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Rights, responsibilities of landlords and tenants

Monday, August 27, 2012
Law Made Simple

The landlord and tenant arrangement is a very common business relationship in Trinidad and Tobago. This article is intended to highlight and clarify some aspects of this relationship. Simply put, a landlord is anyone who leases property to another person, called a tenant, for the tenant to use or live in for a period of time. The relationship is a contractual one where the landlord offers the tenant exclusive use and occupation of part of or an entire property for a specific time period and for an agreed rent. The tenant accepts the offer by signing a written lease agreement.

Types of tenancies
The most commonly encountered tenancies are fixed term and periodic. The fixed term lease runs for a defined period, for example, six months or one year, and once entered into, it generally locks you in for the period of the lease. If you want to end the relationship before the end date you may have to “buy out” the remaining period. The periodic lease is one that allows more flexibility. Here you are guaranteed occupation of the property for a certain period, which can be a month, six months, a year, and so on, but you are allowed to terminate the lease by giving notice.


Rights and responsibilities
Each party to a lease has rights and responsibilities which are called covenants. Covenants may be expressed (those included in your lease) or may be implied (those provided for by law). On the landlord’s part, there are three main implied covenants.


First, once the tenant goes into possession, the landlord must not substantially disturb or physically interfere with the tenant’s enjoyment of the property. Second, the landlord must not to do any act which would make the property less fit for the purpose it was leased for. Third, the landlord has an obligation at the start of the tenancy and during the tenancy, to ensure that the property is fit for human habitation.


The tenant has one main implied covenant, that is, the covenant not to commit waste, which means that the tenant is not to alter or destroy the property. A breach of any of the covenants by either party may trigger certain remedies such as termination of the lease or the initiation of legal proceedings.  


• This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a legal adviser.


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