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4 Most Common Ways Landlords Are In Material Breach Of Responsibilities
Every so often, there might be new rules and regulation that are in favor of landlords. Sometimes there are even bonus one-off measures implemented by the authorities for businesses to take advantage of.
But that is nothing compared to what tenants are getting. in terms of rules and regulations.
A flurry of laws are in place to protect tenants from being bullied by landlords.
And if anything, the list of favorable rules towards tenants are only getting longer and longer.
This means that landlords have to constantly tread carefully when managing landlord-tenant relationships in order to avoid being taken to court due to a lawsuit from tenants.
When a landlord (preferably not you) is in material breach of the rental contract, a tenant will have the right to either terminate the lease, or file a claim for damages.
When there is material breach, tenants may employ remedies to rectify the issue.
It can either be in the form of a:
- Written notice
- Self help
Written notices are self explanatory.
Self-help remedies are activities that the tenant conduct to have repairs made, and subsequently claimed via direct deduction from the following month’s rental.
While it can be hard to define what types of breaches should go with written notices or self help remedies, it is generally considered that less serious breaches most often go with the self-help route.
As a landlord, here are some common ways you could get into trouble with material breach.
1) Failure to provide essential services
Some services are categorized as essential services for very obvious reasons.
The lack of these services that can be a matter of life and death for tenants, and include things like:
- Heating systems
These services must absolutely be provided to tenants. It is your duty to do so.
It doesn’t matter if you hate your tenant or you are the best of friends. Failure to ensure these services are adequately provided will put the landlord in material breach.
There are events when landlords were held responsible for material breach even when the lack of a particular service is written into contract.
So be wise and and don’t fool around with issues regarding essential services.
2) Wrongful removal of tenant
There can be 101 reasons for a landlord to desire a tenant removed from the property.
But you cannot just remove someone just because you are the owner of the property.
When a tenancy agreement is agreed and signed, the terms are binding to all parties.
If a landlord can just remove a tenant to his liking and not face any punishment, we would be going backwards as a civilized society.
As far back as caveman days.
In order to remove a tenant from a dwelling, there must be justifiable reason for this action according to the law.
And even when there is just cause, a proper eviction process must be followed to keep things orderly.
If you find yourself constantly playing a frustrating game of cat and mouse with a tenant, do be careful with the actions you take.
Because you could just be baited into acting on bad faith and in material breach.
3) Tenant prevented from moving in
It can sound ridiculous that tenants sometimes might be unable to move into a house that he has rented.
This can cause enormous anxiety on the tenant.
Imagine that it’s moving in day, and the tenant along with his wife and 2 children are ready to move in… only to find that their home is occupied by someone else!
They might have to spend a fortune just to temporarily relocated their personal belonging into a warehouse while making frantic calls to relatives and friends for help.
This is without mentioning the unimaginable thought of going homeless for the night or forking out expenses for a hotel room.
If you are a landlord, and have put your tenants in this difficult and stressful position, you probably deserve whatever you would be getting next.
To prevent this scenario from playing out in real life, do conduct inspections on the property just before a tenant is slated to move in.
4) Unlawful entry
Some landlords just never let this rule sink in.
They feel that they are the legal owners of a house and can step foot into it as and when they please.
This cannot be further from the truth.
A landlord will have right of access, but entry can only be made under the right circumstances and conditions.
The procedure and process can vary from state to state.
But it usually consist of a written notice delivered to tenants about the intent to enter, coupled with a reasonable time frame in advance.
There are a lot more situations whereby landlords can knowingly or unknowingly be in material breach.
However, the great majority often happen with the 4 ways listed above, sometimes in variation.
So do keep these in mind when managing your relationships with tenants. Or you could just be handing them a little leverage which they can use for negotiation when renewal time arrives.
Finally, since we are on this topic, take note that when a tenant serves a landlord a notice of material breach, only two methods of delivery has weight in a court of law.
- Self delivery
- Registered/certified mail, return receipt requested
When such a notice is served by the tenant in person, a tenant will be able to testify that the notice being served to the landlord is a fact.
While with registered mail, the landlord’s signature is proof enough that the notice was delivered.
However, don’t even think about refusing to sign a registered mail delivery to make your case of non-delivery. As long as a tenant sends the notice by certified mail, the odds are that a judge would consider that as sufficient to proof delivery.
The information contained in a notice of breach should also contain the following items:
- Nature of breach
- Dates and times
- Reasonable time where landlord has to rectify a breach
Failure to be clear and concise in these key areas can render the notice invalid.