Why should you read this?
If you are reading this, either you are a tenant or you know someone who is a tenant or you’re planning to rent a place.
Are you not happy with your landlord? the RWA or your Society?
Want solutions to your landlord problems?
This post is all about some common problems you and I have faced as a tenant and their legal solutions.
Table of Contents
- Common Problems and Problematic Landlords
- Legal Solutions – Property & Rent Control Laws
Imagine this scenario.
Your landlord complains about everything from your visitors to the volume of music you play. He may even enter the flat in your absence under the pretext of fixing a leaking tap or some other excuse without notifying you.
You probably don’t even have to imagine this because you have experienced this.
So let’s look at some other problems you may have faced.
BTW, if you are a landlord or a neighbour who is being disturbed by your neighbour’s loud music system, read this.
NOTE: This post is divided in 2 parts. The first half deals with the problems and the second half offers the solutions to them problems in the first part.
Does your landlord monitor your guests and stops them or questions them. “Kisko milna hai?” “Kya kaam hai?”, “Ye time hai kya milne ka?” You know the drill.
Does he impose restrictions on your incoming outgoing times? Does he disallow you from keeping pets?
Or are you committing that cardinal sin for which that nosy aunt will do a havan to “purify” you – living in a live-in relationship? Or worse, you are a part of the LGBTQ community?
Some landlords go a step further from just questioning you to outrightly invading your privacy.
There have been instances of landlords entering the property without tenant’s permission and in absence of tenant, entering without giving notice under pretext of inspection and even monitoring tenants through CCTV cameras inside the property.
This is a serious criminal offence with hefty punishments even including jail, as we will see in this post ahead.
There are no free lunches. But some landlords don’t understand this.
They enjoy the rent coming from their property without paying their dues on the property for which the tenant is inconvenienced.
Property tax, society maintenance charges, EMIs of the property, etc. are some examples.
Have you as a tenant ever been harassed due to non-payment of such dues by landlord? We have the solution to that too.
Sometimes landlords resort to forceful ways to evict the tenant or enforce a rent increase. This may include cutting off electricity/ water of tenant, ignoring maintenance requests, etc.
This is illegal and there are provisions in law to reinstate these essential services or get the maintenance of the property done, as we’ll discuss later.
In order to get rid of a tenant, the landlord might evict the tenant without notice / with short notice in violation of the terms of agreement.
Landlords may even try to evict the tenant before expiry of lock-in period, which is illegal.
Now, the landlord isn’t the only person you have to deal with as a tenant. The RWA or Society is also the third wheel in this landlord tenant dynamic.
The Society / RWA forcing bachelor tenants to evacuate due to their bye-laws which might not allow renting of property to bachelors or other bye-laws which the tenant allegedly violates.
Note: Co-op. Hsg. is an abbreviation for Co-operative Housing. Similary, RWA stands for Residents Welfare Society.
Now that we looked at some possible problems, let me tell you how you can deal with these. The solutions are easier than you thought.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) has provisions related to wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement.
Section 339 of the IPC lays down that voluntarily obstructing any person from going anywhere, where he has a right to go is committing wrongful restraint.
For e.g., stopping your guests from visiting you, physically stopping you from entering or leaving beyond certain times, etc.
Section 340 of the IPC defines wrongful confinement as restraining any person against his/her wish such that he/she cannot go beyond a certain limit ex. locking up someone in a room, stopping a person from leaving the building or any premise, etc.
Simply put, the landlord cannot put any such restrictions on the tenant’s or his guests’ movement.
The punishment for such wrongful restraint and confinement includes imprisonment from 1 month up to 1 year. That’s how serious this is.
So, a landlord cannot restrict or confine movement of tenants or their guests.
As regards pets, especially pet dogs, the Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body established under the Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 has issued clear guidelines which state that RWAs or Co-op. Housing Societies or Apartment Owners Associations, etc. cannot impose any restrictions on pets as it is ultra vires of Article 51(g) of the Constitution and hence illegal.
Live-in couples and members of the LGBTQ community have to tolerate not only the stigma and judgemental stares of neighbours but a lot more.
Tenants are afraid of moving in with their partner, due to fear of harrasment by landlords. Read this if you’re a tenant in live-in relationship or looking forward to moving in.
LGBTQ members have to deal with taboo and stigma from the landlords and the society. Click here to find out the rights of LGBTQ Community.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees a person’s fundamental right to life and personal liberty. This right is given the utmost importance in our Constitution and it’s implication goes way beyond just being alive or free and includes the right to privacy. This was established in the famous case of Kharak Singh V. State of U.P.
