Registered written rental agreements must to evict tenants under new law: HC

Oral contracts entered into before the 2017 Act can be invoked, says judge

February 13, 2022 09:37 am | Updated 09:38 am IST

Madras High Court in Chennai on Friday.

Madras High Court in Chennai on Friday. | Photo Credit: V. Ganesan

Landlords in the State cannot get their tenants evicted through fast-track procedures under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants Act, 2017 if they did not enter into written tenancy agreements after the legislation came into force on February 22, 2019 and registered these agreements with the Rent Authority (an officer appointed by the State government), the Madras High Court said.

Justice R. Subramanian further held that if a tenancy agreement, registered after the 2017 Act came into force, had expired, the landlord must initiate eviction proceedings before the Rent Courts within six months after expiry. Those who fail to do so within the limitation period would have no choice but to approach the regular civil courts and invoke the general law — The Transfer of Property Act of 1882 — to get their tenants evicted.

The judge made it clear that the benefit of the 2017 Act could not be availed if the written agreements had not been registered with the Rent Authorities, and if any oral agreement had been reached between the landlord and the tenant after the law came into force. However, interestingly, he ruled that those who had entered into oral agreements before the coming into force of the 2017 Act would be entitled to invoke the new law to evict their tenants.

The judge agreed with advocate P.B. Balaji that both the general law as well as the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act of 1960, the predecessor of the 2017 legislation, recognised oral agreements. Further, Section 34 of the 2017 Act requires Rent Courts to give due regard to the provisions of the 1882 Act, the Indian Contract Act of 1872 and or any other substantive law applicable to such matter.

Therefore, those who had entered into oral agreements before the 2017 Act and did not enter into a written agreement after it came into force, and those whose written tenancy agreements had expired before the 2017 Act came into force could approach the Rent Courts under the new law and seek eviction of their tenants on the ground of failure to enter into an agreement.

“The new (2017) Act gives the right to the landlord to sue for repossession dehors the fact that the landlord may be at fault, and he may be the reason for non-renewal or failure to enter into an agreement in writing. It is not open to a tenant to contend that despite his request, the landlord did not execute an agreement in writing and therefore, the landlord cannot invoke Section 21(2)(a) seeking repossession,” the judge said.

He went on to state that if a written agreement signed prior to the new law came into force expired after the law was effected, such landlords could approach the Rent Courts under the new law and seek eviction not only on the ground of failure to enter into an agreement but also on other grounds such as failure to pay rental arrears, unauthorised subletting and misuse of premises.

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