LODGERS AND THE LAW

LODGERS is a term difficult to define – in its legal meaning. A person with the right to the exclusive possession of a room or part of a room in a house who pajs cither for the accommodation only or for accommodation with board, the householder or his agent retaining general dominion over the house, is a lodger in the general meaning of the word, and this definition may be accepted as fairly correct in a legal sense. An uncontrolled right of coming and going rests with the lodger, but the person lotting the lodgings has general control of the house. That is to say, the lodger is a licensee not a tenant.

Goods of Lodgers

An Act of Parliament, the Law of Distress Amendment Act, 1908, affords protection to the goods of lodgers in case of distress on the immediate landlord; and if any question arises as to whether or not a person is a lodger it must be settled by the court. To be a lodger a person must sleep on the premises and must be liable to pay his rent by instalments. Protection is also given to the goods of a stranger who has no interest in the tenancj. Goods of the husband or wife of the tenant or of his partner or of any company of which he is an officep are not exempted from distress under the Act, nor are goods obtained on a hire- purchase agreement unless the owners have power to end the agreement by notice and notice has been given.

To gain the statutory exemption the lodger or person claiming the goods must serve a written declaration on the landlord who has levied the distress setting out an inventory of the goods. Further, he must say what rent, if any, he owes to his immediate landlord and what rent will become due in future and must undertake to pay it to the distrainor until the distress is satisfied.

Distress on goods after the receipt of a declaration is illegal. Two courses are open to the lodger, a civil action claiming damages for illegal distress against the distrainor and his bailiff, or an application to a stipendiary magistrate or two justices for the restoration of the goods.

Lodgei-s and under-tenants whose ten-ancy has been created in breach of a written agreement between their immediate landlord and the distraining landlord or after the distraining landlords written prohibition not to permit the taking in of lodgers are not within the Act.

PAYMENT OF RATES BY LODGERS A LODGER or under-tenant may also be called upon by the local authority to pay any rates in arrears and due from the immediate landlord. He is allowed to set off sums so paid against his rent. The local authority indeed is empowered by statute to give a discharge from the payment of such rent. It has also been held that under a local act a lodgers goods may be taken for distress on account of rates.

As a result of his tenancy, it has been decided in an old case, the lodger has the right to uso everything necessary to his enjoyment of the premises including such conveniences as the door bell and the lavatory; whether he may uso the bath- room and the telephone or not depends on the agreement. Though the lodger is not a lessee but a licensee, he is entitled to reasonable notice to quit dependent on the circumstances.

OFFENCES BY LODGERS

EVERY tenant or lodger, or the wife of – either of them, who steals a chattel or fixture in the house or lodgings is guilty of felony, and if a male under 16 years may be whipped in addition to other punishment. Malicious damages to fixtures in a lodging is also a grave criminal offence. To obtain a nights lodging bj a false pretence is not an offence, but if he accept a cup of tea or piece of bread or other food, or asks for money, he may be convicted.

A landlord is bound to take reasonable care of his lodgers property, and may be liable for its loss if it be stolen by a stranger through the negligence of the landlord or his servant. Infectious Disease

To let a room in which any person has been suffering from an infectious disease without having it disinfected is an offence punishable summarily by a fine of £20, and if illness ensue is also a tort for which damages may be awarded.

There is implied when a room is let furnished an undertaking that it is fit for human habitation. Bad drains or the presence of bugs or other noxious insects is a breach of this undertaking, justifying a repudiation of the letting and an action for damages if loss follows.

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