Room Not To Rent, But To Licence

An advertisement in a recent newspaper invited “all interested persons to apply as licensor (landlord/homeowner)” to provide housing for commuting students. The advertisement was placed by the Accommodation Officer of a local university and informed the prospective ‘Licensors’ that ‘boarding be offered and NOT rented’ to their students. The advertisement further recommended a range of fees to be paid monthly, inclusive of utilities.

Chances are that landlords and homeowners who read the advertisement may have been left confused by the use of the term “licensor”. Whilst it is quite common to hear the term licensor used in relation to other aspects of everyday life, the usage of the term in relation to the provision of residential accommodation is quite rare. A licensor is a person who provides a licensee with a licence. A licence is the right to the use of a product, service or facility in exchange for an agreed consideration, usually monetary. In public life, the Government is a licensor in many respects as they issue liquor licences to bar operators, driver’s licences to persons desirous of operating a motor vehicle on a Jamaican road, and ‘road licences’ to public passenger vehicle operators such as route taxis.

Landlords have existed as licensors for many years and whilst the terminology is infrequently used, many arrangements that now pass as landlord and tenant relationships are actually licensor-licensee relationships. The advertisement has provided us with the opportunity to explore such an arrangement, especially in the light of the fact that it makes mention of ‘stipulations of the Rent Assessment Board’ as it relates to boarding. The question we will now explore is whether the offer of boarding to a student by a landlord is one that is within the jurisdiction of the Rent Restriction Act (“the Act) and by extension the Rent Assessment Board (“the Board”). Additionally, this article will briefly differentiate between a tenancy and licence arrangement and will highlight some pertinent questions that landlords should seek to consider ahead of contracting with a student seeking accommodation.

A “dwelling house” is generally understood to be a building inhabited by someone or a room separately rented, which is used mainly as a dwelling or place of residence. The Act describes a “landlord” as including any person deriving title under the original landlord and any agent having charge, control or management of the premises on behalf of the landlord. Rental is not defined in the Act but may be taken to mean a fee paid for the premises—furnished or unfurnished.

For there to be a proper lease or tenancy arrangement, there has to be exclusive possession for a term at a rent. Let us examine these three standard requirements:

Exclusive possession means that the tenant occupies the premises without interference from the landlord. This involves being in possession of your own key to the rented premises. Also, it requires that the tenant has to receive advance notice of an inspection visit from the landlord.

The term of a tenancy is usually explicitly stated in an agreement (oral or written) or implied based on the frequency of payment of the rental.

Rent is usually an agreed fee and may vary for the same premises depending on whether it is being provided furnished or unfurnished.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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