A reader who is in a dispute over a house she is renting wants to know her rights after the landlord refused to let her and her husband view a copy of the lease agreement.
The issue started when they went to view the property and found that the kitchen had no water piping, sink or cupboards. Also, there was no ceiling or electricity in the living areas and kitchen.
The parties reached an agreement whereby the couple were to use the first four months’ rental to effect certain repairs and upgrades to the property to make it liveable.
See the reader’s question here.
Three weeks after taking occupation, the reader saw potential in the property and they advised the owner they may be interested in purchasing it.
However, during implementation of some of the improvements, the reader says they realised there was potentially a problem with the foundations and advised the landlord accordingly.
They also told the landlord they were no longer interested in purchasing the property.
The landlord refused to provide them with a copy of the lease or to allow any abatement.
It has been established that a sale of a fixed property can only take place in writing.
In this instance, the reader only expressed an interest in purchasing the property.
It would seem the parties failed to reach agreement on specific aspects relating to the sale (for example, purchase price), let alone reduce the agreement to writing.
The landlord may have been upset upon hearing that the reader no longer wished to purchase the property as he was possibly only too glad to be rid of it considering the potential structural issues.
Insofar as the agreement of lease is concerned, the Rental Housing Act states that the landlord must reduce the lease to writing and that it must contain the information set out in the act.
Such information is to include the details of landlord and tenant, a description of the dwelling, the amount of rental payable, deposit and lease period.
As the section from the act is peremptory, the landlord has no choice but to provide the written lease agreement. A failure to do so will permit the reader to take steps under the act.
Seeing that the landlord has refused to reimburse them for improvements, it appears they may wish to prematurely vacate the premises.
It is perhaps prudent to separate the issue relating to the possible expression of interest in purchasing the dwelling from that of the rental of the dwelling.
Despite the structural issues and the reader not wishing to purchase it as a result, the original lease could continue to operate, assuming that there is no particular problem in this regard.
The reader could enforce her rights under the act to obtain a written agreement of lease on the terms as originally agreed.
This includes the agreed abatement of rental in respect of the improvements effected by the reader.
If, however, there is some necessity to vacate the premises, the reader should take formal legal advice on pursuing a claim for the expended monies, perhaps on the basis of unjustified enrichment.
In brief, unjustified enrichment occurs where one party is unjustifiably enriched to the detriment of the other (impoverished) party.
This matter again highlights how important it is for the parties to agree up front to the terms of their lease agreement and to conclude a comprehensive written lease even prior to the tenant taking occupation.
A misunderstanding or disgruntled party can quickly lead to the matter becoming contentious or even litigious.
Ask the YourProperty experts a question here.