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Is My Landlord Guilty of Wrongful Eviction?

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amdg21


Arresto Menor
Hello, everyone. Before anything else, allow me to say thank you to everyone who collaborated in making sure that a resource that makes it possible to gain access to free legal advice for those who find themselves in similar dilemmas like myself.

I do hope that one of the brilliant counsels in this forum can provide me with an answer within the proper context of law with regards to a presently ongoing scenario between my landlord and myself. Should any of you feel generous enough to also provide suggestions on what my best course of action should be, I'd be very grateful as well.

My wife, our four kids and I have been renting this very cramped and overpriced one bedroom "apartment" from this person for nearly over a year now. The whole unit has one window that only opens directly to the dirty kitchen of the tenants behind us, so ventilation is virtually non-existent. It hardly has space to fit anything that resembles decent furniture. And best of all, the confined boxy configuration of its architecture allows zero natural light to penetrate any spot inside the room. Unlike our other neighbors though, our humble abode did have the distinction of having its own toilet and bath. Of course the place had no provision for a sink in the bathroom or the kitchen, but at least we didn't have to queue with everyone else for a shower or conduct other needed bodily movements.

The entire structure that houses more than 10 separate residential units is allotted with only one official Meralco meter, which it shares and is officially assigned to the on-site Water Station business that our landlord also conveniently owns. In order to measure a homeowner's respective per kilowatt-hour usage, each door within the compound is rigged with a generic hardware bought sub-meter, and the utilization is subsequently imputed into each lessee's monthly rent bill based on a non-standard multiplier rate that fluctuates from month to month, using a computation derived by the owners' personal accountant.

Given how the place is configured for the distribution of power, of course it's only logical that the water utility was also communal, and we tenants were charged a fixed flat rate per month/per head - regardless of whether you were a 6-foot two, 300 pound adult or a measly 3 year-old toddler. Surely, even though the Manila Water account is tagged under the same private entity as the electricity, it doesn't necessarily indicate that we're possibly being made to unwittingly shoulder the operating expenses of my landlord's drinking water supply business, right?

Yes, the place offered less than preferable living conditions, but our staying was not a matter of choice but merely a circumstantial result of wanting to keep my family together under the same roof, which made any factors of discomfort worth the sacrifice.

For most part, everything was normally tolerable, up until a few months ago when a couple of high-value projects that I had lined up were suddenly shelved by the clients I had been consulting for. And in what seemed like the blink of an eye, I found myself - much worse - my whole family, stuck in the middle of what felt like an insurmountable financial rough patch. For us to get by until the time that we are able to bounce back, meant not only meticulously managing what budget we had left on hand, but also having to be tactically selective of our expenses for the immediate foreseeable future.

It didn’t take long before I had to start juggling which bills had to be prioritized, which ones could still be placed on the back burner, and which ones we can simply leave unpaid and allow for service termination. It was also around that same period that I started falling behind on being able to settle our rent on schedule.

Yes, it’s true that I ended up finding it difficult to disburse the full amount that we were being billed for rent and utilities to be able to stay in that sardine can of a space that we called home. I also will not deny that I’ve probably ended up issuing more apologies and excuses than chashable checks to our lessor, these past few months. But never – NEVER –for the sole purpose or as an act of willfully malicious neglect. In fact, I always kept trying everything that was within my capacity, to be able to drop partial payments for our arrears, in as much amounts as I can spare, as often as possible; as a sign and proof of good faith, if nothing else.

Rather than giving this gesture and my attempts at transparency any consideration however, my landlord opts instead to further increase pressuring me to produce the money to settle my outstanding balance in full. She would send my wife and I text messages calling us liars and thieves whether it be at 8 in the morning or 10 in the evening. Staff from the water station would come knocking at our door to summon us to take her phone call, only to cuss us out, and demean us in the conversation, while her employees stood present. At one point, she coerced us to agree to allow her maintenance personnel access into our premises for the purpose of relocating the main switch and safety breakers within our unit to the outside hall, in order for them to have the ability to switch off the power to the whole house as penalty should I be unable to settle our usage charges within her preferred deadline. We even found out that standing orders were left with their security guard to monitor us should we attempt to move out things from our apartment in case we might attempt to run off leading to an awkward confrontation when we brought out loads of our used clothing to have them laundered. It was just one form of harassment after another.

