The owner of the apartment unit I am currently renting cut my water and electricity connections just because I failed to pay my rent for two months. Is this legal? He has already collected one month advance and two months deposit from me during the start of the lease. Can’t he just deduct my unpaid rent from my deposit?
According to Article 1657 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, the lessee in a contract of lease is obliged to comply with the following obligations:
“Article 1657. The lessee is obliged:
(1) To pay the price of the lease according to the terms stipulated;
(2) To use the thing leased as a diligent father of a family, devoting it to the use stipulated; and in the absence of stipulation, to that which may be inferred from the nature of the thing leased, according to the custom of the place;
(3) To pay expenses for the deed of lease.” (Emphasis Supplied)
Should the lessee fail to perform what is expected of him/her in accordance with the above provision, the lessor has the option to rescind the contract or allow the same to remain in effect and ask for damages in either case. This is according to Article 1659, which provides:
“Article 1659. If the lessor or the lessee should not comply with the obligations set forth in Articles 1654 and 1657, the aggrieved party may ask for the rescission of the contract and indemnification for damages, or only the latter, allowing the contract to remain in force”
In your case, since you failed to pay your rent for two months, which you are obliged to do according to the above-stated provision, your lessor has the right to exercise the options mentioned above. However, disconnecting or cutting water and electricity connections is not sanctioned by the above provision. Such being the case, the same is illegal.
Insofar as your deposit is concerned, Section 7 of Republic Act No. 9653 or the Rent Control Act of 2009 applies, to wit:
“SEC. 7. Rent and Requirement of Bank Deposit. Rent shall be paid in advance within the first five days of every current month or the beginning of the lease agreement unless the contract of lease provides for a later date of payment. The lessor cannot demand more than one month advance rent. Neither can he/she demand more than two months deposit which shall be kept in a bank under the lessor’s account name during the entire duration of the lease agreement. Any and all interest that shall accrue therein shall be returned to the lessee at the expiration of the lease contract.
In the event however, that the lessee fails to settle rent, electric, telephone, water or such other utility bills or destroys any house components and accessories, the deposits and interests therein shall be forfeited in favor of the latter in the amount commensurate to the pecuniary damage done by the former.”
Clearly, the deposit can only be applied to your unpaid rents only after the expiration of the contract of lease. Thus, your lessor cannot just deduct the amount of your unpaid rents from your two months deposit since it appears from your narration that the contract of lease is yet to expire.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com