By Joseph Cheah
If a tenant refuses to move out upon the expiry of the tenancy, the landlord is entitled to charge double rent.
Section 28(4)(a) of the Civil Law Act 1956 provides:
“Every tenant holding over after the determination of his tenancy shall be chargeable, at the option of his landlord, with double the amount of his rent until possession is given up by him or with double the value during the period of detention of the land or premises so detained, whether notice to that effect has been given or not.”
Rohasassets Sdn Bhd (formerly known as Wisma Perkasa Sdn Bhd) v Weatherford (M) Sdn Bhd & Anor  1 MLJ 557
- The Landlord is the registered owner of a commercial building. The Tenants were occupying 3 floors in the building.
- The tenancies expired as follows:
- 11th Floor – 30th April 2009
- 12th Floor – 31st March 2009
- 14th Floor – 31st January 2011
- Before the expiry of the tenancies, the parties negotiated for renewal of tenancies.
- The negotiations went on even after the expiry of the tenancies for more than 2 years. During negotiations, the Landlord had expressly reserved its right to charge double rent and consistently reminded the Tenants to make payment. The Tenants did not do so.
- The Tenants continued to pay rent (not double rent) to the Landlord during the negotiations.
- The negotiations eventually failed. By way of a letter dated 19th August 2011, the Landlord terminated the tenancies and gave notices to the Tenants to quit and deliver vacant possession by 1st October 2011.
- The Tenants requested for more time but was refused by the Landlord. Vacant possession was delivered on 31st October 2011.
- The Landlord sued for double rent, commencing from the above expired tenancy dates. The Tenants counterclaimed for refund of deposits.
The Court dismissed the Landlord’s claim for double rent and allowed the Tenants’ counterclaims for refund of deposits.
The Court allowed the appeal in part, inter alia, ordered the Tenants to pay double rent from 1st October 2011 until 31st October 2011 (1 month only).
The appeal was dismissed and affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision.
- The Court is not concerned with any purported contumacious (stubbornly disobedient) conduct on the part of the tenant who holds over. Even if the tenant is not guilty of contumacious conduct, the tenant is still liable to pay double rent if the landlord:
- decided to charge double rent;
- does not consent to the tenant’s holding over; and
- has asked the tenant to vacate the premises.
- The question is whether they were holding over with or without the landlord’s consent, express or implied by conduct.
- In this case, the Tenants’ holding over was with the tacit approval of the Landlord. By agreeing to negotiate for renewal of the tenancies, the Landlord had evinced an intention to renew the tenancies subject to finalisation of the terms.
- The Landlord did not make it clear to the Tenants that it would not allow the Tenants to hold over without paying double rent while negotiations for renewal of the tenancies were ongoing.
- All the while, the Landlord accepted rent from the Tenants without complaint and did not issue any notice to quit. Therefore, the Landlord by conduct had waived its right to charge double rent.
- The Tenants were considered tenants at will. They were not trespassers during the period of negotiations.
- If you do not wish to continue tenancy with your tenant, you must expressly make it very clear to them, ideally 2-3 months before the expiry of the tenancy.
- At the expiry of the tenancy, if you allow him to stay in the premise while renewal negotiation is ongoing, you can be considered to have waived your right to charge double rent.
- Even reserving your right to claim double rent is not enough.
- Negotiate a renewal of your tenancy as early as possible.
- If the Landlord refuses to renew your tenancy, you may have no choice but to move out.