Landlord and tenant law has a lengthy history which can have its origins traced all the way back to the Code of Hammurabi. However, landlord and tenant law evolved into its present shape during the Middle Ages in England. A landlord is defined as a person or group which owns property and agrees to allow another party to use the property. A tenant is defined as a party that rents a piece of residential or commercial property. In the middle ages, England had a very agrarian based economy, and owning land to rent to tenants was a way of determining the social status of an individual. Eventually this section of common law in England spread to Canada and is used in our provinces and territories today. Sections of Landlord and Tenant Law such as tenancy, terms of a lease, security deposits, and quiet enjoyment shape our society today.
In Landlord and Tenant Law, tenancy is split into three categories knows as Fixed-Term Tenancy, Periodic Tenancy and Joint Tenancy. In Fixed-Term Tenancy tenant and land lord enter into a contract which ends on a specific date. An example of this would be a tenant in a mall has a lease which expires on April 1. In fixed-term tenancy a tenant can give up the lease before it has expired in an act which is known as surrender of the lease. In Periodic Tenancy, a contract runs on a week to week, or month to month basis. Periodic tenancy tends to occur in a scenario where an individual’s fixed-term tenancy expires, and they continue to lease an area. For example, if a tenant in a mall had their lease expire April 1, but they continued to rent the space and paid rent monthly, this would be an example of periodic tenancy. Joint tenancy is when more than one person enters into a tenancy agreement. In joint tenancy all parties are responsible for the rent to be paid, even if one of the parties in the agreement does not pay the rent. For example, if one tenant were to leave an agreement, then the other tenants would have to pay the rent for that person for the duration of the contract. If only one person enters into a tenant agreement, then they are liable to pay the rent regardless of whether or not there are other people paying the rent along with them.
Another major component of tenancy law is the terms of a tenancy agreement. The most important part to the terms of agreement of a tenancy contract is that they reflect the laws of the area which the property is located in. If this is not the case then the contract is void. If the terms of agreement of a contract are broken, the first step is that the landlord or tenant will talk to an adjudicator to solve the issue. The terms of agreement of a tenancy contract could be broken by either side of the agreement. A landlord could break the agreement by acts such as raising the rent without reason or refusal to do repairs or provide sufficient heating. The tenant could break the agreement by acts such as failing to pay the rent or disturbing other people living in the building. A tenancy contract also needs to specify quite a few things in order for it to be valid. Information such as the name and address of the landlord, name of the lessee, period of, possession, specific address of the property, and amount of rent to be paid is vital to ensuring the validity of the contract. In some provinces, including Manitoba, a standard lease form has been drafted.
Landlord and tenant law also deals with security deposits. Security deposits are an amount of money that a tenant must pay when they enter into an agreement. When the security deposit is paid it is used as a trust by the landlord. The landlord must pay interest on the deposit at the end of each year. If a tenant is unable to pay rent on at any point the landlord is eligible to use the money paid in the security deposit to cover the rent. In Manitoba, the legislation of security deposits comes under the Residential Tenancies Act. The security deposit is paid as half of a month’s rent under this act. The deposit is used either for unpaid rent, or other necessary compensations.
An important factor of tenant law for the tenant specifically is the right of Quiet Enjoyment and Privacy. This basically states that a tenant has the right to enjoy their rental property without the interference by other people. This law states measures such as a landlord cannot enter the property rented by a tenant unless there is an emergency or the correct amount of notice is given. The landlord also has the right to violate this law if they are showing the property to potential renters or buyers. The landlord has the right to prevent trades people from entering their building or property, but cannot stop political canvassers. At the same time, the tenants are unable to alter the locks of their room to stop people from entering at a given time.
A problem which is sometimes faced in Landlord and Tenant law is discrimination. Laws and acts are always passed in order to limit discrimination against people in the rental housing market. People are sometimes discriminated against based on their religion, race, sex, age and marital status. Human Rights laws have supremacy over all other laws when it comes to provincial or federal statutes dealing with tenancy. So if there were a conflict dealing with a human rights statute and residential statute the person using the human rights as a defense would win. An issue which commonly arises under discrimination is income. Many landlords are hesitant to rent to someone who has a low income out of fear that they will be unable to pay the rent. However, under human right statutes it is unethical for a landlord to deny a person housing over a reason such as this. If a person is wronged over a human rights issue then they may file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
Landlord and Tenant law is obviously very important to society as it determines important issues such as property leasing and housing. Tenants and landlords are able to protect themselves and find a reasonable place to live or make money through the development of this section of law. This section of law provides tenants with freedom of privacy, freedom from discrimination, as well as the right to essential things such as heat from their landlord. These laws ensure that a landlord will not be cheated by his tenants, with things such as security deposits. The landlord is also enable to ensure the safety of others people living or renting on their property through laws set up in this system. Landlord and tenant law is one of the cornerstones of the foundation of our society.