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The landlord and tenant relationship

Monday, November 5, 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. While certain types of tenancies/leases can be made orally, it is always better to have the agreement in writing so that the terms and conditions, including any restrictions under which you accept the lease as well as the responsibilities of both parties, are clearly identified and understood.


Types of Tenancies
The most common tenancies are fixed term or 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. For example, in a month- to- month lease, you must give one months’ notice; for a six month lease, you must give three months’ notice; and for a yearly lease, you must give six months’ notice of termination.


Rights and Responsibilities
Each party to a tenancy has rights and responsibilities which are called covenants. Covenants may be expressed (those included in your agreement) 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 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.


Both parties can also expressly agree to other covenants in the lease document itself. The most commonly found covenants apply to the tenant, specifically, the covenant to pay rent; to repair damages; not to sublet or assign the property; and to have the option to renew the lease. 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. This is a republished version of last week’s incomplete column.


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