My son has asthma. I am renting a place in Pasay City with him. Under our contract, the landlord instructed us to leave the payment of our rent, water bill and electricity bill with her maid and for remittance to her. That arrangement was followed religiously. Last week, I left the payment for our electricity bill with her maid and proceeded to my work. When I went home, however, I discovered that we have no electricity. I called my landlord to inform her of my problem but no one was answering. At midnight, my son complained that he cannot breathe because it was very hot. I immediately brought him to the hospital and the doctor said that hot temperature could have triggered his ailment. I talked to my landlord about our electricity the following day, and she informed me that she had to cut my electricity because, according to her, I did not pay my bill. I informed her that I left the payment with her maid but the latter allegedly went home so she had no knowledge that the money was with her maid.
I am really disappointed because she just cut our electricity without any warning or without first asking her maid if I really paid my bill. Can I file any complaint against my landlord because of what we had suffered?
Based on what you had stated in your letter, it appears that the landlord has abused her rights. The principle on abuse of rights is found under Article 19 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, which states:
“Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due and observe honesty and good faith.”
This principle was also explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Ardiente vs. Spouses Pastorfide, et al. (G.R. No. 161921, July 17, 2013), where the Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta stated:
“This article, known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights, sets certain standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of one’s rights, but also in the performance of one’s duties. These standards are the following: to act with justice; to give everyone his due; and to observe honesty and good faith. The law, therefore, recognizes a primordial limitation on all rights; that in their exercise, the norms of human conduct set forth in Article 19 must be observed. A right, though by itself legal because recognized or granted by law as such, may nevertheless become the source of some illegality. When a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held responsible. But while Article 19 lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human relations and for the maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation. Generally, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 would be proper.”
In your case, the landlord abused her rights in cutting your electricity without first informing you or first demanding the payment of your electricity bill. Because of lack of electricity in your unit, temperature became hot, triggering the asthma of your son. This can now be a ground for a complaint for damages under Article 21 of the above-mentioned law, which states that“any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for damage.”
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