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The Land Tenants (Security of Tenure) Act Chap 59:54 is an Act that provides security for any residential tenant who, on the 1st June, 1981, was occupying tenanted land on which they had erected or was in the process of erecting a house, with the consent of the landlord or where the landlord has not objected to the construction thereof.
By section 4 of the Act, all tenancies which were subsisting immediately before 1st June, 1981, were converted into a 30 year statutory lease.The Act does not apply to a tenancy of agricultural land, tenancies of land owned by statutory authorities, the Borough of Point Fortin, the Tobago House of Assembly, the State or where the unexpired term of the existing lease exceeded 30 years.
Terms of a statutory lease
The terms and conditions of any existing lease at the time would be the conditions of the statutory lease, in so far as they are not inconsistent with the Act.The rent payable is the same rent that was payable immediately prior to 1st June, 1981. It is payable annually unless otherwise agreed by the parties. If rent is in arrears for six months or more, the landlord may apply to the relevant authority to end the tenancy subject to any sub-tenancy and allow him back in possession of the land.
The tenant would be ordered to remove the house if it is removable. However, if the house is not removable, the landlord must compensate the tenant for the house at the open market value, which is determined by the relevant authority. The relevant authority must also give the tenant 30 days to pay all arrears before the order is made final.The rent may be reviewed by the authorised body on an application by either the landlord or the tenant.
A statutory tenant has the right to assign or sublet with the consent of the landlord, which is not to be unreasonably withheld. The tenant who wishes to assign or sublet must serve on the landlord an application in writing for consent. Within one month of receipt of the application, the landlord must serve the tenant with a notice in writing, either consenting or refusing and, in the case of a refusal, the landlord must give his reasons for such refusal. In the absence of a refusal he is deemed to have consented. The rent payable by any subtenant cannot exceed the rent payable by the tenant to the landlord.
Option to purchase
The Act gives sitting tenants the option of purchasing the land at any time during the term of the statutory lease at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the open market value of the land without the house and vacant possession, valued at the date of the service on the landlord of required notice of purchase.
The purchase price may be made by instalments if the landlord agrees or if so ordered by the relevant authority, and if he so agrees the lease continues and the rents are payable until the final instalment.
In this case the tenant can only sell the land before completion of payment to any person other than the State with the agreement of the landlord.
This sale price must exceed that which the tenant has agreed to pay the landlord but the unpaid portion of the instalment must be paid directly to the landlord.A statutory tenant who purchases the land is prevented for five years from selling the land at a higher price to any purchaser other than the State.
Option to renew
A Statutory Lease is renewable for a further period of 30 years on the same terms and conditions (except for the option to renew) once the tenant serves on the landlord a notice prescribed by the Act of renewal at least six months before the expiration of the original term of the statutory lease.
The tenant is not required to give any consideration for this right of renewal and it is enforceable by and against the executors, administrators and assigns of the landlord and the tenant.The landlord and tenant can, however, agree to the surrender of the statutory lease in consideration of an agreed sum to compensate the tenant for the house.
Statutory Leases will expire on the 31st May 2011; renewal notices must be given at the latest by 30th November 2010. Failure to give such a notice would result in the loss of the statutory tenancy.
This article sets out general guidelines, All legal rules have exceptions and variations. How the law applies to you depends on the facts of your case.This column is an initiative of the Trinidad Guardian and the Law Association with assistance from students of the Hugh Wooding Law School.