Tenant Agreement

A tenancy agreement will contain what the landlord and the tenant have agreed to be their rights and duties. However, in common law, certain rights and duties will be implied in a tenancy even if the tenancy agreement does not expressly provide for the same. The general legal principle is that such implied covenants will automatically apply to a tenancy, unless there are express and contrary provisions in the tenancy agreement.

  1. Implied covenants of the landlord
     
   
a.

Tenant to have quiet enjoyment of the property

The purpose of the covenant is twofold: (i) to protect the tenant against eviction or dispossession from the property and (ii) to protect the tenant in occupation against interference with his normal use and enjoyment of the property. The landlord impliedly covenants with the tenant that the tenant's enjoyment and possession of the property will not be disturbed by any act of the landlord, his agents or servants.

To enjoy quiet enjoyment, the tenant must pay rent punctually and perform and observe his covenants in the tenancy agreement. A landlord does not have to observe this implied covenant if the tenant fails to pay rent or is in breach of other terms of the tenancy in which case he may take action to evict the tenant and claim damages for the tenant's breach.

Generally speaking, if a landlord disconnects the supply of water, electricity or gas to the property whilst the tenant is still in possession, such act will constitute a breach of this implied covenant.

Case

Yeung Wah James v. Alfa Sea Ltd. [1993] 1 HKC 440 – A tenant occupied a third-floor flat in a block owned by the landlord. The landlord failed to persuade the tenant to surrender his tenancy. One day, the tenant, having returned to Hong Kong from overseas, found himself locked out of the premises. Further, the landlord had, in the tenant's absence and without his consent, broken into the flat to carry out renovation work. The High Court held that the landlord was in patent breach of his covenant for quiet enjoyment and awarded $50,000 as general damages and $50,000 as exemplary damages to the tenant.

 
b.

Fitness for habitation

There is an implied covenant on the part of the landlord to ensure that the property is at the beginning of the tenancy reasonably fit for human habitation where the property is let with furniture.

   
c.

Landlord not to derogate from his grant

The landlord impliedly covenants not to directly or indirectly interfere with or affect the purpose for which the property was let to the tenant and his reasonable enjoyment thereof.