According to most studies, death, divorce and changing homes are the three most stressful moments in a person’s life. In my opinion, however, renting property out should also be included, judging by the amount of queries, complaints and eviction legal instructions this office receives.
The email below was received from a client who had demanded payment of unpaid rentals on a townhouse and who was fobbed off, by his tenants, in a not very Queen’s English (they are vigorous East Londoners, in fact):
As early emails we have NO Contract, you had time to come and see us when I told you of our intentions by email which you replied to, you have the keys for the property from Monica, we have taken legal advice and been informed no contact has been signed no notary has been attended or no verbal agreement made with you, as I said before we was all square financially.
The tenants had not paid and simply disappeared without any notice or warning, leaving the keys with the neighbour. The landlord was not expecting a with thanks bottle of champagne but neither breadcrumbs, eggshells, a stinky fridge, walls full of blue-tack and a filthy and defective gas barbecue (which nobody wants to touch), yet the fact that they were, I am told, a couple of alcoholics, helped temper the landlord’s rage, as he’d rather have them out owing money than in without paying (and without being able to rent out).
The lady, presumably after having guzzled a couple of gallons of wine, thought up a new law whereby not having a written contract meant that they were not liable for payment, that a notary was required to make a binding agreement or that no verbal agreement had been struck, in spite of them having paid two months deposit and one month of rent to a real estate agent. A very confused mind, indeed.
Non-payment is a big problem mostly because tenants seem to forget that their obligation of payment (in fact, the only one, other than maintaining the property as they received it) is not conditional upon the landlord doing anything: Spanish law does not allow renters to withhold the rent under any circumstance (other than destruction of the property). If they wish to make a claim, it has to be done separately from the main obligation of payment of the rent.
The string of excuses for not paying is endless, and enumerating all would be boring, so I have thought that the best advice I can provide is for both landlords and tenants to know what their respective rights are and what they can do about them (note that rights have a corresponding obligation, and vice versa).
Rights and obligations of a landlord:
- Right to get paid on time.
- Obligation to provide a property in a good and habitable condition for the use it is destined to, as well as in an optimal hygiene and safety standard.
- Obligation to maintain the property in a good state, carrying out the reparations that are required (maintenance, functionality and security), except for the normal wear and tear the property is likely to suffer with use.
- Obligation to not impede the unhindered use of the property by the tenant, except in those cases where the property is in need of urgent repairs.
Rights and obligations of the tenant:
- Obligation to pay on time (this means no withholding of rentals).
- Obligation to keep the property in good condition, as was received.
- Right to demand from the landlord the necessary repairs to conserve the property in a habitable condition.
- Obligation to pay for small jobs that are necessary by normal use (wear and tear) of the property
A Note on Maintenance Works and Repairs
In respect of repairs, the following is to be noted:
- Conservation Repairs: The tenant will have the right to demand from the landlord the necessary repairs to conserve the property in a habitable condition for the use it was intended to, unless the damage to be repaired is attributable to the tenant, exclusively. If these repairs are to last more than 20 days, the tenant will have the right to reduce the rental, proportionally to the part of the property he/she cannot use. Small jobs that are necessary by normal use of the property are to be paid by the tenant (wear and tear). According to the Spanish Supreme Court, conservation or necessary repairs are those that are indispensable for the property to be kept in the use determined by the contract, referred to the time when the tenant took possession of the property, without this right being indefinitely extended in favour of the tenant. The tenant will have to notify the landlord, as soon as possible, of the need for any repairs (to keep the property in a habitable condition, as above), and allow the landlord direct verification, for this purpose exclusively, personally or by technical staff appointed for it, of the state of the property. Only where these repairs are necessary to avoid imminent damage or grave discomfort, will the tenant have the right to carry them out, and immediately demand payment to the landlord.
- Improvement Repairs: The tenant is obligated to accept improvement works that cannot be reasonably deferred until completion of the tenancy agreement. The landlord will have to give 3 months notice prior to his intention to start the works, after which time the tenant will have the right to cancel the contract, unless these are not essential. The tenant will have the right to a proportional reduction in the rental if he/she chooses to remain in the agreement. According to the Supreme Court, these are repairs that enhance comfort, convenience, luxury, recreation, embellishment or value of the property.
Renting property is always a high-risk business, especially when a landlord is unlucky enough to mistakenly end up giving access to a professional at not paying rent. But if this happens, wait no longer than a day after payment was due and get your lawyer to give notice of eviction.