Consequences of Hurricane Irma for landlords and tenants: What to Do?
More than 90% of the structures were damaged as a result of hurricane Irma. Both large and small structures have suffered damages. Many houses suffered roof damage, and in even worse situations roofs are completely gone. Before and in the immediate aftermath of the storm, many tenants have moved temporarily or have terminated their lease agreement. Other tenants cannot pay their rent anymore.
For landlords. It is the duty of the landlord to act as a good landlord and Hurricane Irma has not changed this principle. The usual rules therefore remain valid. As the landlord is responsible for the maintenance of the building, this implies a great deal of responsibility with the landlord in this situation; the landlord must ensure that the tenant can continue to have the peaceful enjoyment of the rented property. This all within reason, and of course only to the extent possible. St. Maarten law and jurisprudence focus on what is required of a 'good landlord' vs. a 'good tenant', and this is considered on a case to case basis and ruled by reasonableness and fairness. This is a big difference in legal approach compared to US law. In general, the Court considers a tenant’s default in paying the monthly rent for three months or more as justifying termination of the lease agreement and the judge may allow eviction in a summary procedure. Other than by Court order, a rental contract can in most cases be only be terminated after obtaining approval from the Rent Tribunal.
In general, if the property is to be renovated, the tenant is required to enable the landlord to improve the rented property.
For tenants. For tenants, it is equally important to continue paying their monthly rent; in the case of an arrear of three months or more rent, tenants risk eviction because this is considered by a judge to be such a considerable arrear to justify termination and eviction by the landlord (see above); Many people have had trouble paying for rent in the month of September 2017 in the preparations for the hurricane and although some leniency may be expected, there is in fact no change in the legal situation after Irma. If the property is damaged, it is important to report it to the landlord as soon as possible. In addition, the landlord must be given a reasonable time to repair the rented premises; If this is not possible, this can be a reason to hold the landlord liable for the diminished enjoyment of the leased property. It is of the utmost importance to have this communicated to the landlord in writing, for example by a lawyer.
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