You should know your rights as a tenant
Hilary Jean Baptiste, Certified Real Estate Home Building Inspector
Our Readers' Opinions
November 1, 2019
You should know your rights as a tenant

Editor: My name is Hilary Jean Baptiste. I’m a Certified Real Estate Home Building Inspector. I was forced to write this article, so that I can share some light as it pertains to Real Estate Properties.

There are a lot of persons, entering the market of rental properties, who are in breach of many conditions of their rental properties, in general. When it comes to furnished or unfurnished apartments, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, or elsewhere for that matter you have to know your rights as a tenant.

The law in St Vincent and the Grenadines generously protects the tenant. Premises may be rented with a contract or without a written contract.

An individual can make a contract for any duration, therefore no limit has to be fixed in the contract, whether furnished or unfurnished premises. The contract can be for a period that is weekly, monthly or yearly. Some tenancy contracts may stipulate a deposit, though it is not mandatory by law. The amount of deposit is usually one month rent. In the case of a document which we generally call a lease that gives conditions of tenancy for more than one year has to be registered.

The tenant may leave the premises any time he wishes, subject to the terms of a written contract, if any, though the usual practice is that the tenant will give at least two weeks to one month’s notice. If a deposit has been paid and the requisite agreed notice has not been given the deposit may be forfeited.

Virtually in every state or Country the law varies to improve the standards of both parties, tenants and landlords, there are also rules, that prohibits a landlord from entering a rented property without providing prior notice (usually 24 hours) except in the event of an emergency, your landlord may enter without advance notice, and those conditions must be for reasons like: A fire, a gas leak, a flooding, those are some of the conditions a landlord can enter. But, generally a landlord must respect their tenants right to privacy, and because of the importance placed on tenant privacy rights, there are only a few limited circumstances where a landlord can lawfully enter your rental apartment. Generally, a landlord may only enter a tenants unit for a “reasonable business purpose” after making a good faith effort to give the tenant reasonable advance notice, before entering the tenant’s apartment. If the landlord violates this law, the tenant can take the landlord to court, and recover up to $100 per violation in court. Examples of a reasonable business purpose includes: showing the unit to prospective tenants, showing the unit to prospective buyer or insurance agents, or the landlord performing maintenance work. In some instances, the tenant can also discretely say to the landlord, let’s look at an alternative date, because this time is not convenient for such undertaking.

Also, repairs requested by the tenant – if a tenant has specifically asked the landlord to repair or service something in his or her unit, the landlord may enter the unit during additional hours. The landlord can enter the apartment at any hour of the day. As long as the landlord and tenant both agree to the time.

As a tenant at will, you have the right to lawful and exclusive possession of the place you rent. If you do not have a lease, but you do have your landlord’s permission to live in your apartment, you are a tenant at will. This is the most common kind of tenancy. It is called, a “month to month tenancy” because landlords usually require tenants, to pay rent once a month, in advance.

If a property comes, with basic appliances like a washing machine, television, stove etc, then it’s the landlord responsibility to repair them if they break down. But if it’s because the tenant has damaged them, then it’s not the landlord responsibility to repair them. If a landlord is failing on his obligation to fix basic things within a reasonable time (two weeks) then the tenant can bombard the landlord with requests and remind them that they could be in breach of the tenancy agreement. Toilets, face basins, and showerheads take a battering particularly, if the property is an aging one. This is due to wear and tear as far as rentals are concern. Those maintenance obligation lies with the landlord. So don’t hesitate to ask the landlord to fix the problems that affect the quality of life in your unit. The landlord has a duty to keep their properties “reasonably safe” for tenants and third parties who may enter onto the premises. The duty to inspect and remedy hazards also includes a specific duty to inspect your property and premises before transferring possession to a tenant. Landlords should exercise vigilance with respect to properties they own, whether or not a tenant is in possession. Landlords should consult with a lawyer or a specialist to ensure they understand the legal rights and obligations relating to properties they own and control, and should always comply with legal obligations to maintain and repair their properties. Ignorance of the law is not a defense. Consult an attorney or property specialist to learn about your duties and obligations, and make sure you understand your legal duties to keep your property safe and well maintained.

Hilary Jean Baptiste