Thursday, July 4, 2013

Laws obligate lessor to make necessary repairs to leased property

Dear PAO,

We were renting a house for almost two years but we recently vacated the premises because it became uninhabitable and my children were always getting sick. The lessor refused to make the necessary repairs despite our repeated demands. We even delayed our rental payment until he makes the necessary repairs, but to no avail.

The lessor’s son and daughter are getting involved in the problem. They are insisting that we pay the 3 months rent that is due plus 5% penalty for every two weeks of delayed payment. I informed her that we intend to use the one month deposit and one month advance that we paid her mother before. But she said that only the one month advance can be used because the deposit is a security bond or a guarantee that we will be staying in the house until the contract ends.

The lessor also told us that she will file a case in court if we do not settle the amount due. Is this correct? Are we still bound to pay even if we were not evicted but instead voluntarily left the premises?


Dear Annalyn,

First and foremost, we would like to stress that under our laws, it is the obligation of the lessor to make all the necessary repairs to the thing leased, during the subsistence of the contract of lease, in order to keep it suitable for the use to which it has been devoted. The only exception to this rule is when the lessor and the lessee have agreed that the repairs shall be shouldered by the lessee.

In the situation that you have presented, it is not apparent whether you and your lessor have agreed that you will be shouldering the expenses for the repairs of the house. Hence, it is presumed that the responsibility remains on her. Accordingly, she should maintain the property tenantable and safe for you and your family. If she fails to do so, you have the option of suspending the payment of your rent. This recourse is recognized by our law. As provided for under Article 1658 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, “The lessee may suspend the payment of the rent in case the lessor fails to make the necessary repairs or to maintain the lessee in the peaceful and adequate enjoyment of the property leased.

However, the option of suspending the payment of the rent does not mean that you are discharged of your obligation to whatever amount that has already become due even if you opted to voluntarily vacate the premises. This obligation does not only form part of your contract, but it is also imposed under Article 1657, id, which provides that: “The lessee is obliged: (1) to pay the price of the lease according to the terms stipulated; x x x” Therefore, you are still liable to settle the 3-month rent that you have withheld from the lessor. You may also be held accountable for 5% penalty for every two weeks of delayed payment if this is expressly provided for under your contract of lease.

Nevertheless, you may ask that your lessor exhaust the advanced rental and deposit that you have given her to answer for the rent which you are still obliged to settle. Her daughter cannot insist that the deposit you have made will only serve as a guarantee that you will be staying in the house until the contract ends, unless such condition is expressly stated in your contract. It is worth noting that Section 7 of Republic Act No. 9653, otherwise known as the Rent Control Act of 2009 provides that, “x x x In the event however, that the lessee fails to settle rent, electric, telephone, water or such other utility bills or destroys any house components and accessories, the deposits and interests therein shall be forfeited in favor of the latter in the amount commensurate to the pecuniary damage done by the former.”

If the amount of deposit and advanced rental payment is still insufficient to answer for the rent that has become due, we strongly advise you to settle the same. Should you fail to do so, your lessor has the right to file the appropriate case against you.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

source:  Manila Times' Column of Atty. Persida Acosta

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