“Caste and community are certainly decisive factors in renting a house”

K. Abdul Majid has been a house broker here for the last 11 years and has this to say to intending renters: “Financial ability apart, your religion, caste, occupation and amenability to strange conditions will decide whether you will succeed in renting the house you want to.

“A majority of the landlords are choosy. And the conditions they lay are anomalous. One of them told me recently that he would rent out only to a couple with not more than two children. He insists that the couple must be government employees and wake up by 5.30 a.m. to switch on the water pump.

“I have also dealt with landlords who insist that their tenants must not be frequented by guests, should not reside along with the aged who are in their twilight years, lock the main gates at a fixed time in the evenings, draw kolam in front of the houses by 6 a.m. and what not,” he sighs.

There are also house owners such as S. Kannan (70) of New Vilangudi who prefer to rent their residential premises for commercial use. They feel that letting out their houses for office purposes reduces wear and tear and also relieves them of the burden of providing essential amenities to the tenants.

“Offices function only for a specified time. So they may not require as much water as a family residing in the house round the clock would need. Added to it, offices are better secured compared to houses and therefore I can be assured that my property is in safe hands,” he reasons.

Locked between landlords of all kinds are tenants like B. Maideen Peer, a garment dealer, who is tired of searching for a right accommodation. “So far, the brokers had taken me to four houses at K. Pudur and two at Aathikulam. But all the six landlords turned me down because I’m a Muslim.

“Wherever I go, the standard answer has been: ‘Sorry, we don’t want to rent out to a Bai (colloquial of Hindi term Bhai meaning brother).’ I once chided one of the brokers for taking me to such places because it causes embarrassment. It hurts me badly,” he rues.

Concurring with the views, K.G. Kannamuthu Pandi, a tenant at Kannanenthal, says: “My house owner was against letting out the house to Muslims and Thevars. I got it only because I am a Yadava. Caste and community are certainly decisive factors in renting a house.”

On the other hand, asking tenants not to paint all landlords with the same brush, M. Raja Rajeswari from Iyer Bungalow says that she has no issues with the religion or caste of her tenants. “Right now, both my tenants are Christians. Earlier, I had rented out my house to a Muslim.

“One of my Christian tenants conducts regular prayer meetings. But I have no objection. After all, I also get to feel the vibrations of the prayers offered in my house. I move very friendly with my tenants and at times that becomes an obstacle when it comes to raising the rent,” she chuckles.

Contrary to popular belief that lawyers, policemen and journalists are among the least preferred when it comes to finding a right renter, one could see that localities such as K.K. Nagar, Anna Nagar and K. Pudur here are swamped with these professionals, especially advocates.

“The reason is money,” says B. Saravanan, a lawyer practising in the Madras High Court Bench here. He goes on to say: “When I migrated here from Chennai in 2004, I paid Rs.5,000 a month for a house that was otherwise worth only for Rs.3,000 a month.”

“Now I am paying Rs.11,000 a month. It is this big money besides a good opinion the High Court lawyers have earned from the landlords by vacating the premises as and when they are asked to, that has changed the mindset of many landlords,” he adds.

Senior Counsel M. Vallinayagam points out that the landlords’ anxiety to find right tenants and keep them under hooks arises due to laws such as Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1960, which is in favour of the tenants than the owners.

He points out that Section 10 of the Act begins with a non-obstante clause ‘No tenant shall be evicted…’ and goes on to give three major reasons — property required for own use, property having been let out for sub-rent and wilful default of rent payment — that could be cited for evicting a tenant.

Further, Section 14 of the Act states that a tenant could be evicted temporarily if any major repairs had to be carried out in the house and permanently if the building had to be demolished. “Apart from these three and a few minor ones such as nuisance, a tenant cannot be evicted at all,” he adds.

The Act applies to all places notified under it. And the Government had notified all urban and semi-urban localities under the Act except remote villages where the Transfer of Property Act 1882 could be invoked and tenants could be asked to vacate within 15 days from the date of notice without citing any reason!

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