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Advisory: Starting A Tenancy

Advisory: Starting A Tenancy
April 09
13:34 2018

The smooth operation of a tenancy majorly depends on the tone and mood prevailing amongst the parties, i.e. the landlord and tenant, negotiating from the start.

In most instances, both parties take this opportunity lightly and at times act in haste out of desperation or mere carelessness to enter into a tenancy on uncertain terms.

In such circumstances, the focus of the landlord and tenant’s discussion are mainly on the major points such as: the rental amount to be paid, duration of the tenancy, how and when the rent is to be paid etc..

Some key details of the tenancy are often overlooked which pose a risk of becoming the cause of friction or discontent later on.

This includes discussing aspects such as: number of visitors allowed, whether pets are allowed or not, if the utility bills are being shared then how will it be divided etc..

Taking such factors into consideration, it is important for both the parties to treat the initial negotiation very seriously and accord sufficient time and attention to the process to avoid any cause of regrets later.

To summarise the process of starting a tenancy, it is recommended to follow the steps listed in the order as follows-

 

  1. Advertising of the property for rent;
  2. Connecting the parties;

III. Inspection of the property and making a condition report;

  1. Negotiation on the terms and conditions of the tenancy;
  2. Documentation and registration of the agreement;
  3. Payment of advance payable fees or charges;

VII. Handover of key and moving in.

 

The Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC), based on its rent control and consumer protection mandate under the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission Act 2010 (FCCC Act 2010), has been inundated with complaints from tenants and landlords which reflect the very facts highlighted above.

For instance, if a tenant encounters difficulty and is unable to pay rent on the date stated in the agreement, the landlord tends to become frustrated to the point that he starts to create discomfort for the tenant.

The landlord may indulge in actions such as disconnecting utilities and verbally demanding the tenant to vacate the property.

Such actions are unacceptable, especially when landlords should be issuing a proper written notice to vacate the premises as required by law.

However, given that such factors are not stated in the tenancy agreement, the parties are not clear on what to do and tend to resort to their own interpretation or understanding of the law.

 

Advice before acceptance

The FCCC has continually been emphasising to tenants via several mechanisms to seek expert advice before committing to an agreement or deal.

Such advice can be technical, legal or basic administrative knowledge in form that a landlord or tenant can rely on to make informed decisions.

There have been cases recently of tenants getting entangled with landlords and their agents due to lack of knowledge on their rights and liabilities in a tenancy.

In such circumstances, tenants suffer financial loss and frustration that often deprive them from their quiet enjoyment of the property according to law.

On the other hand, some landlords have encountered challenging situation against their tenants due to inadequate terms and conditions in the tenancy agreements that stipulated redress measures in the event of breach or default.

Whilst renting in Fiji is an ongoing business, it is important for landlords and tenants to get professional advice prior to committing to a tenancy agreement.

It is equally important for both to have a basic understanding of what a property contract is about.

 

Negotiate before you bay

A payment in a tenancy agreement should only be done once the signing and sealing process, including registration is completed.

If payments are done prior to the finalisation of the agreement, both parties are exposed to risks that can become a cause of later regret.

From a tenants’ perspective, payment of bond and advance rent should only be made after the agreement has been signed, the condition of the property meets the expectation and bills are cleared.

On the other hand, the landlord should only accept payment from a tenant, after the agreement is finalised and properly sealed and registered.

Furthermore, the landlord must ensure that the tenant understands clearly the terms and conditions of the agreement.

 

Importance of Documentation

The parties to a tenancy must always remember that whatever communication transpired during the negotiation can only be believed or capable to be believed if captured in writing.

All future undertakings agreed to at the start is of no value if not properly documented and signed.

Otherwise, it becomes hearsay information that lacks the standard of evidentiary validity.

Photos and other modes of capturing a moment is very handy as writing may not describe it adequately and to the point.

‘Sticky’ issues such as the state of the property including the bills should be documented to provide proof of the condition that was for future comparison basis. To ensure transparency of the documentation process, both parties must be provided a copy each to keep, as reference.

Any amendments or deletions to be made thereafter must be reflected on both copies kept.

 

Contact information

For more information/details on Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission and

FCCC Act 2010, visit our website on http://www.fccc.gov.fj

Feedback:  maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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