Terminating a Tenancy

Tenancies for less than a year entailing the payment of rent quarterly, monthly, or weekly, are common. They can be determined usually by giving the same notice as the period of letting. If notice is given for a quarterly tenancy it should expire at the end of some quarter calculated from the beginning of the tenancy. Thus if a man hold a house on a quarterly tenancy which commenced on January 1, he cannot give notice in mid-February to expire in the middle of May.

Unless a written notice to quit is stipulated by agreement a verbal notice is sufficient. It can be given to an agent of the landlord and may also be served upon the tenant by an agent. Personal service is advisable, but if this is not possible it is best to send it by registered post.

There is one other form of tenancy which must be mentioned, a tenancy for a term of years arising when a landlord by lease agrees to let his property for a number of years. Often the tenant is given an option to purchaso under such a lease, which generally contains clauses in regard to repairs and the manner in which the property is to be used, and insured. Breach of the conditions may entail forfeiture.

Most cases the rights and liabilities of landlord and tenant depend upon the agreement drawn up between them. Leases for less than three years may be in writing or not as the parties desire. Leases for more than three years must be by deed. No specific form is necessary for a lease; so long as it is clearly shown that the intention is to let the premises which must be accurately described. Stamp duty depends on the rent reserved to the landlord. The usual practice is for the lessee, i.e.. the tenant, to retain the lease and the landlord or lessor to hold a duplicate of it, also stamped, called the counterpart. It is usual, too, for the lessors solicitor to prepare the lease at the cost of the lessee. Covenants in a Lease

The clauses in a lease are known as covenants, and unless there be a definite contrary stipulation the landlord enters only into one covenant, namoly, that the tenant shall have quiet enjoyment. This implies that neither the landlord nor any person claiming through him shall disturb the tenants enjoyment of the property. In all lettings, by words or by agreement in writing or by deed this covenant is implicit.

A landlord cannot derogate from his grant, that is to say that, having granted certain rights to his tenant, he cannot act in such a manner as to diminish those rights. For example, he cannot use adjoining land so as to interfere with his tenants right to hght or rights of way or rights of water, nor can he by building operations endanger the premises demised.

What a Landlord Need Not Tell

The Latin phrase Caveat Emptor (let the buyer boware) applies particularly to the law of landlord and tenant. It is not the lessors duty to inform his tenant that the property has latent defects (e.g. that it is subject to flooding) or that restrictions are imposed (e.g. that certain trades are prohibited) though if the lessee make clear what his intentions are and the lessor does not inform him of the restrictive covenants such silence is tantamount to a representation that the premises are free from restriction.

Fit for Habitation

There is no implied warranty when a house is let that it is fit for habitation, or that a farm is fit for cultivation. On these points the tenant must satisfy himself by personal inspection. This is the rule at common law. Statutory exception to it arises in the case of houses let to the poor at a rent not exceeding £40 in London and £26 elsewhere (save in the case of leases for three years when the condition of the letting is that the house be put in a state of repair). In regard to these houses the statute permits a landlord on giving 24 hours notice in writing to enter the premises in order to view the state thereof.


With regard to furnished houses a covenant is implicit in the letting, that at the beginning of the tenancy the house is fit for habitation, and if this covenant be broken a tenant can repudiate his tenancy agreement and claim damages. In actions where it has been proved that the furnished house was insanitary or had been lately occupied by a person having an infectious disease the tenant has been awarded damages. The warranty that furnished houses are fit for habitation is not a continued warranty, nor is there any duty on a resident landlord to inform his tenant that the premises have become insanitary. It is an offence punishable by a fine of £20 for any person to let a house or room in which any person has been suffering from any dangerous in-fectious disease without having the premises disinfected. Obligations of the Tenant

Certain obligations fall upon the tenant as incident to his tenancy. He must pay the landlords property (income) tax on demand and is then entitled to deduct the amount from the next payment of rent.

In the absence of a covenant otherwise he undertakes to use the premises in a tenant-like manner, a phrase difficult to define. The courts have held that the tenant must keep the premises wind and water tight and that windows broken by him must be repaired.

General Repairs

General repairs to the premises are a matter for the landlord, and under this phrase is included the wear and tear of the premises, walls becoming unsafe by the action of the weather or flooring becoming subject to dry rot or doors becoming worn or the like. In short, any injury due to the Act of God falls upon the landlord. Even accidents not due to this cause may be the landlords liability, for it is provided by statute that no action shall be brought against a tenant in respect of an accidental fire which destroys the premises.

