Remedies Against Eviction of Tenants
by Isha Mathur | Wed May 01 2019
An article on Live Mint has stated that around 377 million urban residents live in over 7,900 urban settlements, and every year millions move to towns and cities, or dense linear settlements along national and state highways. Moving from towns or villages and living in metropolitan cities requires some of the most basic amenities to sustain livelihood. One of the most crucial requisite is that of a place of living or a ‘household’. The most common way to reside in cities and towns is under ‘tenancy’ considering the fact that the rates of property in metro cities are usually quite high. About 42% of the urban population of the world, which is approximately 150 million households, is living as tenants. The statistics in India suggest that 40% of the municipal population is living as tenants. While it is comfortable and feasible to live under tenancy, there are times when a tenant can face issues relating to rent and eviction notice amongst others. This is where Indian Rental Law acts as a guardian for the protection of the rights of tenants. The same has been discussed below, but first it is important to know what tenancy means in legal terms and who is regarded as a tenant in the eyes of law.
What is Tenancy?
Tenancy refers to the grant of exclusive possession of premises for a fixed period of time at a fixed rent or through a lease by the landlord to the tenant. In order to be called as a tenant or a landlord, there shall be an intention between the two to create legal relations and enter into a Rental Agreement. Such a rental agreement is considered a Legal Form and must be completed and duly signed by the tenant and the landlord.
It is also important to note that there must be two distinct parties to be identified as tenant and landlord because a person is debarred from granting a tenancy to himself. The term of tenancy can be either of ‘fixed term’ for 12 months or ‘periodic’ i.e. running from month to month.
Rental Laws in India:
The rental laws in India apparently govern the rental of residential and commercial properties with emphasis on protecting the rights of the tenants and landlords, and prevention of deceit. The protected rental tenancies, rent controls, and zoning laws are considered as detrimental to the healthy rental trends in India. The sole objective of the provisions of the Rent Control Act, 1948, is to eliminate the exploitation of the tenants by the landlords, and payment of fair rent to the latter. Each state has enacted a separate Rent Control Act within its jurisdiction. For instance, Delhi has the ‘Rent Control Act, 1958’, Maharashtra has ‘Rent Control Act, 1999’, Punjab follows ‘East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949’. The Rent Control Laws essentially imposes various laws on renting out of properties and defines the obligations and responsibilities of the landlords towards the tenants.
General Rights Available to the Tenants:
Given below are some of the rights that a tenant enjoys against the landlord:
It is the duty of the landlord to get the Rental Agreement registered and provide a duplicate copy of the same to the tenant, failing which the latter is not bound to pay the rent of such tenancy until they receive such a copy of the agreement.
The landlord is barred from unjustifiably increasing the amount of rent. The Rent Control Act mandates that the rent has to be fair which is usually 9% of the value of the building in totality, inclusive of the cost of construction, market value and amenities being provided.
The landlord cannot disconnect the supply of essential amenities such water and electricity even due to rental issues, though the landlord can always approach the Courts. Additionally, it the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the house property meets the minimum standards of accommodation and is devoid of unfit or unsafe living conditions.
The tenant has a right to privacy wherein the landlord is bound to restrain from infringing the right by walking into the house without the former’s permission except in inevitable cases such as breaking of fire.
This right is primarily an important one for the tenants to be aware of. The tenant is entitled to have visitors unless the rental agreement (signed by both the parties with consent) specifically disallows the same. Additionally, the landlord is financially responsible for all the repairs and reconstruction work that they carry out in the household property.
In case of disputes, the tenant can refer the same to a body called ‘Residential Tenancies Board' (RTB) and has a right to get a copy of any register entry by the Board.
Chiefly, the rights mentioned above also extend to the legal heirs of the tenant after his death and they receive the same protection under the Rent Control Act of states as is provided to the legal tenants. Legal heirs are free to choose whether they want to renew the tenancy contract with the landlord and continue to stay or vice versa.
Eviction Against Tenants:
Eviction simply means “the action of expelling someone from a property.” A Landlord has the right to evict the tenant by sending a notice to them and filing an eviction suit against them in the Court, only on justifiable and reasonable grounds. It is important for the landlord as well as the tenant to be aware of the grounds that can act as a basis for eviction. Some of the reasons are as follows:
Non-payment of rent amount by the tenant intentionally for more than 15 days from the due date;
Use of the rental property for unlawful purposes by the tenant or his actions are found to be objectionable;
Refutation of the landlord’s title in the rented property by the tenant or leasing the rented property to some other person without taking the permission of the landlord;
The rented property is in need of repair or renovation which is not possible without the property being vacated by eviction or the landlord requires the premises for his own or his family members' occupation.
Remedies Against Eviction of Tenants:
The landlord cannot evict a tenant without any substantial ground to do so. If any tenant finds the grounds of eviction insufficient or unreasonable, they have the right to seek protection under the Rent Control Acts of the concerned state. The Supreme Court of India has laid down that landlords cannot evict a tenant for at least 5 years if the tenant pays the rent regularly.
The tenant can refuse eviction on the ground that he has paid all the legal dues to his landlord and has satisfied the terms of the rent agreement. This can also be accomplished by the tenants proving that they are not guilty of any wrong mentioned by the landlord and that the allegations put by the latter are frivolous. The tenants are entitled to use their Right to Tenancy and file a police complaint in case the landlord refuses not to evict the tenant. The tenant is also entitled to file an injunction suit in the Court of appropriate jurisdiction in order to obstruct the landlord from eviction of the tenant.
If non-payment of due rent is proven in the Court by the landlord as the ground of eviction, the tenant can rightfully request the landlord with the help of a Notice in writing to send his details of bank account into which the tenant can directly deposit the due rent amount. The Rent Control Act states that after the acknowledgement of such notice, the landlord should provide the said details before a period of 10 days, failing which the tenant can send a money order to the landlord. Tenants must retain the coupons of money order as proof of payment for records. Now, if this step also fails and the tenant is unable to pay the rent amount to the landlord, he may immediately file an application before a Rent Control Court and get an order to deposit the future rents in the court.
Conclusion:In a recent judgment of the Supreme Court, Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta observed that “a statutory tenant can be evicted only by following the procedure laid down in applicable Rent Control laws and not by filing a suit for possession against him.” With knowledge and understanding of the rights and duties, a tenant can enjoy a comfortable living at the rented house. A brief description of these rights and duties of the tenants as well as the Landlord in the Rental Agreement and Contractual papers itself can minimise the rate of complaints and law suits. Make sure your rental documents consist of all the related clauses regarding rights and obligations of both the parties.