DISPUTES between Landlord and Tenant are not uncommon and are most often exacerbated by the differing expectations of the parties. On the one hand, the Landlord is allowing another person to live in his property (the value of which he knows only too well) and on the other hand the Tenant is paying to live there and expects to be able to fully enjoy the premises without interruption.
It is pretty much universally agreed that, if a dispute should occur, it is preferable for the matter to be dealt with between the parties rather than resorting to time-consuming and costly court proceedings. But what are the most common kinds of tenancy dispute and how can they be avoided?
One of the biggest causes of dispute between Landlord and Tenant concerns damage to the property. The Tenant has the duty to return the property in the same condition as it was delivered to him, fair wear and tear excepted.
This means that any damage which is caused by the reasonable use of the premises by the Tenant or the passage of time will not be damage for which the Tenant is responsible. A common sense approach to what is “fair wear and tear” should be adopted considering the individual circumstances of the tenancy, for example one can expect greater damage to a property which is let to young families or smokers.
Return of the Deposit
Closely linked to the issue of wear and tear is the return of the deposit. The Landlord will usually take the equivalent of between one and two month’s rent as a deposit, as security against damage to the property. At the end of the tenancy he will assess the cost of any damage and will deduct this cost from the amount returned to the Tenant. As mentioned above, he may make deductions for any damage which is beyond “fair wear and tear” but the law does not impose an obligation on the Tenant to improve the property or leave it in a better state than that in which he took it.
Another bone of contention can be repairs. Responsibility for routine repairs to the property ought to be made clear in the Tenancy Agreement. Most often, the Landlord will be responsible for the bulk of the general maintenance in relation to the property. As a general rule he should keep the property in the condition it was rented in, for example if it is rented with air conditioning he will be responsible for ensuring that the air conditioning remains operational.
The increase of rent may also cause friction. It is clearly in the Tenant’s interests to keep the rent as low as possible but as time goes by and the costs of living and repairs increase and individual property values go up, Landlords will wish to increase the level of rent to reflect this. The law in Cyprus places certain restrictions on rental increase which mean that the rent may not be increased by any more than 14% in any two year period.
Non-Payment of Rent
Punctual payment of rent is of course one of the Landlord’s greatest concerns. Where payment is not promptly made, the Landlord should issue written warnings to the Tenant. Where these are not successful then the Landlord may issue a Termination Notice to evict the Tenant and may seek to recover the outstanding rent in the Court, together with interest.
As a Landlord, many of the issues associated with tenants can be avoided by:
Careful Tenant Selection – This means checking references as to stability in employment and previous tenancies as well checking the financial standing of the Tenant.
Preparation of an Inventory – An inventory detailing the condition of the fixtures and fittings and any furniture in the property (preferably with photos) will help to ensure that there is no dispute regarding the level of wear and tear.
Agreement in Writing – An essential tool to protect both parties is a detailed tenancy agreement drawn up by a lawyer specialising in such matters which outlines the full expectations and responsibilities of the parties. To be effective, a rental agreement in Cyprus must be signed by both parties and witnessed by two witnesses.
Final Inspection – At the end of the tenancy a joint final inspection will help the parties to agree any damage and necessary deductions from the deposit to cover such damages.
The relationship between Landlord and Tenant can be a fragile one. Those which tend to deteriorate are usually the relationships where the expectations of the parties differ and this will be most likely to occur when the parties have not embodied their prior expectations in writing.
A thorough rental agreement prepared by a legal professional will not only outline the exact responsibilities of the parties but may also allow for certain recourse when problems do occur (for example deductions from the deposit) which will substantially reduce the chances of having to resort to litigation in order to resolve the dispute.
About the author
Louise Zambartas is the Head of Private Client Department of L.G. Zambartas LLC, Law Offices; one of only eight law firms on the list of lawyers published by the British High Commission in Nicosia.