Though the landlord is answerable for general repairs there is not, apart from any obligation he may have taken upon himself by agreement or arising out of any statutory requirement, any obligation upon him to execute them so that the premises may be in a habitable state.

It is enacted by the Housing Act, 1925, that houses suitable for occupation by persons of the working classes must be kept suitable for human occupation in all respects. Failure to comply with a notice to execute necessary repairs issued by a local authority entails serious consequences, for the authorities may themselves do the work at the expense of the owner and unless he pays, such charges may be recovered by making them a charge on the property.

Where structural defects are such as to create a nuisance or render the premises dangerous or injurious to health, the tenant (failing agreement otherwise) may pay for necessary repairs and deduct the cost from his rent.


COVENANTS by a tenant to repair – take various forms and no general rules can be laid down with regard to them, since the construction of a lease rests upon its particular words. It is said that such a covenant runs with the land, which means to say the lessee passes it to his assignee, so that if A holds a 21 years lease and at the ond of 16 years assigns his interest to B it may well be that Bs liability under a covenant to repair will be very onerous.

Repairing leases are designed to prevent the tenant from committing uuste, which means damage resulting in a permanent injury to the landlords property. Voluntary waste is damage arising out of the tenants act in pulling down the premises; permissive waste is damage duo to the omission to repair.

Wear and Tear

Damage resulting from the wear and tear of the premises or the deterioration of material is not the liability of the tenant, nor in executing repairs is the tenant obliged to effect improvements. When a door or other filling has to be replaced it will be sufficient if an article of the same kind is supplied, and a covenant to keep drains in repair does not involve the tenant in the cost of supplying a new drain.

Briefly it may be said that covenants to repair are to be construed with regard to the ago of the premises. There is no obligation on the tenant who takes an old building to rebuild it. His obligation will be satisfied if he patch it up and keep it as an old building. A covenant to repair and keep in repair without qualification, however, may involve the covenantor in the cost of rebuilding.

A distinction is also drawn between repairs and decorations. Papering a room or white-washing walls are decorations. So also is painting unless it is necessary to prevent woodwork from rotting. Therefore if it be intended to include decorations in a lease, they should be mentioned.

Repairing Leases

As a rule a repairing lease requires the outside painting to be done every third year and inside painting and papering every seven years. Where it is a con- dition that the house shall be left in such condition as to be reasonably fit for habitation by a person of the class likely to lease it, the tenant is not bound to re-paint or re-paper a house because the paintwork or paper is worn with age. Where, however, the walls have been stripped of paper he must replace it. In carrying out repairs a tenant must not pull down any part of the premises.


WHEN the rent duo under the lease or tenancy agreement is not paid, there are three courses open to the landlord: (1) he may sue for arrears; or (2) he may, if the lease so provides by a re-entry clause for forfeiture, re-enter and resume possession; or (3) he may distrain.

Under a lease by deed, arrears for twenty years can be recovered; under other leases six years arrears. A proviso for forfeiture of the lease and re-entry by the landlord if the rent be in arrears for 21 days is generally included in lease. This remedy does not avail unless the landlord actually enters and shows his intention of determining the tenancy. Usually the landlord enforces his rights by suing for the recovery of possession. At any time within six months after the execution of judgment in an action for the recovery of possession, a tenant who has paid off all arrears and costs may ask the court to grant him relief against forfeiture and reinstate him in the position of tenant. Distraint

Distraint is exercisable by the landlord or othor person legally entitled to payment of rent. Any moveables (with the exception of those presently to be named) on the premises may be seized and sold to satisfy the claim for rent. Owing to its drastic nature this right in the landlord is hedged round with many restrictions, failure to observe which will result in serious consequences.

When Rent is in Arrears

Rent is not in arrcar until the day after the day it is due. Distress can only be made for rent in arrear, and can only be levied by the person to whom the rent is duo or his duly authorized bailiff, an official specially appointed and holding a certificate from a county court judge or registrar. Entry to the premises must be made after sunrise and before sunset. No outer door or corridor must be broken, for the entry must be peaceable, but once insida the distrainer can force inner doors or cupboards in his search for goods.

After seizing the goods it is usual to make an inventory and serve it upon the tenant. It is unlawful to remove from the premises goods so seized, but as an extra precaution, the distrainer usually leaves a man in possession to prevent their removal. Only sufficient goods to satisfy the distress must be seized, otherwise an action may be brought for excessive distress.

After five clear days (or if the tenant serves written notice upon the landlord after fifteen days), the goods may be sold bv auction or privately at the best price obtainable, and after deducting the costs of the distress and arrears of rent, any surplus must be handed to the tenant or owner of the goods sold. The landlord cannot himself purchase the goods. No distraint can be made if there be an unconditional tender of rent before entry; after entry the tender must includo the costs of the distress.