Thus, entering the property in the absence of the tenant and without his permission, unless specifically agreed in the rent agreement, is illegal.
The solution to this is a police complaint in the nearest police station. The police may summon the landlord and direct him to refrain from doing so and the matter can be resolved quickly.
The scenario of the CCTV monitoring can assume serious dimensions especially if the tenant is a female.
As per Section 354C of the Indian Penal Code, any capturing of an image or video of a woman without her knowledge is a serious criminal offence with a minimum jail term from 3 years up to 7 years and fine.
If a female tenant finds that her landlord has installed CCTV cameras in the apartment / flat and is recording her, she MUST immediately lodge an FIR with the local police station. If she is scared of dealing with the police, I recommend going through this great post on how to talk to Police like Lawyers The main thing to remember is don’t be afraid and know the law.
The Rent Control Act of every state specifies the duty of the landlord to make any such payments which he is bound to make (which can include statutory dues or charges).
It is the right of the tenant to make such payments and then deduct it with interest from the rent or otherwise recover it from the landlord.
The landlord thus, has to pay all dues and charges with respect to the property unless the agreement requires the tenant to pay them.
Peaceful enjoyment of the property for the period of the agreement is the most important right of the tenant.
Hence, if the landlord creates any nuisance by cutting off electricity / water supply, etc. it is illegal for him to do so. The tenant can discuss this with the landlord and try to explain this in an amicable manner.
If the landlord does not co-operate, every state appoints a competent authority or a Rent Control Court for dealing with this under their respective Rent Control Acts.
For e.g. in Maharashtra, a Special Court has been established under Section 33 of the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999 to deal with tenant landlord disputes. The tenant can file a suit against the landlord in this special court under Section 29 of the Act; which says that the landlord cannot stop essential services like water, electricity, etc. of the tenant.
As far as ignoring maintenance and repair requests goes, Section 108 of the Transfer of Property Act (duties of lessor) and Section 14 of the Maharashtra Rent Control Acts mention maintenance and repair of the property as the landlord’s duty and gives the tenant the right to make such maintenance and recover the money paid towards such maintenance.
TIP: Always refer to the Rent Control Act of your State before determining whether the Rent Controllers have the powers of a Civil Court. For e.g. in Delhi, the Rent Controller is not a Court, however, in Maharastra the Rent Controller is a Special Court and the Code of CIvil Procedure applies before Rent Controllers in Maharastra but not in Delhi.
Normally, every rent agreement states 2 things:
1. A lock-in period before expiry of which, a landlord cannot evict a tenant, nor can a tenant leave the property.
2. A notice period, which the landlord and tenant have to give each other if either party wants to terminate the agreement.
Thus, the landlord cannot evict the tenant before the lock-in period and even after it, not before expiry of the notice period starting after giving the tenant notice of termination of contract.
The tenant can approach the competent authority or special court as applicable of the State as stated earlier for relief in this matter.
This deserves special mention as run-ins of tenants with the Co-op Hsg Society / RWA is a common occurrence.
Typically, the RWAs or Society cite their bye-laws which prevent house-owners to rent out their property to bachelors / people of a certain religion / food habits / etc.
They can also have other bye-laws which prevent from keeping pets or impose certain other restrictions on tenants.
This is a clear case of discrimination on the basis of marital status which clearly violates the test of reasonable discrimination as laid down by the Hon. Supreme Court in Saurabh Chaudhari v Union Of India as below:
To check whether a classification or discrimination made by law is reasonable, the two tests are:
1. Is the classification founded on intelligible differentia, i.e. is there a clear differentiation between the two groups of persons or goods being discriminated from each other?
2. Is there a rational nexus between the discrimination and the objective which such law aims to achieve?
Discrimination against unmarried tenants clearly fails both the above-mentioned tests as there is not relation between why unmarried persons are discriminated against and the objectives of a RWA or Society, which is the general welfare of all members.
Hence, the society cannot make any such bye-laws which are arbitrary and unreasonably discriminative.
The tenant in such cases, has the option of either complaining to the Registrar of Societies or other competent authority as designated by the respective State for relief against such discrimination.
And if the tenant really wants to go all out to seek justice, he can file a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution before High Court seeking repeal of such discriminatory or arbitrary by-laws of the RWA or society.
Now you know how to deal with various problems that may arise with your landlord to your RWA/ Society.
If there are any other problems which you want us to cover, feel free to mention them in the comments below, and we will surely answer them.
Till then, pay your rent on time, be a good tenant and live in peace and prosper. Finally, know the law and the force (of the law) will be with you.
Let us know your pain areas and we will write about it. Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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