Landlords and tenants both need each other, yet their interests can be conflicting. Understanding each other helps both parties.
ALMOST everyone is a landlord or a tenant, and sometimes a person may be both. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Where property has been bought cheaply, it would be felt that the landlord is getting good returns.
It often transpires that the landlord does not eventually agree to rent the premises to the interested person.
On the other hand, the potential tenant may, after viewing the premises and meeting the landlord, not want to pursue the matter.
Whether a person wants to buy a house and live in it or to be a tenant is very much a matter of circumstances and choice.
Some may want to rent a house first and then over time make an assessment whether they will feel comfortable, good and happy in the area before seeking to buy a house there.
A landlord would want to have a good tenant who will regularly pay the rental and not damage the premises.
The tenant would, other matters being agreed upon, hope for security of tenure. This means he will not be asked to vacate after a few months or even years.
Even when most aspects are agreed to, the landlord or tenant may not see eye-to-eye on some matters.
A reader in the Klang Valley said that the landlord insists on six post-dated cheques at one-month intervals being handed to him at the outset.
Is he entitled to do this? Why cannot the landlord collect the cheque every month or allow him to bank the rental into his account?
What is agreed to between a landlord and tenant will be the contract. It is only natural that all the conditions and terms are discussed, and parties are free to agree or otherwise. If there is no agreement, there is no contract.
The demand for such a mode of payment may arise out of fears that the rent may not be paid punctually or paid at all for several months.
This can be a great inconvenience because the landlord may be staying in one corner of Kuala Lumpur and the rented house may be in another.
There are cases where tenants keep on postponing the date of payment and the landlord cannot be expected to make calls to remind the tenant or travel to the premises to chase up.
A dishonoured cheque would provide immediate written evidence of default.
Some landlords also find the offer of the tenant to bank the amount into their bank account not acceptable because the landlord does not wish to disclose his bank account number.
Then there may be occasions where the rent is not banked in but when the landlord calls up the tenant he insists the rent has been banked in, resulting in the landlord having to check with the bank.
Finding no such funds banked in, he may end up calling the tenant only to hear the voicemail!
When the tenant neither pays the rent nor hands back the premises, what can the landlord do?
One option would be to commence an action to obtain vacant possession and recover the arrears.
Upon expiry of tenancy or termination, the tenant is wrongfully holding onto the premises.
This exposes the tenant to double rental.
Section 28(4)(a) of the Civil Law Act 1956 provides that “Every tenant holding over after the determination of his tenancy shall be chargeable, at the option of his landlord, with double the amount of his rent until possession is given up by him or with double the value during the period of detention of the land or premises so detained, whether notice to that effect has been given or not”.
In years gone by, the proceedings dragged on for different reasons for different lengths of time and a tenant was able, with exceptions, to stay until an order for possession was obtained and exercised.
However, these days, some cases excepted, the court moves with greater speed.
And if the matter is effectively dealt with the tenant can be ordered to be out in no time, but whether one could recover all the arrears of rental as well as the double rental can be quite another matter.
In some cases a landlord may be quite willing to allow the tenant to stay on as long as the rental can be recovered.
For this purpose an even faster option is through an ex parte application to seize whatever assets the tenant has on the premises and the tenant will only know when the court bailiff arrives at the premises to execute the order.
However, this approach will only be available where there are assets in the premises which can be seized.
The situation for the landlord will be unfavourable where the premises are let fully furnished.
It might be thought that problems as to rental collection are peculiar to the bigger cities, where life is impersonal and people change jobs frequently and move from one place to another.
However, a smaller town may grow and become a city and a person in the city may own property in a small town.
On a different note, a tenant agreeing to all the terms but nevertheless being turned away by the landlord may have reason to be annoyed and upset.
In such cases, tenants may think of ways to get around the landlord. One such instance is narrated at a site, http://lettingmyproperty.wordpress.com, perhaps as a joke, in the following words.
“A large family, with seven children, moved to a new town. They were having a difficult time finding a new home to live in. Many houses were large enough, but the landlords objected to the large family.
“After several days of searching, the father asked the mother to take the four younger children to visit the cemetery, while he took the older three to find a home.
“After they had looked most of the morning they found a place that was just right. Then the landlord asked the usual question, ‘How many children do you have?’ The father answered with a deep sigh. ‘Seven...but four are with their dear mother in the cemetery.’ He got the house!”
> Bhag Singh’s fortnightly column seeks to create awareness of legal issues on day-to-day matters. Any comments or suggestions for points of discussion can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.