Privileged from Distress

The following are privileged from distress: (1) fixtures; (2) wild animals; (3) goods delivered to a person by way of his trade (e.g. cloth sent to a tailor to be made into a suit); (1) things in actual use (e.g. a garment which a woman is making); (5) things in the custody of the law (e.g. thoso taken in execution of a judgment); (6) wearing apparel and bedding of the tenant or his family and tools of his trade up to the value of £5; (7) perishable goods such as meat or milk (loose money is privileged but not money in a bag), and (8) goods belonging to a lodger or stranger who is not interested in the tenancy.


APART from the covenant to payment, there are other covenants the breach of which gives the landlord certain remedies. Damages amounting to the sum by which the reversion to the premises is diminished will be awarded for breach of a covenant to repair or to keep in repair. If it is shown that the premises, whatever be their state of repair, would at the termination of the lease or shortly after be demolished or so altered that repairs necessary under the covenant would if made be no value, no damages can be recovered by the landlord.

In most leases a proviso for re-entry or forfeiture on breach of a covenant to repair is included and at one time this inflicted great hardship on tenants. Under the present law such a covenant is not enforceable unless the lessor proves that a notice has been served specifying the particular breach complained of, and, if the breach be capable of remedy, requiring the lessee to remedy the breach, and, in any case, requiring the lessee to make compensation in money for the breach.

It must also be proved that the fact that such notice has been served on the lessee was known either (a) to the lessee or (b) to an under-lessee holding from the lessee or (c) to the person who last paid the rent, and further, that a reasonable time to permit of the repairs being dono has elapsed since the time when the fact of such notice came to the persons know ledge. Service of notices by iegistered post is sufficient.


A covenant not to sublet the premises or part of them without the landlords licence or consent is deemed to be subject to a proviso that such licence or consent is not to be unreasonably withheld, but this proviso does not preclude the right of the landlord to a reasonable sum for expenses incurred in giving his consent. So also a landlord cannot unreasonably withhold his consent to the making of improvements by the tenant despite a prohibitive covenant in the lease, though he may require compensation for any diminution in the value of the premises or for other expenses.

When Double Rent Becomes Due

Double rent becomes due from a tenant who has given notice to quit and does not surrender possession of the premises at the time mentioned in the notice. So long as he remains in possession this double rent is due, but he may leave the premises without giving a final notice to quit and the double rent ceases from that date.

A tenant for a term of years (or any person acting in collusion with him who obtains possession of the premises) wilfully continuing in possession (holding over) after the end of the term and after demand has been made in writing for the delivery of possession is liable to pay the landlord double the yearly value of the premises. Fire and Rent

Although the premises be destroyed by fire the tenants liability to pay the rent continues. To meet this contingency it is usual to insert a proviso in the lease suspending payment of rent whilst the premises are not habitable because of damage by fire.

If premises are used for business purposes (a wide term which may be taken to mean any trading for the purposes of profit, e.g. a shop, restaurant, or a lodging house, but not the premises of a professional man), a tenant may in certain circumstances claim compensation for improvements or for loss of goodwill on the refusal to renew the lease or he may be granted a new lease. These remedies are not open to the ordinary householder and are granted under certain statutory conditions to the class of tenants enumerated above under the Landlord and Tenant Act.


WILFUL damage to the premises by the tenant is always actionable. In the metropolitan police district a landlord may cause tenants so olfending to be summoned before a magistrate who has power to award compensation up to £15. Trees belong to the landlord; bushes belong to the tenant.

Landlords fixtures include everything affixed to the houso or land by the landlord or by the tenant under circumstances in which they were not removable by him. Greenhouses erected by a tenant cannot be removed, nor in strict law can a householder remove shrubs, trees and flowers planted in his garden.

Fixtures should always be removed before the tenancy expires for they cannot lawfully be removed aftenvards. Thus where a tenant becamo bankrupt thereby forfeiting his lease and the landlord entered, the court decided that fixtures remaining on the promises on the day of re-entry belonged to the landlord.

Tenants Fixtures

Tenants fixtures can be removed pro-viding no material damage is caused to the freehold. These include grates, stoves, ranges (although fixed in the brickwork), marble chimney-pieces, blinds, cornices, cupboards, bookcases and anything put up for ornamenting the premises or for the tenants convenience during his occupation.

Any new grate, stove or other fixture installed and removed when the tenant leaves must be replaced by the fixture which was in position before or something equivalent to it.

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