Notice to quit - response to notices from landlord [part 2]
Last week, the focus was on preparing the notice to quit with respect to controlled premises. This week, the spotlight will be on how the notice may be challenged.
When the notice to quit is served, after the time given in the notice for the tenant to give up possession is gone, and there is no compliance with the notice by the tenant, the landlord may go a step further by filing a plaint in the resident magistrate's court in the parish in which the house is located, or start proceedings in the Supreme Court.
If the reason for the notice is failure to pay outstanding rent that has become due for payment for 30 days or more, the tenant can make the outstanding payment to the landlord who would be obliged to withdraw the notice to quit, if the matter goes to court.
If the notice speaks to repairs or improvement of the rented premises as the reason, the landlord must ensure that the nature of the repairs would require the tenant to deliver up the premises in order to effectively complete the repairs. The reason given that the premises are needed for repairs can be challenged by the tenant, who can obtain a report from an engineer or building contract to say that the premises are in good and tenantable condition and are not in need of any urgent repairs that would require the premises to be vacated. In any event, the court would be concerned about alternative accommodation for the tenant.
The landlord may also give as a reason, his need to have the premises for his own use and occupation or for the use and occupation of other persons specified in section 25(1)(f) of the Rent Restriction Act 'RTA'. Again, the tenant may also be able to challenge the landlord's reason by providing the court with information to show that the landlord has many other suitable premises that he or such persons as specified in the RTA can reside.
Some of the notices may also indicate, as a reason, breach of covenants or breach of terms and conditions touching and concerning nuisance, annoyance and use of the premises for immoral or illegal purposes. In most cases, the notice will require the tenant to discontinue the alleged breach within a specific time. The tenant may take steps to comply with the notice by attending to the breach in question.
In any event, the landlord should note that if the matter goes to court, the judge is obliged to consider the balance of convenience in making a decision as to whether to make an order for the tenant to vacate the premises. In other words, the judge must determine the greater hardship and consider whether other accommodation is available for the tenant or the landlord. Sometimes, the greater hardship is found to be on the tenant and not on the landlord.
In sum, it is important to note that although the tenants do not own the rented premises, they do have rights that are fiercely protected by law and which will be enforced by the courts once they are found to be violated. So, the game is not over just because the landlord has issued a notice to quit. It may be, in many instances, that the game has just begun.