Provisions would facilitate best practices and serve as binding reference point in case of disputes.

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has suggested that Malaysia implement an Act similar to the Fair Housing Partnership, which is a collaboration between the government, landlords, and community groups in the UK.

Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo said the partnership works to raise awareness on fair housing issues and to promote best practices among landlords.

She was commenting on recent cases on social media platforms in which landlords who leased residential properties expressed frustration when they faced issues collecting rent.

In one incident, a tenant leased a property under his name but instead, his Vietnamese friend lived there. The tenant was unreachable during the tenancy period and the Vietnamese national failed to pay the monthly rental.

In the end, the landlord received his payment a year late and there was also damage to the property. Frustrated with the situation, he aired his grievances on social media and decided not to renew the tenancy agreement.

Kokila Vaani said while there is no specific legislation governing the requirement for tenancy agreements in Malaysia, having one will protect landlords and tenants from any legal issues they could face.

“The tenancy agreement is legally binding. Although an oral agreement is also legally binding, it is better to have a written one that will cover important aspects such as who is responsible for maintenance and how and when to make payment.

“It becomes a legally binding document after the stamp duty, which is borne by the tenant, has been paid and the original signed document is stamped by the Inland Revenue Board.”

Kokila said the terms and conditions of a tenancy agreement are also not regulated by law. As such, the courts will interpret the agreement based on Common Law, while the extent of protection may vary depending on the specific terms and clauses in the agreement.

She said there is a law called the Tenants’ Protection Act, enacted in California in 2019 that could also be introduced in Malaysia, adding that the Act has helped to create a more balanced rental market in that US state, where both landlords and tenants have their rights protected.

“Tenants are required to pay rent on time and in full, and also keep the property in good condition. There is a provision for landlords to evict tenants should they not abide by the agreement and cause damage to the property.”

She advised landlords to check a potential tenant’s credit history, employment status and rental payment record.

“Use a professionally written lease agreement, with a record of all communication with tenants, including emails, letters and phone calls to help in case of a dispute.”

However, Kokila said tenants also have their share of issues to deal with when looking for a place to rent, including landlords who are selective and even practise racial stereotyping.

“To ensure equal treatment, landlords should ask all potential tenants the same standard questions.

“Landlords should also limit inquiries to matters that are directly applicable to the tenancy or the maintenance of the property.”

Real estate agent Alan Ng said landlords would generally prioritise tenants who are white-collar workers as they are perceived to have fewer financial issues.

“They will ask potential tenants about their working background, the number of people expected to stay at the property and the relationship between them.

“As long as the rental, water and electricity bills are paid on time, landlords will generally not (bother) the tenants,” he said.