Dear Legal Wiz,
I, along with another tenant, recently rented Jamaican premises from a man who claims he is related to the landlord who lives overseas. He said it is a family home. This landlord’s relative insisted that he met with and rented the persons directly, although I introduced him to the other tenant. The same relative, since caused the other tenant not to move in, although he still held the tenant’s paid monies for the first month.
The tenant did not move for several reasons all because of the landlord’s relative. These included the fact that several promises made by the landlord’s relative were not fulfilled, although we both paid the rent sums early so that he, being the person taking care of the house and grounds, could have a portion to complete fixtures and do all he promised. Now even his own light meter is still not re-installed as he promised, and so he is still using the meter for the part of the house which both myself and the other tenant were to use. I had moved in as the relative had said he would have completed the work, which was not a lot, within the first week after I moved in – the first month of tenancy.
This is the second month, and the landlord’s relative is now trying to get me to either pay more, or to move into a small corner of the premises, plus force me to stop using the shared accommodations such as the verandah, living room etc as we all agreed. Am I obligated to pay the full sum? Should I move to the smaller area? The other tenant is now accusing me and the landlord’s relative, claiming that we as Jamaicans planned on conning him of his sums. The landlord’s relative claims the foreign tenant and I conned him so I could move in and pay a small sum for a big house, because no security deposit was taken.
Dear Martha Brown
First the landlord’s relative is acting as the agent in representing the landlord. Security deposit payment is at the discretion of the landlord, as it’s requirement is not stipulated by the Rent Restriction Act of Jamaica.
You should maintain your position as you had it when the agreement was made and monies were passed over. This includes any portion of the premises/property where you occupy. Where the monies for the total property are concerned, you need to focus on paying only your portion as agreed. For the balance of sums, although you are not obligated you could, at your discretion, try to assist the landlord in getting another tenant if you are to remain.
However, there are issues such as with the electricity meter that you need to address – whether you should pay over monies or not based on agreement. It seems based on what you said that you need to ask to see the utility bills and work out a sum to be paid for both water and electricity. At best continue insisting that the meters be held separate as he agreed.
The other alternative which still remains is that you try and find somewhere else with less hassle,or with a clear understanding and agreement written or oral upfront. When moving again, be aware of the high incidence of dishonesty among landlords/ladies/agents in Jamaica. It is never wise to move into a premises/property based on promises that things will be fixed, completed unless you get it in writing preferably. All the best.