Residential Rental: Tenants know your rights
For the large percentage of Jamaicans who have yet to taken the plunge of homeownership, they are often faced with the task of seeking residential Real Estate. This process is nothing less than nerve-racking but can often end favourably with you finally signing papers to secure your new home.
Many of them, simply relieved with having found “the perfect” place, overlook the lease agreement until an unfortunate instance arises which requires some verification or reinforcement, using said lease as reference. Whether it is a faulty appliance, sub par maintenance or premises access terms and conditions; the lease agreement should clearly state whose responsibility it is to take care of these unforeseen issues.
Residential rental agreements rank one of the highest overlooked legal documents, they are often taken for granted and thought of merely as a formality. As a result many Landlords do not take the time to get legal advice in drafting these agreements. However if their agreement was drafted by a legal professional or with some level of knowledge of the law, the agreement may just not be in the tenant’s best interest.
Landlords, knowing that Jamaican Law is Pro Tenant, attempt to manipulate tenants through the lease agreement. Eager and sometimes desperate new tenants fail to thoroughly read the terms of the agreement and often find themselves cornered into some very shady arrangements.
The Lease agreement is the most important document when undertaking a residential rental or further more a rental of any kind.(More to be discussed in subsequent blogs.)
Some things that should always be clearly outlined in a properly constructed lease agreement are:
1. An unambiguous description of the property, which includes the address of the property for identification and any exclusions. ( I.e Shed, or Barn not included etc)
2. The type of property, this can be for any type of dwelling that may be used as a residence, such as a house, apartment, etc.;
3. The parties involved in the agreement; generally the owner of the property, or landlord, and the tenant, also known as the renter.
4. The type of tenancy, this will indicate how long the lease is for, what day the lease begins, and what day the lease ends. (Also this can be a fixed term tenancy (monthly or annually) or tenancy at will which doesn’t indicate a specific period but gives provisions for either party to provide adequate notice)
5. The rental payments, which details the amount of the total rental and other fees that may be associated with the rental property (taxes/maintenance), the frequency of the payments (weekly, monthly, annually), and the date on which it is due.
Other terms such as terms of access, terms of eviction and other details may be included in the lease as the tenant/landlord see fit. It is important that if there are details that you are unsure about to question these before signing, as you will be legally bound to the agreement.
A lawyer’s advice is never the last option as many legal professionals
offer this service at minimal charge. It is it better to be safe than sorry.