Property Nightmare Stories #4: You Have 24 Hours to Get out of My House. April Fool… ?

Diane Foo Eu LynnApril 28, 2017

 

Property investment is the hype but property nightmares are often shoved under the carpets. In this series of Property Nightmare Stories, PropertyGuru gets down on the ground to find out firsthand what can happen when the tenant or landlord voids a contract.

 

On the morning of April 1st, Jasmine received a letter from her landlord stating that her tenancy was to be terminated effective April 2nd as utility bills were not paid promptly. Taken aback by this, Jasmine without hesitation rang her Landlord, Balan, immediately.

Balan’s phone was not in service and Jasmine was in a panicked and confused state. She does not know the next steps to this.

In the afternoon of April 1st, the water supply to Jasmine’s condominium was cut. Balan was still uncontactable. Jasmine was clueless and thought this might possibly be an April fool’s joke from her Landlord as rent and utility bills are always paid promptly.

Later that evening, water supply was restored and Balan was contactable. It turns out that a rogue has impersonated Balan to terminate the tenancy.

What can be done in a situation as such? Can water or electricity supply be cut or locked?

 

1) Jasmine should:-

a) first check whether the water cut is caused by the landlord or rather a water supply disruption or water rationing by the relevant authorities; and
b) whether the utility bills are paid up to date and the duly paid receipts are kept properly; and then
c) check on the termination clauses of the tenancy agreement (if one is entered into between the landlord and her) as to whether:-
i) the landlord can terminate the tenancy agreement in such purported “non-payment of bills” situation;
ii) if yes, what is the period of termination notice that shall be given?

 

2) In most tenancy agreements, there are usually provisions for:-

a) termination upon reasonable notice in the event of the tenant’s breach (e.g. non-payment of rental and utility bills); or
b) notice to remedy the breach within a reasonable period and if failure to remedy, termination of the tenancy.

 

3) Jasmine should not be panicked and confused:-

a) if she has always been paying the rent and utility bills of the Demised Premises,
b) the receipts of the duly paid utility bills are kept up to date;
c) (assuming Jasmine’s tenancy provides for reasonable notice to be given for termination) the period of the purported termination notice given is rather short, unlike the usual reasonable notice period.

 

4) As a result of that, Jasmine should treat the said letter purported to terminate the tenancy with great suspicion. She may also seek written verification of the said letter from the landlord to ascertain the same is being sent out by her landlord.

 

5) Though there are terms and conditions in some tenancy agreements that allow landlord to cut the water and electricity supply of the tenanted premises in the event of default of payment by
the tenant, it is not advisable for the landlord to do that as the tenant is supposed to have a
peaceful enjoyment of the tenanted premises under the tenancy law and further it may attract
potential legal liability to the landlord in the event the disconnection of the utilities supply causes loss to the tenant’s business.

To visit some of the other nightmares, look for the one you resonate with most:

 

 

This article was contributed by Alvin Teo (Advocate & Solicitor- Messrs Mak, Ng, Shao & Kee) and Nicole Ng (Advocate & Solicitor- Messrs Elizabeth Siew & Co). For more information or legal assistance, contact or email them at 07-3341922 (alvinteo@mnsklaw.com) or 03-8075 0901 (nicole.ng@esc.legal).

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