Tenant’s rights vs landlord’s rights

Leasing ­is serious business: An aerial view of a residential area in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. — GLENN GUAN/The Star

PETALING JAYA: While landlords should be wary in filtering out dodgy tenants, the proposed Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) – aimed at addressing rental property issues – should be fair and not foster any discrimination, say real estate experts.

They said the RTA should address the many concerns among landlords, tenants and property agents.

Property expert and content creator Sean Tan Iherng said that making property owners fully liable for their tenants could lead to more discrimination, which is an existing problem in the property market.

While the police should investigate when a rented place is used for crime, Sean said the owners should be careful of a tenancy that seems “too good to be true”.

“When a tenancy offer indicates it’s too good to be true and the owner still accepts it, then the owner should be penalised,” he said in an interview.

“When the landlord is penalised, the agent involved should be liable too,” he added.

While it is not appropriate to fully blame landlords for their tenants’ actions, Sean said tenancy agreements are there for a reason.

“The most I think landlords can do is to filter tenants based on profile, then ensure rules of conduct are laid within the contract.

“Because how will landlords know when tenants misbehave within their premises during their tenancy? Are we penalising the knife manufacturer when their products are used for murder?” said Sean.

Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents president Tan Kian Aun said a specialised division within the Local Government Development Ministry should be formed to handle matters related to the return of deposits between landlords and tenants under the proposed RTA.

Looking to Australia’s implementation of the RTA as a reference, he said the legislation primarily provides a balanced framework that offers tenants protection, ensuring they feel secure in their homes while respecting the legal rights and interests of landlords.

“The ministry could be a third party responsible for holding rental deposits. When tenants decide to not renew the tenancy agreement, they must return the property to the landlord by tenable conditions.

“The landlord should only return the deposit after being satisfied with the property’s condition, or the tenant must compensate for any damage to the property.

“As a third party, the ministry, upon receiving the landlord’s approval or an agreed-upon compensation amount for property damage, would return the deposit to the tenant. This third party would function like a tribunal,” he said.

When asked, Kian Aun said there are existing loopholes in the current rental market where some tenants have outstanding rent of up to six months, while some landlords, after asking the tenant to leave, find that the same tenant rents another property only to default on rental payment again.

“This leads to losses for landlords. There is currently no means to deter such tenant behaviour. The RTA can address these situations,” he said.

National House Buyers Association committee member and Chinese division head Tan Chong Leng said landlords and tenants must have a tenancy agreement with clauses restricting tenants from engaging in illegal activities.

The tenancy agreement, he added, will have legal effects when it is stamped.

“Landlords can have a lawyer draft the agreement,” he said.

However, Chong Leng said that having the government act as a third-party custodian for rental deposits could be complicated, as the process to recover the deposits could be lengthy.

In March, former deputy local government development minister Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir said that the RTA would be tabled in Parliament next year, as the ministry was in the midst of drafting the law.

On Dec 11, the police called for landlords who rent out their houses or apartments to criminals, including scam syndicates, to be held accountable.

Bukit Aman is pushing for the possibility of putting the liability on the owners following many cases where such premises were used as scam call centres.

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