A tenant only paid the first month’s rental of a three-month lease and the landlord now wants to know if he can pursue legal action to remedy the situation.
The tenant asked for the short-term lease and promised to sign an agreement to this effect. However, after taking occupation, the tenant refused to sign the agreement and failed to pay for the second and third months.
It is now time for him to vacate the property but the landlord says the tenant just laughed at a letter from his attorney and said he would not be removed from the property.
See the reader’s question here.
According to the reader, this tenant has a history in the area, having used the same method to secure other rental properties and then failing to pay.
He says that, to make matters worse, the tenant preys on pensioners who generally cannot afford the loss of income.
The usual processes apply to the eviction of the tenant, but in this case there are a few further aspects to note and consider.
The reader, together with the other landlords who have had problems, could consider taking criminal steps against the recalcitrant tenant.
Under criminal law, fraud is the unlawful and intentional making of a misrepresentation which causes actual prejudice or which is potentially prejudicial to another person.
Without further information about the circumstances under which the lease was established it is difficult to state with certainty that the tenant intended to commit fraud.
Also, a failure on the part of a tenant to make payment under a lease agreement isn’t necessarily a fraudulent matter.
It is a breach of contract under a commercial arrangement, typically giving rise to one or more remedies for the breach.
This includes the landlord’s right to cancel any agreement in place and to claim damages, together with a claim for eviction from the property.
The fact that the tenant has done this to other people the reader knows of does strengthen the argument that the tenant has no intention of abiding by any lease.
He is merely bringing prospective landlords under the impression that he is a “regular” tenant.
The reader appears to believe that his options to take steps against the tenant are impaired due to the tenant refusing to sign the lease.
The regulations to the Rental Housing Act provide that if a tenant does not sign a written lease agreement, given to him by the landlord, the occupation of a dwelling and payment of rent make it a valid agreement.
By taking occupation it is the same as saying he has signed the agreement.
As the tenant had both taken possession of the property and made payment of the first month’s rental, the lease is valid.
The provisions of that agreement could be implemented to start legal proceedings. This often relies on a notice of breach and a concomitant demand to remedy that breach before additional remedies become available.
Practically, this reinforces the necessity to properly consider applicant tenants.
Applying a sensible screening and consideration process, together with credit and reference checks, could possibly have highlighted this tenant’s prior behaviour.
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