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Quote of the Day “A house she hath, ‘tis made of such good fashion, The tenant shall ne’er pay for reparation, Nor the landlord ever raise her rent, Or turn her out of doors for nonpayment; From chimney tax, this cell is free, To such a house who would not a tenant be?” Epitaph for Rebecca Bogess, Folkestone, England, 1688
Landlord-Tenant Relationship When an owner of a freehold estate allows another person temporary, exclusive possession of the property, the parties have created a landlord- tenant relationship. Three legal areas are combined An interest in real property is conveyed. A lease is a contract. Negligence law may be involved also.
Lease The statute of frauds generally requires that a lease be in writing. Some short-term oral contracts may be enforceable, but a written contract is clearer and safer. A written contract usually includes covenants (promises) from the landlord and the tenant; these details are determined by the parties.
Types of Tenancy Any lease for a stated, fixed period is a tenancy for years. A periodic tenancy is created for a fixed period and then automatically continues for additional periods until either party notifies the other of termination. A tenancy at will has no fixed duration and may be terminated by either party. A tenancy at sufferance occurs when a tenant remains on the premises, against the wishes of the landlord, after the expiration of a true tenancy.
Landlord’s Duties The landlord’s first important duty is to deliver possession. The “English rule” obligates the landlord to remove a previous tenant if he does not leave willingly. The “American rule” allows the new tenant to either evict the old tenant, or collect rent from her.
Quiet Enjoyment All tenants are entitled to the right to use the property without the interference of the landlord. Actual Eviction If a landlord prevents the tenant from possessing the premises, he has actually evicted her. Constructive Eviction If a landlord substantially interferes with the tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises, he has constructively evicted her.
Duty to Maintain Premises A landlord has a duty to deliver the premises in a habitable condition and to maintain a habitable condition. Building codes may require stricter than normal standards for rental property. Implied Warranty of Habitability The implied warranty of habitability requires that a landlord meet all standards set by the local building code, or that the premises be fit for human habitation.
Tenant Remedies for Defective Conditions Rent abatement – a court ordered reduction in rent owed. Rent Withholding – the tenant refuses to pay part or all of the rent, in proportion to the defective conditions. Repair and Deduct – the tenant may, in some cases, have the repair made and deduct the cost from the rent. Suit for Damages – in some cases, the tenant may file suit against the landlord.
Duty to Return Security Deposit The landlord must return a security deposit within 30 days after a tenant vacates. If any of the deposit is withheld to pay for damage, a written accounting of the damage is required. If the landlord fails to comply, the tenant is entitled to double the deposit amount.
Duties and Remedies Duty to Pay Rent – this is the tenant’s foremost obligation. Landlord’s Remedies for Nonpayment of Rent: Apply security deposit to rent. Sue tenant for non-payment. Evict tenant. Duty to Mitigate – in most cases, the landlord must try to minimize losses by finding a new tenant quickly.
More Duties and Remedies Duty to Use Premises for Proper Purposes Duty Not to Damage Premises A tenant is liable to the landlord for any significant damage he causes to the property. Duty Not to Disturb Other Tenants
Change in the Parties Sale of the Property Generally, the sale of leased property does not affect a lease but substitutes one landlord, (purchaser), for another, (seller). Assignment and Sublease In an assignment, the tenant transfers all his legal rights and duties to a third party. In a sublease, the original tenant remains responsible for the lease, and the subleasee is responsible to the subleasor (original tenant), not to the landlord.
Injuries Tenant’s Liability A tenant is generally liable for injuries occurring within the leased premises. Landlord’s Liability The landlord is generally liable for injuries occurring in common areas (such as a sidewalk) where the tenant has no control. Common law holds the landlord liable for latent defects and negligent repairs. A landlord can sometimes be held liable for a crime committed on the property.
“Landlord-tenant law combines property, contract and negligence principles into one important and fast- changing field.” “Landlord-tenant law combines property, contract and negligence principles into one important and fast- changing field.”