How to legally deal with a tenant when they do not pay up

Posted on Apr 15, 2018

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Contributed by Messrs Eunice Tan & Partners founder Eunice Tan Mui Lee

Messrs & Partners founder Eunice Tan Mui Lee

Messrs & Partners founder Eunice Tan Mui Lee

The most common dispute between a landlord and a tenant is the timely payment of rental.

Despite the fact that most rental agreements follow the Tenancy Agreement, the same kind of dispute still occurs.

A Tenancy Agreement is a binding contract between a landlord and a tenant. Regular clauses stated in the tenancy agreement are such as the monthly rental, deposit, term of the tenancy, obligations of the landlord and the tenant during the tenancy period, default, termination, option to renew and other clauses.

When this scenario occurs, most of the landlords will use their so-called “self-help” method to enter the premises rather than to engage a lawyer to evict the tenant legally. When the tenant defaults in paying his or her rent, the landlord may opt to terminate the Tenancy Agreement. However, this does not mean that the landlord can enter the premises without a court order.

This is notwithstanding whether there is a clause in the tenancy agreement that states that the landlord can enter and repossess the premises if there is a breach of the terms of the Tenancy Agreement.

What can a landlord do?

In such circumstances, the landlord can enter the premises by obtaining an eviction order as stated in Section 7(2) & 7(3) of the Specific Relief Act 1950. It spells out the following:-

“7(2) Where a specific immovable property has been let under a tenancy, and that tenancy is determined or has come to an end, but the occupier continues to remain in occupation of the property or part thereof, the person entitled to the possession of the property shall not enforce his right to recover it against the occupier otherwise than by proceedings in the court.”

For a landlord to evict the tenant legally, they are required to serve a termination and eviction notice to the tenant. The landlord will then request that the tenant deliver the vacant possession of the premise within a specific time frame.
If the tenant fails to redeliver the vacant possession of the premises within the specific time frame, the landlord is entitled to claim double the amount of rental for the holding period of the premises in accordance to Civil Law Act, 1956.

Many landlords use their own “self-help” methods such as changing the padlock of the premises or breaking in with the presence of a police officer. In the recent case at Subang Jaya, the landlord actually locked the tenant up inside the condominium. All of these methods are not advisable as you might face the risk for any form of civil or criminal consequences.

Breaking into your rented property with the presence of a police officer is also risky. The tenant may accuse the landlord of removing their belongings. He or she could also accuse the landlord of entering the house or attempting to evict them without a court order.

In this scenario, the landlord may be liable to pay for damages and losses suffered by the tenant due to this illegal entry. Landlords should take note that the amount payable might be more than the outstanding rental that the tenant owes you.

Coupling your entry into the rented property with a police officer and a police report does not justify the legal eviction of a tenant.

If the landlord decides to continue with the Tenancy Agreement, he or she may apply for a writ of distress under the Distress Act 1951. Once the Court has issued the writ of distress, the belongings of the tenant in the premises (which are legally owned by the tenant) are liable to be seized and auctioned off by the Court’s bailiffs. The amount derived from the auction will then be used to pay off the outstanding monthly rentals.

To Read More: Ask Me Anything: Dealing with rebellious tenants

To Read More: Ask Me Anything: Dealing with rebellious tenants- Part 2

To Read More: Ask Me Anything: Tackling tenants and landlords issues

To Read More: Tenant’s due diligence

To Read More: What are your rights as a tenant?

To Read More: Tackling tenant-landlord issues and leasehold renewal cost calculation

To Read More: Ask Me Anything: Who is responsible for IWK bills, wiring and piping issues in a rented property?


About the Contributor

Eunice Tan is the founder of both LegalMakeover and Messrs Eunice Tan & Partners.


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