In ordinary leases the usual covenants on the part of the lessee or tenant are to pay-rent, to pay rates and taxes, to repair, to insure, to carry on or not to carry on trade, not to assign or underlet the premises, not to commit waste, and to work the property, particularly in agricultural holdings, in a specified manner.
On the part of the lessor or landlord are covenants for quiet enjoyment and for the renewal of the lease or tenancy.
These are property tax, land tax, sewer rates, and tithe-rent charge, and any assessments under local Acts which are levied in respect of permanent improvements to property - paving expenses, for example. Such taxes are only prima facie payable by the landlord, and, with the exception of the property tax and tithe-rent charge, are capable of being transferred to the tenant by agreement.
As regards landlord's property tax, the tenant must pay it in the first instance, and deduct it from the first payment he afterwards makes on account of rent, the landlord being obliged to allow such deduction under a penalty of 50 for each refusal, and any agreement between landlord and tenant to the contrary being utterly void. Tenants who are called upon to pay arrears due from former occupiers of their premises may upon payment deduct the amount, or any portion of it, from any subsequent payment of rent to the landlord.
In the case of houses under the annual value of £10, and of premises let for a less period than one year, and of a house let in different apartments or flats, the assessment to the property tax is made on the landlord, though power is reserved on his default to resort to the occupier, who may then deduct from his next payment of rent.
Land tax is a Parliamentary tax imposed and assessed directly by Act of Parliament and for the benefit of the whole kingdom. The word " taxes " of itself includes Parliamentary taxes, and therefore the land tax.
As in the case of the property tax, the tenant is required to pay it in the first instance, and then, subject to any. agreement to the contrary, to deduct out of his rent so . much of the taxes as the landlord ought to bear. The land tax is only to be paid by the landlord in full where he receives the whole of the profits. Provision for the redemption of the land tax has been made by various statutes.
The poor rate is not a tax on the land, but a personal charge on the occupier in respect of the land. A lodger is not rateable, though he has the sole right to the use of certain rooms in a house, if the person who lets the lodgings still retains the possession, which, as a matter of practice, is generally done. Where a house is wholly let in apartments or lodgings, not separately rated, the owner and not the occupier is to be rated. The owner and not the tenant of a flat pays the poor rate.
For the purposes of the poor rate the owner of a house let ready furnished is deemed to be the occupier.
Under this heading are included the inhabited house duties, game certificates, armorial bearings, duties on male servants, horses, carriages, motor-cars, dogs, etc., which naturally are borne by the tenant.
The occupier is also liable under the Public Health Act to general district rates and to private improvement rates, but part of the latter he is entitled to deduct from his rent. And with regard to the former, where the rateable value does not exceed £10, or where the letting is to weekly or monthly tenants or in separate apartments, or where the rents become payable or are collected at any shorter period than quarterly, the urban authority have the option of rating the owner instead of the occupier.
Tenants of flats pay gas, but not, as a general rule, water rates. If, however, the owner fails to pay the water rate, the rate may be recovered from the tenant after he has received notice to pay it out of the rent then due. And with regard to gas rates, incoming tenants are not liable for arrears of their predecessors.
Nearly all leases contain a covenant to repair on the part of the lessee, but sometimes his liability to repair is made to depend upon the previous execution of repairs by the lessor, or upon the performance by him of some other condition. Covenants by the tenant to keep premises in repair " from and after " their repair by the landlord, or " the same being first put " into repair by him, or a covenant by the lessee to expend certain sums in repairs and improvements under the direction of a surveyor to be named by the lessor, or to repair, the lessor finding timber, are examples of the latter, and are dependent covenants, which cannot be enforced until the performance of conditions upon which they depend. Sometimes the repairs have to be effected within a certain time - e.g., within three months after notice from the lessor.
A covenant to " keep " premises in good repair means that the tenant must, if necessary, put them into such repair at the commencement, having regard to their age and class. An agreement by the tenant to put them into " habitable repair " implies putting them into a better state than that in which he found them. A covenant "to do necessary repairs " also involves repairing them at the commencement.
An undertaking to leave the premises in " tenantable " repair means leaving them in such a state as to be reasonably fit for occupation for the class of tenant who would be likely to take them. The tenant under a covenant of this kind is not liable for decorative repairs such as painting, papering, or whitewashing.
Enlarging windows, opening external doors and removing partitions are all examples of breaches of this covenant unless the terms of the lease include the making of alterations and improvements by the tenant.
The landlord's remedy for breach of the covenant to repair is by an action for damages ; but he may have, by express agreement, the right to enter and do necessary repairs at the tenant's expense, and also his general right of re-entry for breach of covenant may be reserved to him by the lease.
A covenant allowing the landlord to enter upon the premises at any reasonable time in order to view their condition is found in most leases. When the lessor undertakes to repair, he will render himself liable to a stranger for a nuisance or injury caused by the want of repairs.
The general rule is that the occupier, not the landlord, is responsible for any injury caused to a third person through premises being out of repair. Thus, the occupier of a house in the Strand, who had a heavy lamp projecting over the pavement, was held liable for damage done to an old woman on whom it fell, although a few months previously he had employed an experienced gasfitter to put it in repair. In only two cases can landlords or owners be made liable for an injury to a stranger through the defective repair of premises let to a tenant; first in the case of a contract by the landlord to do the repairs, when, after having given him notice, the tenant can sue him for not repairing ; and, secondly, in the case where the landlord has let the premises in a ruinous condition.
Where the carman of a coal merchant removed an iron plate in the footway when delivering coals, without taking sufficient precaution, the coal merchant, and not the occupier or owner of the house, was held liable for an injury caused to a lady who was passing by, and who did not hear the warning given by the carman to two other women who were just in front of her.