And consider this scenario: in the whole unit we used a total of 6 LED light bulbs ranging from 5 to 11 watts at the most. Aside from that, the only other electricity consuming items we kept in the house was a ref, an electric stove, an air conditioning unit, an LCD TV, a PS4, and a laptop. If you count mobile devices and tablets, then at any given time, it would be fair to say that we own roughly 15 to 18 items that require being plugged to an electric power source between the 6 of us. But it goes without saying that not all of them are necessarily in use at the same time.

That’s all we had when when we got the place since day one, but for some reason, our electricity use based on their unofficial sub meter, somehow kept increasing month on month. Believe it or not, at its worst, we received a statement of account where we were being charged with the absurd amount of 26 thousand pesos.

We’ve raised concerns about the computation of our electricity bill numerous times. To add insult to injury, when we questioned it, they would simply throw blame back to us and say that it was due to our extensive use of the AC, which was necessary only because the place had no provisions for allowing the rotation of fresh air.

It even came to the point wherein I was demanding to see a copy of the original billing statement from Meralco. Not because I was trying to prove that there was something illegal going on, but simply because I wanted to see exactly just what percentage our usage was vis-à-vis the total amount the compound was being billed. A request that was never given attention or addressed.


All this came to a head two weeks ago, when we sat down with our landlord to request for a fair period to be able to settle the balance amount of our remaining arrears from the previous month, considering that we just remitted 30 thousand to her two days prior. And aside from flat out refusing the terms we proposed, and extending us only three days to produce another 22 thousand, she ended our meeting with an ultimatum that she will no longer grant us any more extensions and will have the power to the unit cut off, no matter what inconvenience it would cause us or the 4 kids if I am unable to deliver within the next three days.

I knew for sure by the end of day two that I won’t be able to meet the impossible demands she set, so we made plans to for my wife and children to temporarily stay at the house of my in-laws, while I crashed at my cousin’s who lived nearby. Her last words notwithstanding, I call her up, partly in hopes that she might reconsider, amd if not, then at least to extend her the proper respect of managing her expectations by formally informing her that I was unsuccessful in finding a way to come up with the payment.

Of course her reaction to my call was exactly as I anticipated. Once again, I was bombarded with insults and called a number of harsh labels. She then proceeded to reiterate that she will be enforcing the penalty she stipulated under the circumstances, that she will instruct her people to have it done first thing the following morning, and that the only time that she’ll agree to have our electricity turned back on is when I have settled the payment in full.

I told her that it if she would be willing to reconsider giving me at least another 48 hours,I would be more than happy to keep trying to find a way to source out the money, but if she insists that her decision is final, then there’s really nothing I can do. I went on to tell her that because the apartment will be uninhabitable without electricity, we will not be staying there for the time being as the environment would be very harmful to the kids since three of them are highly prone to asthma, and that we’ll be back once I have secured the budget to comply with her demands. Unfortunately, I could not give her a definite time frame as to when I would be able to have the amount on hand, but that it shouldn’t take any longer than the end of the month at most, so please don’t be surprised that we packing and taking along a load clothing plus a few essential items from the house, mainly for the needs of our two toddlers. I thanked her and told her that we’ll be seeing her hopefully before the month is through, ended the call, proceeded to pack the things we needed then left the compound with the understanding that everything was in order.

So imagine my surprise when the next morning I receive a call from my wife telling me that she received a text from one of our neighbors saying that our landlord had her maintenance personnel open our unit and was presently taking inventory of the things that we had left in the house. A few hours later, her accountant arrived at the premises of my in-laws pressing accusations that we had cleaned out and abandoned the property with the intention of avoiding the settlement of our arrears.

Last week, we heard that all our remaining things in the house, including the toys of the children were sold off. And yet the landlord is still demanding us for payment and telling everyone that we ran away from our obligations, that we are thieves, and so many other degrading accusations.

So, I guess what I want to understand is: did our landlord break the law? And if so, what should we do?























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xtianjames


Reclusion Perpetua
do you have a written tenancy contract?

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amdg21


Arresto Menor
No. We asked the landlord for a copy when we were moving in and they said they'll provide us one to follow, but they never did.

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xtianjames


Reclusion Perpetua
so you don't have a signed agreement for your tenancy? or you signed one but don't have a copy? if it's the latter, demand for a copy of your contract and review it.

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amdg21


Arresto Menor
They never produced or provided us with one, sir.

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xtianjames


Reclusion Perpetua
then i advised to check with Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council to see if you have any recourse on your issue. You may also want to check RA 9653.

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