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Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants Essay Sample

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Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants Essay Sample

Introduction

Housing management is an important point of concern for the people of United States of America. The people who have already given or those who want to give their property on rent to other people are usually anxious about the responsibilities of the “tenant” who is the “person who rents premises from another person, the landlord or the landlord’s agent.” (Flat share Guide) In other words a tenant is “a person entitled by written or oral agreement, sub-tenancy approved by the landlord, or by sufferance, to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others.” (Landlord Tenant Ordinance – tenantsrights.org)

On the other hand the tenants care for their own rights and look towards landlord to complete his responsibilities who is ‘the owner, agent, lesser or sub lesser, or the successor in interest of any of them, of a dwelling unit or building of which it is part.” (tenantsrights.org) the balance between the rights and responsibilities of both the tenants and the landlord is very important for a successful tenancy.

The legal requirement of tenancy is “Rental or Tenancy Agreements” which also work to avoid conflicts between the landlord and tenants. The tenancy agreement is “a formal document, which sets out the terms and conditions upon which the landlord is renting out the premises to the tenant. Ordinarily included will be conditions as to rent, length of the tenancy, and repairing obligations of the parties.”(Flat Share Guide) The rental or tenancy agreement could be verbal or written. In the “verbal agreements” there is no written documentation but the landlord and the tenant verbally decide the rent amount, due date, security deposit and other rules. Technically speaking, the verbal agreements are also legal bindings just like the written agreement but often it seems difficult to enforce them because in case of any conflicts, the parties have to prove that the agreement was done between them and what were the terms of that agreement. If there is no witness of their agreement then either the tenant or the landlord can deny the terms and there is no possibility to find out the right person among them. Due to this reason the verbal agreements are not significantly successful for making tenancy agreements; whereas the “written agreements” is a document which is signed by the landlord and tenants.

The written document is easy to enforce because the terms and provisions of the tenancy are clearly defined in the document and the signatures indicates that both the parties have accepted and agreed upon the terms and provisions. A written tenancy agreement must contain the “Landlord’s Name and Address, Tenants’ Names, Address of the property being let, Rent level, frequency and method of payment, Details of any Deposit held in relation to the tenancy, Duration of tenancy including commencement date, Landlord’s responsibilities, and Tenants’ responsibilities” (letsuni.org) The tenancy agreements are important for both the tenants and landlord. The landlords get some written sureties from the tenants regarding the proper handling of his property and the tenant also become certain about his living in the specific area for the time mentioned in the agreement against the amount of rent decided. In case of any problem both the tenants and the landlord would be well aware of their responsibilities and rights and hence they can settle the issue quite easily. There are different types of tenancy agreements like Assured Tenancy Agreement, Assured Short hold Tenancy Agreement, House and Flat Share Tenancy Agreement and Holiday Letting.

An “Assured Tenancy Agreement” is that agreement which allows a tenant to stay at the mentioned place for a long period of time. “This is a more secure tenancy with protection from eviction for a fixed period. The landlord cannot evict you without proving grounds for eviction in Court” (lse.ac.uk) It is created only when both the landlord and tenant show their intentions to have an agreement for long time and if they “wish to create an Assured Tenancy Agreement, this will have to be clearly stated at the top of the tenancy agreement” because this type of tenancy agreement is not very common. “The procedure and amount of time required to end the tenancy agreement is much complicated and lengthy” (flatshare.com) After making an Assured Tenancy, if the landlord want to end the tenancy after some time then he has to send a notice to the tenant through court, stating very specific reasons to eviction contained within the “Housing Act 1988” like rent arrear problem or property misuse etc.

Another type of tenancy agreement is “Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement” which is very similar to the Assured Tenancy. “The Assured Shorthold Tenancy, or AST is the most common type of tenancy in the private rented sector, and has evolved to be quite well balanced, the previously tenancy law had swung between being heavily biased to either the landlord or the tenant” (letsuni.org)“It is usually used with the intention of granting the tenant a tenancy for a shorter period” (flatshare.com) Through this agreement a tenant gets surety about the tenure for just six months and after that he can be evicted by the landlord or they may go for extending the agreement. The rent is fixed for these six months and if due to some reason the tenant leaves the area before time, even then he has to pay the rent for the specific period. It is default type of tenancy agreement which is created when the landlord and tenant don’t ask for any specific type of agreement.

