Mr Ruo is a passionate Pokemon Trainer. In order to be the best Pokemon Trainer, he has decided to rent a studio above the busiest shopping mall in town where he can always find rare and skilled Pokemons.
Little did Mr Ruo expect that his greatest challenge to be the best Pokemon Trainer turns out to be the studio which he has rented. Rain always find its way into the studio due to the faulty windows and ceiling of the studio. Mr Ruo has been spending most of his time cleaning up the many minor flashfloods caused by the water leakage, leaving him no spare time and energy to catch and train his favourite Pokemons.
Mr Ruo then conveys his frustration to his landlord, Faizal. Shocking to Mr Ruo’s conscience, instead of fixing the defects of the studio, Faizal accuses Mr Ruo for failing to maintain the good condition of the windows and ceiling.
Furthermore, Faizal demands Mr Ruo to remedy the defects within 14 days or else he will terminate the tenancy and force Mr Ruo to move out of the studio. Faizal also claims that he is entitled to forfeit the deposits and claim the rentals for the remaining 6 months of unexpired period as compensation for the loss incurred by Faizal.
As the water continues to leak from the ceiling and windows, Mr Ruo is carefully scrutinizing his tenancy agreement, hoping to find some clauses that can come to his rescue...
What do you think Mr Ruo should have stated in the tenancy agreement for better protection of his rights?
If you are a tenant (or soon-to-be tenant), here are five five important clauses (coincidentally first alphabet of each clause sums up to be MR. RUO!) that you should clearly state in / exclude from the tenancy agreement:-
(1) M...Maintenance Clause (√)
－ Normally, the obligation to maintain the structure the property (ie walls, drains, roof...) lies with the landlord while the tenant shall maintain the movable fixtures and fittings of the property (ie furniture, household appliances...)
－ Like Mr Ruo, many tenants face similar water leakage issue, especially if the unit is fairly old. In this regard, it is prudent for you to state in the agreement that the landlord should take reasonable actions to solve and prevent the water leakage so that it will not affect your peaceful enjoyment of the unit
(2) R...Remedy Period Clause (√)
－ In order to avoid landlord from taking his / her own sweet time to solve any issue that is affecting your enjoyment of the property, you should expressly determine a reasonable period for the landlord to rectify any defect of the unit (usually 7-30 days depending on the severity of the issue)
－ If the landlord fails to take action within the reasonable period, the agreement should allow you to solve the problem at the landlord’s costs and expenses
(3) R...Refund Clause (√)
－ It is really painful to deal with landlord who delays or refuses to refund deposit. Moreover, seeking justice through legal proceeding may be too costly and time consuming for you
－ You should always state that the landlord shall refund the deposits upon the property being satisfactorily redelivered to the landlord or in the event the tenancy is terminated by the landlord
(4) U...Unexpired Term Clause (x)
－ You must be on high alert mode if the tenancy agreement provides that you shall pay rental for the unexpired period of the tenancy if you prematurely terminate the tenancy
－ In other words, if you terminate your one-year tenancy as you enter the second month of your tenancy, you are required to pay the rental for the remaining 10 months!
－ Therefore, always exclude any clause for unexpired term from the tenancy agreement and try to negotiate with your landlord to agree that in the event you prematurely terminate the tenancy, the security deposits shall be forfeited without further claim for damages
(5) O...Option to Renew Clause (√)
－ If you foresee that you may continue renting the unit after the expiry of tenancy, state clearly in the agreement that you shall have the option to renew the tenancy
－ It is to your best interest if the tenancy is renewable upon the same terms and conditions of the existing tenancy (this means same rental as well, hooray!).
－ Otherwise, you should suggest that the increase of rental shall not exceed ten percent (10%) of the existing rental or shall be subject to the prevailing market rate
In summary, the landlord may promise you everything under the sun to induce you to enter into the tenancy agreement (he may even claim that there will be unlimited supply of Pokeballs and Pikachus in your unit!). However, you should ensure that all verbal agreements are recorded in the tenancy agreement. Or else, it may be an uphill battle for you to prove that the landlord has failed to fulfil his promises.
Remember the secret code of MR. RUO. to ensure that your tenancy agreement works in your favour.
About the author
Chiam Jef Fri is a practicing lawyer at Messrs Han & Partners who is passionate in the areas of corporate and commercial, strata management and tenancy matters. He welcomes you to send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at https://jeffrichiam.wordpress.com/