Safeguarding Tenants and Landlords

Recently my friends encountered a horrifying situation. They planned to visit their home country for a few months due to the COVID pandemic. However, they did not want to give up their beautiful apartment. But, the rent was absurdly high and paying full rent without occupying meant a hole in their pocket. Therefore, they thought of an alternative and decided to sublet the apartment for a lesser rent. (They did get the owners approval)

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Long story short, after their return, the subtenant refused to leave the apartment, claiming, she was the rightful tenant. Thank the good lord for they had the contract. It clearly stated that they were subletting the apartment for just 3 months. This got me thinking about the laws, the owner and tenants are bound by. Read on to know about the rights and duties enjoyed by tenants and owners.

Duties of Tenants and Landlords

Rental agreement

I cannot stress enough how important a rental agreement is for both tenants and landlords. The rental agreement is a ‘Legal form’ of an agreement signed by both the tenants and landlords. For instance, the rental agreement must cover

  • Firstly, an agreed-upon rent, payable by the tenant periodically.
  • Secondly, the advance amount, received by the owner, which is to be returned once the tenant moves out.
  • Thirdly, amenities provided for the property.
  • Fourthly, the cost of utilities, covered by the owners and tenants.
  • In addition, the duration of the tenant occupancy.  

 An oral agreement must not be relied upon by either the tenant or the owners.

Property Maintenance

Maintenance is a joint responsibility of the tenants and the landlords. The owner has to ensure, the amenities are in working condition before the tenants move in. If the tenants pay for these repairs, they can deduct the amount from the rent until the repair cost is recovered. However, the tenants have to repair, if there is any damage to the amities while they were occupying the property. If the tenant refuses to pay, the repair cost can be deducted from the advance amount. Neither the tenants nor the owners can do any major construction without approval from both the parties.

Uninhabitable: If the Maintenance cost exceeds more than 50% of the rent, the property is considered to be ‘uninhabitable’. That is, if the owner does not take the necessary action to rectify the situation, the tenants can vacate the property by giving 15-days notice. They can take help from the respective authorities in this matter.

Rent

The agreed rent has to be paid without fail. The owner cannot increase the rent before the time duration agreed upon. Similarly, the tenant cannot pay lesser than the agreed rent. If the tenant fails to pay rent for two consecutive months, the owner can issue an eviction notice.

Security Deposit

A security deposit is an amount agreed by both the parties. It is paid upfront by the tenants. The amount varies upon the locality and the state in which the property is present. the amount is returned, once the tenant vacates the property. The owner can deduct the amount if there is any damage done by the tenant during occupancy.

Rights of Landlords

Eviction Notice

If the tenant fails to pay the rent for two consecutive months, the owner can issue an eviction notice. Similarly, if the property is not being occupied by the tenants for a long duration, or the tenants sublet the entire property/ part of it without informing the owner, or illegal activities carried out by tenants, the owner can issue an eviction notice.

Temporary possession of Property

During repairs/extension to the property, which may not be possible with the tenants occupying, the owner can take temporary possession of the property. After the completion of repair/alteration, the property may be offered to the tenant. On the other hand, if the property has become uninhabitable, the owner can take possession to repair the property.

Increase Rent

The owner has the right to increase rent periodically. It is better to mention this in the rental agreement to avoid confusion in the future. Usually, the rent is increased by 5% to 10% annually.

Advised of necessary repairs

The owner has the right to be informed of any repairs that need to be done. The owner must respond and repair it in a stipulated time. It is the duty of the owner to keep the property in proper condition. However, the cost of the repairs is to be shared by the owner and tenants.

Rights of Tenants

Unfair Eviction

The tenants cannot be evicted from the property without sufficient cause. The rent law differs from state to state, in some states a court order is required to evict the tenants. Above all, the owner cannot evict a tenant if the tenant agrees to all the terms and conditions regards the increase in rent.

Privacy

The owner has to inform the tenant prior to any visits. In other words, once the property is rented out, the landlords cannot enter the property without the permission of the tenants.

Unfair Rent

The owner cannot charge/increase the rent extraordinarily. So, the rent amount is based on the valuation of the property. Similarly, the increase in rent is usually 5% – 10% annually.

Essential Supplies

The owner is required to provide essential supplies like water, electricity, sanitary services. The owner cannot withhold any of these basic amenities even if the tenant has not paid the rent.

Disclaimer : This post is for informative purpose only. It should not be treated as a legal referance.

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