Both of above mentioned tenancy agreements require a long procedure to end the tenancy however if the landlord and tenant want to end the tenancy quickly whenever they wish then they can have an option of “House and Flat Share Agreement” which give them opportunity to break the tenancy at short time period. There is a requirement of giving tenant a “Notice to Quit” before four weeks and this type of agreement can be used by both “resident landlords and non-resident landlords”

Another type of tenancy agreement is “Holiday Letting” which is “simply an agreement between the landlord and the tenant for letting premises, with the intention of them being used for holiday accommodation” (Flat Share Guide) This type of agreement is usually created for short time period like a week or two; the time period should be less then three months. Under the Housing Act this type of tenancy can not be covered by Assured Tenancy, Assured shorthold tenancy or Flat share tenancy. While talking about the types of tenancy agreements, an important issue comes in the way and this is “notice”. The landlord and the tenants often overlook the importance of notice although many of the tenancy cases come to end in the court due to invalid and improper notices. Different types of notices are required by different types of tenancies like for “an Assured Tenancy, a “Section 8 Notice” is always required, and the grounds within it must be formally stated”; in the Assured Shorthold Tenancies a “Notice to Quit” is likewise always required. For House & Flat Share Agreements there is no requirement of “Notice to Quit” in some circumstances but it is always best practice to serve one. (shelterhouse.com)

Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants and Landlords

The issue of rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenants is important point of concern for both tenants and landlords, which is not a new debate. In United States there are a huge number of people who are living in the houses of landlords as tenants. In past the landlords often face many problems related to the rights and responsibilities of tenants. Some landlords also deal unfairly with the tenants and create certain problems from them.  This attitude of tenants and landlords impelled the governments to formulate some regulations that can simplify the procedure of residential letting and also defend the rights and interests of landlords as well as tenants. As a result in 1950s some laws were formulated by the governments but those laws were very complex for both parties; the “Rent Act 1977” is also such legislation that accounted for complicating the procedure of tenancy. In 1988 “Housing Act 1988” was implemented that bypassed many components of early legislations and make the procedure comparatively simple. Later in 1996, the implementation of “Housing Act 1996” made the situation favorable for both landlords and tenants however the tenancies which were granted before 15th January 1989 are still regulated by “Rent Act 1977” and some other laws. At presents there are still some thoughts that the tenants in United States are enjoying more benefits and they have fewer responsibilities especially regarding the repair and maintenance of the premises. Following is the brief account of rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.

Landlord Rights and Responsibility

The landlords are responsible for the maintenance of their premises according to the “Federal Housing Quality Standards” because if any tenant makes complain in the court about the defective condition of tenure then the landlord may receive a deficiency letter from court that enforce him to repair all the damages within specific time. In some cases landlord is also responsible for the damages made by the tenants however they can “seek compensation for damages to the unit caused by the tenant in Civil Court and/or terminate the rental agreement” (Tenant-Landlord Hotline) If any injury occurs to the tenant as a result of any unsafe condition of the tenure then the landlord is responsible for it however if the injury occurs due to the negligence of tenant himself then the landlord will not be responsible for that. The landlord is also responsible for the proper supply of heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas and other utilities, if fails to do so the tenant can send a notice to landlord informing him about the shortage of utilities and if the landlord don’t take immediate action then the tenant can terminate the tenancy agreement and also he can withhold the due rent amount in order to compensate the damages or extra expenditures that he faced due to lack of utilities.

The landlord holds a right under the law to enter the property for any inspection but he should give an advance notice to tenants however in case of any emergency he have a right to access the property without giving advance notice. He could enter the tenure in order “to make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, to supply necessary or agreed services, to conduct inspections authorized or required by any government agency, to exhibit unit to prospective tenants 60 days or less prior to the expiration of the existing rental agreement, to determine a tenant’s compliance with provisions in the rental agreement or to exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, workmen, or contractors.” (Landlord Tenant Ordinance) However the landlord shall not misuse this right and he is not in any case allowed to interferer in the lives of tenants. He should only be concern with issue weather the tenant is following the regulations and terms decided in the rental agreement or not.

Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants

A tenant is responsible for meeting all the terms and conditions specified in the tenancy agreement. He is also responsible for the safe and untainted use of the tenure by disposing off all ashes, rubbish, garbage and other waste from the house regularly.  Also he should not “deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or knowing permit any person on the premises with his consent to do so and conduct himself and require other persons on the premises with his consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb his neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises. (Landlord Tenant Ordinance)

The payment of rent at right time is a major responsibility of tenant. He has to follow the entire payment schedule mentioned in the agreement. If due to some reason he wants to leave the tenure before time then he has to inform the landlord and then either he should arrange any guest tenant for that period that pay the further rent or he should communicate with landlord about the matter. Legally he is responsible for payment of rent for the specific period weather he lives there or not. If some damage is caused by the tenant in the property due to his own negligence or mishandling then he is responsible for the repair.  Along with these responsibilities there are also several rights of tenants. If the landlord misuses the right to access the tenure and interrupt the tenant’s life then he has the right to “abandon the property and pay no further rent. This process is called the constructive eviction.” (#1 Loans USA, 2007) He can also go to the court if the landlord fails to provide him the essential utilities properly and if the landlord doesn’t take action for repairing damages of the property that may harm him. It is the right of tenant to have “safe and operable electrical outlets, to have the toilet, bathtub, shower, and bathroom sink in good working order and the floors, plumbing fixtures, walls and ceilings in good repair” (Landlord Tenant Ordinance)

Responsibilities of Tenants and Landlord for Maintenance of Property and Rent

“The tenants and landlord depend on each other because the landlord provides tenant a place to live and the tenant becomes a source of income for the landlord. Tenants have a responsibility to pay the landlord rent in a timely manner and to maintain and care for the landlord’s property.” (Montana Public Interest Research Group)

Alternately, landlords have a responsibility to provide the tenant with a fit and habitable dwelling and to maintain the premises for which the tenant is paying. The maintenance of property is an important issue for both the parties but most of the time the landlord is responsible for the repair; the tenant’s responsibility is just to inform him about the damage immediately. The tenants are little responsible for the maintenance of property rented although they have many rights. They use the tenure and there is always a possibility that the damage occurs due to tenant inattention. If it is proved that the tenant is responsible for the damage then the landlord can deduct the repair charges from the security deposit but the tenants often misuse the responsibility of landlord to repair the tenure and they unjustifiably withhold the rent amount on the grounds of damaged property.

The tenants are required to give a written notice to the landlord and after that if the landlord doesn’t take action then only they can withhold the rent and they can also go for the termination of tenancy agreement. “The tenants can repair the damage themselves if the cost of repair is less then a month rent and they can deduct the money from rent amount however if the cost of the repairs is more than one month’s rent, the tenant may seek “injunctive relief” to force the landlord to comply with his/her responsibilities to maintain the premises. He can file a complaint in the Justice Court specifying the repairs which are necessary and requesting a court order requiring that the landlord have the repairs made in a timely manner”. (Montana Public Interest Research Group)

            There are so many other options open for the tenant to force the landlord to repair the damage. He can use some alternate tools to fulfill his needs that are affecting by the damage and then he can deduct the amount spend from the rent; he can also call professionals to service the damaged part of tenure and then deduct the charges from rent amount. If the landlord doesn’t go for repair and the tenant feel that it would be dangerous for him to live in the damaged tenure then he can shift some where else and he will not be liable for the payment of rent. The above discussion highlights that in case of any damage in the tenure the tenant is less responsible than the landlord and there are several options for him to force landlord for maintenance however the landlord has usually no other way and he has to make the repair. Tenants and landlords are two major components of society and to make stability in the society it is necessary to maintain a balance between their rights and responsibilities so that they can have good relations among them. Their well being will further contribute to peaceful environment in society.

References

Flat share – A guide to tenancy agreements

http://www.flatshare.com/tenancy-agreements.html Accessed May 05, 2007

Montana Public Interest Research Group

http://www.montpirg.org/hotline/responsibility.html Accessed May 07, 2007

Metropolitan Tenants Organization

http://tenants-rights.org/ Accessed May 05, 2007

Net Law Man

http://www.netlawman.co.uk/info/tenancy-agreement.php Accessed May 07, 2007

Types of Tenancy – Tenancy Agreement Information at letsuni.org

http://www.letsuni.org/information/contracts/types.html Accessed May 07, 2007

#1 Loans USA

http://www.1loansusa.com/ Accessed May 05, 2007

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