A pipe bursts in the kitchen sink, or maybe the air conditioning that came with the leased property has stopped working properly, who will be responsible for the repairs?
The answer lies in the lease agreement (or the sublease agreement) between the landlord (or the "lessor") and the person renting the property (the "lessee"). The lease agreement is the document signed by the landlord and the lessee which contains the terms and conditions of the lease.
Sometimes, the lease agreement would contain a provision that explicitly states who will be liable for the repairs on the leased property. It may even specify which repairs are the responsibility of the landlord and which repairs are the responsibility of the lessee. Since the lease agreement was voluntarily agreed upon by both the landlord and the lessee, the provisions of the said agreement should be followed.
But what happens when the lease agreement does not contain any provision on repairs? In this case, the laws on lease found in the Civil code of the Philippines applies.
Under the Civil Code, the cause of the deterioration (or breakage) and the type of repairs would determine who will be responsible for the repairs.
The general rule in leases is that the lessee is responsible for the repairs of the leased property. This is because the lessee is presumed to have caused the deterioration of the leased property through his acts or negligence. Therefore, the lessee has the burden of proof to overcome the presumption. This means that the lessee must produce evidence to show that the deterioration the leased property was not caused by his acts or negligence. If the lessee fails to prove that the deterioration was not caused by his acts or negligence then the lessee will be responsible for the repairs on the leased property.
Moreover, the lessee is also liable for any deterioration caused by the members of the lessee's household or by the lessee's guests and visitors.
If the deterioration or destruction was caused by earthquake, flood, storm, or other natural calamity, then the burden of proof does not apply. This means that the presumption that the deterioration of the leased property was caused by the lessee's acts does not arise and the lessee will not have to prove that he was not the cause of the deterioration of the leased property.
If the lessee is able to prove that the deterioration was not caused by the lessee's acts or negligence, or by the acts or negligence of the members of the lessee's household or his guests and visitors, then the responsibility for repairs will be determined by the type of repairs that will have to be made.
The landlord is responsible to make necessary repairs on the leased property. Necessary repairs are those that are made for the preservation of the leased property to keep it in a condition that is suitable for the purpose of the lease.
Repairs on useful or ornamental improvements will not be considered necessary repairs. Useful improvements are those that are suitable to the use for which the lease was intended while ornamental improvements are improvements for pure luxury or mere pleasure. The landlord is not responsible for repairs on useful or ornamental improvements however, the landlord may pay the lessee one-half (1/2) of the value of the improvements in order to keep the improvements.
Necessary repairs: Repairs on plumbing system or electrical wires
Useful improvements: Repairs on cabinet doors or the screens on the windows
Ornamental improvements: Replacing the basic shower head with a rain shower system
The lessee has the obligation to inform the landlord of any necessary repairs within the shortest possible time otherwise the lessee will be responsible for damages that the landlord may suffer as a result of the lessee's negligence. The lessee may do this by writing the landlord a letter such as a maintenance request letter.
If the landlord fails to make the necessary repairs, the lessee may suspend payment of the rent. If the repairs are urgent, the lessor may also order the repairs at the landlord's expense in order to avoid any imminent danger caused by the landlord's delay. The lessee may also ask for the rescission (or termination) of the contract and payment for damages if the landlord fails to comply with the obligation to make the necessary repairs on the leased property. Alternatively, the lessee may also choose to ask for payment of damages while allowing the contract to continue.