Property Query Economy

What are the rights of a tenant under the law?

I took an apartment on rent in Chennai for two years, for residential use. The landlord agreed to an automatic extension of the tenancy for another two years, at my sole option, without any increase in rent for the extended period. We signed a rental agreement on these terms and conditions. Two years have gone by and I opted to extend the tenancy. However, all of a sudden, my landlord demanded an increase in payment of rent by almost 30 per cent, and threatened to disconnect power and water supply and evict me from the premises if I did not agree to the revision. Please advise me on my rights under the rent control laws. I would like to stay in the premises for the remaining two years without any disturbance from the landlord.

Coverage

The general scheme of the Rent Control Act, that is, the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1960 and similar Acts in other States in India, is to control rent and protect tenants from unauthorised eviction by landlords. The Rent Control Act offers reasonable security of tenure to the tenants and restricts the landlords’ power to evict tenants.

Status of tenancy

A tenant can be a contractual tenant or a statutory tenant. A contractual tenant is someone who occupies the premises and is entitled to the possession of the premises during the term of the contract. While a statutory tenancy comes into existence where a contractual tenant retains possession after the contract is terminated. In your case, considering that you have exercised the option to extend your tenancy, the rental agreement stands automatically extended for another two years, thereby making you a contractual tenant.

Fixation of fair rent

As your landlord has agreed not to increase the rent during the extended tenancy, his demand for an increase in rent is unjustified. However, the landlord will be entitled to approach a Rent Control Court to fix fair rent for the building even during the term of the rental agreement. The fair rent for a residential building is a percentage (9 per cent) of the total value of the building which consists of the market value for a portion of the land, cost of construction (as per rates fixed by the Public Works Department) and value of amenities (subject to a maximum of 15 per cent of the cost of the site) but subject to depreciation, depending on the age of the building. If such fair rent is greater than the existing rent, then despite the contractual understanding, you will be required to pay the fair rent fixed by Court.

Rights of tenant

Under law and as decided in numerous judgments, it is unlawful for a landlord to disconnect essential services such as electricity and water or restrict a tenant from using common amenities for recovery of rental dues or for other reasons. If a landlord indulges in such activities, the tenant may approach the Rent Control Court to restore essential services and take action against the landlord.

It is recommended that you do not stop paying rent to the landlord for any reason. If the landlord fails to accept rent, first issue a notice in writing to the landlord, asking for details of a bank into which the tenant can directly deposit the rent to the credit of the landlord. If the landlord fails to respond, send the rent via money order to the landlord. If this attempt to pay the rent also fails, you should immediately file an application before a Rent Control Court to deposit further rents in Court.

As far as eviction is concerned, the landlord would have to file a petition before the competent Rent Control Court to seek eviction of the tenant. Under the Rent Control Act, landlords can evict tenants only under specific grounds, which include wilful default in rent payment, subletting without the prior consent, causing nuisance or when the landlord himself requires premises for personal occupation.

It is relevant to note that in the case of contractual tenancy, which is granted for a specific period, the landlord will not be entitled to apply for possession of the building for his own bona fide additional accommodation. However, it is necessary for the tenant to establish contractual tenancy under a registered rental agreement where registration is mandated.

In conclusion, it is recommended that you continue to pay rent as per your rental agreement for the extended term. If your landlord is desirous of fixing fair rent for the premises or, alternatively, evicting you from the premises, he will have to follow the procedure provided for under the Rent Control Act. If the landlord indulges in any unlawful activity to force you to leave the premises, you have the right to approach the Rent Control Court to seek suitable relief.

Disclaimer : The information contained in this column is for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice.

The writer is a partner with Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, Advocates & Solicitors, Chennai. The views are personal


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 9:27:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/what-are-the-rights-of-a-tenant-under-the-law/article17758497.ece

Next Story