A reader wants to know of any issues which may arise if her family moves in with her mother-in-law who is a tenant in a rented dwelling.
She says with her father-in-law having passed away, her mother-in-law would like her to move in to assist with the rental.
The reader adds that her mother-in-law does not have a lease agreement with the landlord.
They do not want the mother-in-law to lose occupation, but she is concerned the landlord could evict them all if she moved in with her family.
She says the landlord thinks he can do whatever he wants, which is adding to her concern.
See the reader’s question here.
According to the Rental Housing Act the landlord is required to reduce the lease entered into between himself and the tenant to writing.
The act sets out certain requirements as to the content of the written lease agreement.
Due to the reader’s in-laws having occupied the dwelling for some time, it is likely that certain aspects of an agreement were reached upfront and/or during the term of the lease.
Such provisions could then be reduced to writing to constitute their formal lease agreement.
It may be prudent to reach agreement and/or record the existing lease agreement before any additional occupants move into the dwelling.
Prior to the reader’s father in-law passing, there would have been at least two occupants.
If it is a case of the reader alone moving into the dwelling, and subject to reasonable use of the dwelling, it could be argued that the landlord is in no worse a position than beforehand.
However, if the reader and her family move into the dwelling, it may result in additional costs to the landlord, depending on the agreement as to apportionment and payment in respect of, for example, municipal services.
Depending on any previous arrangement as to the term of the lease, it may be that the lease is applicable on a month to month basis, meaning it can be terminated by the landlord on notice to the tenant.
Without the lease being in writing, and assuming there was an agreement as to the term of the lease being for an extended period of time, the proof thereof becomes tricky should a dispute as to the period of the lease arise.
One of the aspects that should be addressed in the written agreement of lease is the maximum number of persons specified by the landlord to reside in the dwelling.
This is in accordance with the regulations to the Act.
Again, there may have been a previous agreement as to the maximum number of persons permitted to reside in the dwelling.
However, short of a written agreement recording this number, the proof thereof in the event of a dispute may be difficult.
A sensible approach to avoid any potential issues with the landlord may be for the reader and/or her mother in-law to negotiate with the landlord the terms of an extended lease, together with the terms applicable in the event of additional persons occupying the dwelling.
In the event of the reader merely moving into the dwelling without the landlord’s consent, the eviction, should the landlord pursue that avenue, would take place in accordance with the Pie Act (Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act).
This may result in placing additional stress on the reader’s mother in-law, having just lost her spouse.
In brief, however, the landlord is not at liberty to merely take any unlawful steps in such circumstances.
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