Tenants from hell
By Salleh Buang
If you have been blessed with extra cash (or have access to an easy-term
financing scheme) and property investment is your cup of tea, you’ve
probably amassed a portfolio of properties which you’re renting out -
residential, commercial, and may be industrial as well. That being the case,
you’d probably have only two worries - one, whether you can find a tenant;
and two, whether you can find the right sort.
I’d like to deal with the second problem by asking you these questions: What
if, after having found your tenant, he appears to be the worst kind you can
imagine? What happens if he is a tenant from hell?
No, he might not have tiny horns on his head or the number 666 on his scalp.
Nor is he afraid to enter a mosque, church or any other place of worship. He
may, in fact, be able to spout religion and quote passages from the Quran,
Bible or any other religious book just to impress (and deceive) you into
believing just how honest and reliable he is. After first meeting him, you
might even wish your child could be just like him.
Take the case of an irate Italian landlord, whose story I came across a
while back. He was so fed up with his freeloading tenant (who refused to
leave although he had repeatedly failed to pay his rent) that the landlord
one day decided to drive his tractor up the garden path and ram down the
front door of the house. Well, that made the tenant finally leave, but he
still refused to pay up. Would a Malaysian landlord do that? You tell me.
To avoid getting into the same situation, wouldn’t it be a blessing if there
is a specialist company in this country which can identify terrible tenants
so that you can be spared painful and harrowing encounters?
Such outfits do exist, as a search through cyberspace will reveal. For
example, there is a United Kingdom-based set-up called Experian, which is
essentially a credit information group; and another called Landlord Action,
a landlord support company.
According to Bruno Rost of Experian, a recent survey of 200 property agents
in the UK revealed that more than 65 per cent of all tenants turn out to be
problem cases. While the most common issue is non-payment of rent, there are
also other worrying trends, which include burning or destroying floorboards,
doors, skirting boards, and even torching parts of a property. One even
discovered that his departing tenant had ripped out all the carpets in the
house and dumped them in the garden, together with the entire contents of
Then there was the case of a lady tenant who used her rented home as a
massage parlour cum whorehouse.
Rost said since the cost of clearing up the mess left by tenants from hell
can be quite considerable, and because the average time needed to get rid of
them ranges from three months to a year, landlords should run checks before
signing up a tenant.
His service, called Tenant Verifier, conducts for a fee and within 48 hours,
a report containing a financial review of a prospective party, and reference
from a previous landlord and the employer.
“Tenant checking is an essential part of the letting process, not least when
one considers the level of investment at risk in a property,” Rost said.
This is well and good, but what if you are now stuck with a problematic
This is where the other set-up, Landlord Action, could be of help. It
acts for over 200 agents as well as 500 independent landlords and is
essentially a landlord support group, not a firm of solicitors specialising
in eviction proceedings.
A member of Landlord Action known only as Jonathan said about 40 per cent of
the cases they receive can be resolved after the issuance of appropriate
legal notices to quit and yield up possession of the premises. However, he
said the remaining 60 per cent need to go further, up to the eviction stage
by the court bailiff.
Malaysia’s landlord and tenant law, in many respects, is still in its
infancy. If you have taken the time to do a comparative study, you would
find that in the UK and United States, there are several modern statutes now
in place regulating the rights and responsibilities of landlords and
We have none of these. What we have is the general contract law, contained
in the Contracts Act 1950, and when it comes to evicting tenants, we have to
contend with a couple of sections in the Specific Relief Act.
My problem is that the court cases tend to confuse me more, rather than