Tenement Buildings (Face Me, I Face You)

Tenement buildings also known as “face me, I face your houses” are multi-tenanted residential buildings on the ground floor and storey buildings with facilities such as toilets, bathrooms, kitchens and verandahs shared in common by all tenants. It is mostly built in singles or separate rooms with connecting doors (also known as parlour and bedroom). It is usually built in such a way that each room stands adjacent to the other, that is doors of rooms facing another room and are separated by a common verandah also known as a passage.

The toilet, bathroom and kitchen are constructed behind the building, it is mostly detached (stand-alone) to forestall bad odour, noise and nuisance from penetrating the tenement rooms for the comfort of occupants. A few tenement houses particularly ones on two floors usually have their toilets, bathrooms and kitchens in the same block but distinct from the rooms. It is an old building designed for low-income earners and it exists in most urban neighborhoods in Nigeria.

tenement building (face me I face you)

Types of Tenement Buildings

There are three main types of tenement houses namely;

Ground Floor Tenement House: These are tenement houses on ground floor level with shared facilities either at the corner of the main block or behind the building.

Two-Floor Tenement House: As the name implies, it is built on two floors (ground and first floor) with shared toilet and bathing facilities each on the two floors for ease of use by tenants on their respective floors. It usually has a common passage, staircase and balcony from where tenants and their guests connect their respective rooms.  

Multi-Floor Tenement House: These are tenement houses on three or four floors. This type is usually overcrowded with dense pressure on facilities. The rooms are of different sizes and are mostly occupied by people from various ethnic backgrounds. The floors are connected by a staircase in a sizable stairwell, tenants use the same balcony on their floors which is linked to the first two opposite rooms and approached through the verandah or passage.

tenement building (face me I face you)

Features of Tenement House

Most of the tenement houses in Nigeria have peculiar features or characteristics as shown below;

  1. Corner rooms come with 2 windows (one facing the balcony and the other facing the fence area) while centre rooms have only one window (the windows are usually standard ones for ease of ventilation).
  2. The doors are mostly made of wooden material while windows come in louvre blades with aluminium frames, wooden or glazed sliding type.
  3. It is often occupied by low-class citizens with large families.
  4. The roof is often made of corrugated iron roofing sheets or corrugated asbestos roof
  5. The compound is usually not spacious since it is believed that occupants may not be able to own cars
  6. There could be multiple landlords for one property.
tenement building (face me I face you)

Advantages of Tenement House

  1. It commands cheaper rents
  2. Service charges are not usually enforced
  3. Fewer rules and regulations
  4. Everyone has equal rights in the compound
  5. There is a division of labour in cleaning the premises or washing toilets/bathrooms etc.

Disadvantages of Tenement Houses

  1. There is little or no privacy
  2. There is a high tendency for nuisance and noise pollution
  3. Many families from various ethnic groups occupy the property
  4. Regular disagreements and quarrels
  5. Dirty and unhealthy environment
  6. Easy spread of airborne diseases
  7. Possibility of contracting toilet infections
  8. Quick dilapidation of a building due to wear and tear
  9. High cost of maintenance
  10. Overcrowding

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