Know your rights as Tenant and Landlord in Tenancy Agreement

What are the rights afforded to both the Tenant and Landlord in a tenancy agreement?

A tenancy agreement is an agreement entered between the owner of a property (the landlord) and an individual/ company (the tenant) where the landlord agrees to rent out the property to the tenant for a sum of money. Under the National Land Code 1965, a tenancy agreement has a maximum lifespan of three years[1]In this article, we will not discuss the obligations that both parties have in the agreement. Every agreement will undoubtedly vary between them as the obligations of both the tenant and landlord is dependant upon the agreement between both parties. Instead, we will focus solely on some of the rights of both the tenant and landlord during the tenancy period.

Rights of Tenant

Right to Safe Occupation

As a contractual occupant, a tenant can expect that the property that he is renting is reasonably safe for use for the purpose stated in the tenancy agreement. For example, a tenant can expect that the property is safe for occupation if the purpose was for the tenant to live in.  

We coined it “occupiers liability” in legal term, where the landlord (i.e. occupier) who has control over the property must take reasonable steps to ensure that the property is fit for the purpose stated in the tenancy agreement and that the tenant does not suffer injury as a result of using the property according to the purposes stated in the tenancy agreement[2], such as repairing the property, making alteration to replace the wear and tears in the property and maintaining the property to ensure that it is fit for use for the current and future tenant.

However, this does not mean that the landlord is liable for all defects/ maintenance/ repairs in the property. The law dictates that the landlord is only responsible for the defects that can be reasonably discovered[3].

Rights of Landlord

Right to Seize and Sell Tenant’s Property

What happens if the tenant refuses to pay their rent according to the terms stipulated in the tenancy agreement? Can the landlord seize the tenant’s property?

The landlord in this situation can apply for a distress action. A distress action, as the court puts it, is a form of remedy for the non-payment of rent, where the property of the tenant can be seized to satisfy the rent that is due to the landlord[4].

The landlord or his agent must prepare and apply the necessary legal documents to a judge or registrar[5] before the tenant’s property can be seized by the bailiff and sold to satisfy the rent that is due [6].

Right to Re-Possession

Alternatively, a landlord can evict the tenant. Eviction is a process whereby a landlord enters their property and repossesses it from the hands of the tenant. However, a landlord cannot just waltz into his property repossesses it without a proper court order.

In order to evict a tenant legally, the landlord must terminate the agreement and prepare the necessary legal documents to the court[7]. If the court is satisfied with the application, a court order will be granted whereby a landlord is allowed to enter and repossess his property.

In the process of evicting the tenant/ repossessing the property, the landlord can also claim for double rent from the tenant from the expiry of notice of tenancy until the landlord successfully repossesses the property[8].

Conclusion

The principle of occupiers liability protects the tenant regardless of whether there is a clause in the tenancy agreement specifying that the landlord has a duty to ensure that the safety of the tenant[9]. However, the right to evict the tenant or seizing and selling the tenant’s property is not an automatic right. The landlord must obtain the necessary legal papers before commencing eviction or seizing and selling the tenant’s property.


[1]  Section 223(1), National Land Code 1965.
[2]  Sri Inai (Pulau Pinang) Sdn Bhd v Yong Yit Swee & Ors [2003] 1 MLJ 273.
[3]  Maclenan v Segar [1917] 2 KB 325.
[4]  Sherifah Salim v Aldy Sdn Bhd [2008] 9 CLJ 97.
[5]  Section 5, Distress Act 1951.
[6]  Section 19, Ibid.
[7]  Section 7(2), Specific Relief Act 1950.
[8]  Section 28 (4), Civil Law Act 1956.
[9] Sri Inai (Pulau Pinang) Sdn Bhd v Yong Yit Swee & Ors [2003] 1 MLJ 273.

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