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Association between tenants and landlords, a vicious circle of woes
While tenants complain of unreasonable demands of money by their landlords, the latter protests lack of maintenance of the accomodation which makes them deduct money from the deposit
The relationship between landlord and tenant has been a much-discussed subject for jokes and movies. Tamil movies like Illam, a remake of the Malayalam film Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam, used the relationship like a metaphor. Bollywood also has a share of such comedy capers revolving around the theme, with some memorable ones like Kirayedar and Yeh Tera Ghar, Yeh Mera Ghar. While these inspired by real-life situations ended on a ‘happily-ever after’ note, the same cannot be said about the issues in real life.
Never-ending list of conditions
Take the case of Sundar G, a media professional, who moved into an apartment in Saidapet some months ago. The house owner was a friend’s acquaintance and Sundar had trusted him blindly. “But, issues arose from the second day. He said he won’t fix the air conditioner that wasn’t working from the time before we moved in. A couple of weeks later, there was a problem with the water supply. We were told that the pipes had rusted. That couldn’t have happened in just weeks. He came forward to get it repaired only after we agreed for the repair amount to be deducted from our deposit.”After many such troubles, in a couple of months, Sundar had to look for another accommodation. “But by then we had lost around Rs 20,000 unnecessarily,” he said.
Jennifer J, who hails from Bengaluru and has been living in the city for the last five years has paid deposit amounting to Rs 1 lakh and above, even when the rent is just about Rs 10,000 or Rs 15,000. She added that even after courts have ruled that one-month rent can be taken as advance, the house owners she has dealt with have been firm on at least five months plus of rent as advance. She said, “Finding an accommodation for a single woman is difficult. After finding one with great difficulty, I have no choice but to yield to their demands for exorbitant deposits,” she added.
After her landlord has told her about the non-negotiable notice period of two months before vacating the place, L Swathi, a software professional, and her husband were in a fix about entering into a rent agreement. She said, “He told us the earlier family had vacated after giving just a 15-day notice. The issue is my husband is in a transferrable job, he could be deputed to another city any time.
Some of the woes shared by tenants range from bizarre to hilarious. Take the case of Narayanan S, whose landlord told him that he cannot ring bells or conduct aartis in the house, as it was against his faith. He added, “Along with it, there were a string of other conditions like you can’t touch the walls even for hammering a nail,” he said.
The tenets of tenant
There are several instances when house owners have been at the receiving end, as S Mohan would vouch for. “I had rented out my two-bedroom flat on OMR to a group of bachelors. When they said they would vacate the flat, it came as a shocker to see what they had done to the floors in the bathroom. It had turned black due to lack of maintenance and had to be redone completely. When we deducted the money from their deposit, they complained to the resident welfare association, who sent us a notice. It took a lot of explanation from my end before the issue was solved,” he said.
Suresh, a resident of Porur, whose apartment was left with doodles and cartoons on the walls by his tenants too was left with no alternative but turn to the deposit amount. He added, “The tenant was a heavy smoker and the drains would be clogged with cigarette butts. The rest of the neighbours refused to pitch in for the extra expense for removing it since it was one flat’s contribution. I had to pay the full amount each time the drains had to be cleared. The tenants had also protested when we said we will deduct Rs 3,000 to have a fresh coat of paint on the walls,” he said.
What does the law say about responsibilities?
The Tamil Nadu Regulation of Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants Act 2017 which is yet to be notified, has been hailed as a pathbreaking move. Explaining the differences, it can make, Richardson Wilson, advocate, Madras High Court, said that it offered relief for both owners and tenants equally. “Unlike earlier, landlords cannot disconnect amenities like water or electricity for recovering rent from the tenants. Similarly, the landlord can recover the possession of property and then seek arrears, as against the earlier procedure of filing a petition of recovery and it would go on for years in courts.” He said that in many cases earlier, in the absence of agreement, the parties would occupy huge properties at a pittance for over 10 years or more. “This Act when it comes into force calls for an agreement that will have primacy and the rate will automatically be at the market value,” he added.