THE parties in a tenancy agreement normally agree as to the use of the premises and include a term providing an obligation upon the landlord to sign any necessary application for obtaining the relevant permit, if there isn’t any for the particular use of the property. There is an issue for the tenant to be careful before signing the tenancy agreement, to ask the landlord to provide him with the relevant permit regarding the use of the premises. Furthermore, he must care to keep the landlord responsible to sign any necessary application for any future change or alteration in the use or the appearance of the premises, particularly when the property is a shop. The lack of such provision in the tenancy agreement will leave the tenant without remedy in the event the landlord refuses to facilitate him. The existence of such a provision binds the landlord and gives the right to the tenant to demand from him to sign the relevant application in the event he refuses or omits to co-operate. The court has the discretionary power to issue an order against the landlord to sign the relevant application or plans needed for legalising the use or any alteration which will improve the status of the property.
Such a legal issue was dealt with by the Rent Control Court in a judgement whereby the landlord refused to sign the relevant application for the tenant to obtain a permit for changing the use of a shop. Originally, the shop was rented as a warehouse and the tenant converted it into a retail shop by making improvements and reasonable alterations therein. The tenant proceeded with the necessary changes and alterations following the agreement with the landlord reached before the court previously. Due to the refusal of the landlord, the tenant faced criminal proceedings instituted by the relevant authority, including contempt of a court order. In view of the aforesaid issues, the tenant applied to the court requesting the issue of an order directing the landlord to sign the relevant application and plans necessary for the issue of the relevant permits. He succeeded in his claim, even after making the alterations and changing the use of the shop. The court observed that the changes and alterations were reasonable and necessary and resolved the dispute once and for all by issuing the order against the landlord.
It is remarkable that the dispute lasted for many years, with the landlord trying to evict the tenant from the premises and the latter defending his possession of the shop. The making of the agreement before the court, giving the tenant the right to use the shop for retail purposes, enabled him to successfully enforce the landlord to comply with his contractual obligations. One of the arguments of the landlord was that the original tenant left the premises and gave possession of the shop to a company of the same group. The court decided the creation of the group of companies didn’t alter the legal status of the tenancy and the existence of the group in the shop was accepted by the landlord. The original tenant, who eventually became statutory tenant, had always kept legal possession of the shop, irrespective of the use of the shop by other companies of the same group. The same business entities were using the shop, nothing changed and thus the argument of the landlord failed.
It is evident from the above that even for a tenancy, the parties must regulate precisely their rights in writing, particularly the tenant who must care and protect his rights from the outset. Additionally, he is advised to exercise his rights as early as possible to avoid unnecessary difficulties or objections by the landlord.