman, Olufunmilola Ogungbile, 30, who moved to Lagos after securing a good job with the Ogun state government as a project administrator, was reduced to sleeping on a friend’s couch after five months of apartment-hunting in Abeokuta, Ogun state. Despite being financially independent, she struggled to find an apartment in middle and upmarket areas because she was single.

“The first question the landlord would ask me is if I’m married?” Ms Ogungbile told BBC reporter Abigail Ony Nwaohuocha, “I’d say ‘No’, and they’d follow with, ‘Why not’?”

She said this often left her puzzled.

What does my marital status have to do with me getting a place to live in?

She continued:

Ninety-nine per cent of the landlords I met did not want to rent to me because I am a single woman. Most landlords and agents would tell me, ‘Can you bring your boyfriend or your husband?’ In these kinds of apartments, we don’t like boys coming in. We just want decent people.”

In this part of the world, if you are not married then you are a prostitute, she added.

Ms Ogungbile believes she fought back against discrimination in her own little way – by refusing to present a man.

Part of fighting the stigma was me refusing to bring a spouse or a partner because that was part of the criteria before they would hand me the keys, she said.

Sylvia Oyinda, 31, a product manager in the retail sector in Lagos, agrees that the stigma makes it difficult for single women to rent in Nigeria.

Ms Oyinda was engaged when she started looking for an apartment. Landlords refused to meet her without her fiancé.

There is a saying ‘small girl, big god’ that describes young single women who rent alone or squat with other females. The saying refers to single women who have sponsors, typically older men, who pay their rent.

Ms Oyinda believes landlords assume most young single women are sponsored by men.

The three landlords I met all refused to show me their apartments. They would tell me, ‘Don’t bother.’

Out of frustration, she stopped scouting on her own and decided to go with her partner, who she is now married to, and it was only then that she was taken seriously.

Coleman Nwafor, a landlord and property owner, explained to BBC the reason for this discrimination, saying:

Most single ladies are under the responsibility of their parents or a lover. You can never tell what will happen after the first year. And every landlord wants a tenant who will pay without stress and renew their contract once it expires.

Most single ladies are not working. There are more jobs for men than women in Nigeria. That is just the way it is.

Yinka Oladiran, 25, who moved from New York to Lagos in May 2016 to pursue a career as a TV presenter, said they refused to rent to her except she brings her father.

There were landlords who said they did not want to rent to me until they had spoken to my father to make sure that he was OK with it, even though I was paying with my own money.

My opinion didn’t matter. The landlords try to police women.

She searched for more than six months before she finally got an apartment in April 2017. Even after getting the house, she was still constantly undermined by security staff, especially when she came home late from work, as they often asked her who she was visiting.

“For that to even happen over and over again was very insulting,” .