The Maharashtra government has issued instructions to landlords and house owners to defer rent collections from tenants for at least three months in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
In a circular issued by the Housing Department on Friday, the landlords/owners have been directed to not evict tenants due to non-payment of timely rent or rent exhaustion amid the economic gloom and doom resulting from the lockdown.
“Due to the lockdown, markets, businesses, factories, and overall financial transactions are closed. This has also affected the employment of the general public, and many tenants have been left without any livelihood,” additional chief secretary (housing) Sanjay Kumar said in his circular.
Thousands of tenants are not able to pay regular rent because their paying capacity has exhausted, he said. “The home owners are hereby advised to postpone the lease rent for at least three months.”
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the proposal would be implemented with immediate effect. “Maharashtra State Housing Department has issued instructions to landlords/ house owners to postpone rent collection by at least three months. During this period, no tenant should be evicted from the rented house due to non-payment of rent. #WarAgainstVirus,” he tweeted.
The onset of the pandemic has already generated a heated debate, weighing in on a waiver of rent for the lessees, while arguing over the fate of landlords who depend on rental income for survival. Earlier, commercial lessees argued that they could invoke provisions of ‘force majeure’ — an event or ‘act of god’ — that absolves them of contractual obligations related to rent payment.
“A lot of people are facing economic hardships as a result of the pandemic. The government has taken this step keeping in mind it will be difficult for tenants to pay rents in future,” Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad said.
Housing experts welcomed the move, saying it will benefit lakhs of tenants, especially in Mumbai, where rents are sky high. It could affect landlords who depend on rental income but the number of such individuals is very low, they said.
“For the time being, the government seems to have taken a view that the landlord depending on rental income is in a better position to weather the economic devastation caused by this pandemic. For the tenants, it is a welcome relief as several of them will be facing extreme hardships in the near future,” said Rajesh Prajapati, managing committee member, Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry.