Landlord’s death does not affect eviction order passed in his favour

Landlord’s death does not affect eviction order passed in his favour

Eviction order can’t be revoked in the eventuality of the landlord’s death

The recent judgement passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana has made it clear that the death of the landlord does not affect the eviction order passed in his favour on the ground of personal necessity.  

It has been clarified that once an eviction order is passed against a tenant recognizing the personal need of the landlord, the order will stand. It will protect and benefit the dependants of the landlord even if the landlord dies during the revision proceedings filed by such tenants against the order of eviction. Death of the landlord will not affect the order adversely.

In India, every State has its piece of legislation in the matter of rent control and regulation. In Punjab, we have Punjab Rent Act, 1995, which came into force in the year 2013. The Act aims to create a balance between landlord and tenants interest. 

Recommended reading: Landlord Tenant Dispute

It is necessary to protect a tenant against the mischief of the landlord and to secure his stay in the rented accommodation. At the same time, even the landlord’s rights have to be secured. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to protect one’s property from an errant tenant who refuses to vacate the rented premises even if the landlord is justified in demanding so. Eviction through court is not easy. 

Eviction of tenant:

The Act of 1995 has widened the scope of eviction of a tenant from the rented accommodation. Some of the grounds seeking eviction order are: 

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Premises has become unsafe 
  • Premises requires repairs 
  • Alternate accommodation is available with the tenant or his family member
  • Violation of lease agreement, Misuse of premises
  • Subletting
  • The personal necessity of the landlord or any member of his family if no other suitable accommodation is available after three years of purchase or transfer.

Recommended reading: Landlord Tenant laws

The legislature has used the words personal necessity of the landlord or any member of his family. Thus under the Act, landlord or any member of his family are on the same footing as far as personal necessity is concerned. If no suitable accommodation is available with the landlord or his family member, eviction of a tenant can be sought on the ground of personal necessity.

The recent judgment of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana has interpreted and explained personal necessity. It says that the statute (Act of 1995) itself recognizes the personal necessity of the landlord as well as his family members. The death of the landlord during the pendency of the revision petition does not affect the rights of his legal heirs adversely. The tenants contended that the personal necessity of the landlord comes to an end with his death. The court negated the same and upheld the eviction order passed in favour of the landlord.

Recommended reading: Remedies for a landlord if the tenant refuses to leave after an eviction notice

Once a landlord has pleaded and successfully established his necessity, the members of his family residing with him or his dependants should not be put to hardship.   

It will not be out of place to mention here that the Government of India has proposed The Model Tenancy Act, 2019. The Act aims to encourage landlords to rent out their properties by ensuring speedy dispute resolution and transparency in the housing area. It will rationalize the rent rate also as the supply of residential accommodation would increase. The Government wants to achieve a target of housing for all by 2022.

The rent laws have been considered as pro tenants most of the time. The recent judgment of the High Court has given a liberal interpretation to personal necessity clause favouring the landlord. It will undoubtedly help to boost the confidence of the landlord for justified eviction of tenants and pleading for an eviction order in court.

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The powers and rights of landlords in India

Rights of landlords in India

According to the Black’s Law Dictionary – A landlord is one who, being the owner of an estate in land, has leased the same for a term of years, on a rent reserved, to another person, called the “tenant.”

The Rent Control Act passed by the government of India in 1948, though pro-tenant, also talks about the protection of the rights of landlords. A number of states have implemented modified versions of the same act, such as Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, so to suit the needs of their jurisdiction. It is typically residential leases that spell out the terms of the landlord and tenant relationship, however, an oral agreement or a very simple lease covering basic terms between the two is also enforceable under law. The rights of landlords are such as:

  • The right to choose who will live in their rental property.
  • The right to screen prospective tenants, such as confirming current employment, salary level, prospects for remaining with the employer and landlord references from the previous landlords.
  • Right to collect a security deposit in a separate interest-bearing escrow account, so as to indemnify the landlord against any losses he may suffer upon non-payment of rent, damage to the rental property etc.
  • Upon the end of tenancy, the landlord may cut from the security deposit any increases in the real estate taxes the tenant is bound to pay pursuant to a valid tax escalator clause in the lease.
  • The landlord holds the right of prompt payment, that is the first date of every month, unless decided otherwise by the parties.
  • Landlord hold the right to untimely eviction of the tenant on the grounds of subletting the rental property or a part of it to another party without permission, breach of rental agreement, conducting illegal activities in the property, delay in payments, misuse of property etc, as per The Draft Model Tenancy Act 2015.
  • Landlord is entitled to gain possession of the property in case some repairs, alterations or additions have to be made to the property which would not be possible if there is no vacancy of the property.
  • Right to be informed of any repairs, alterations etc conducted by the tenant to the rental property.

In India, some landlords do assume powers beyond the normal course of assumption, however, that is detrimental to their own case because the tenants would choose to reside with a landlord who offers an agreement which is either neutral or more tenant-friendly in nature. Countries like Japan and Vietnam have very ‘Pro-Landlord’ laws, but in that case, India is assumed to be more ‘Neutral or Tenant-Friendly’. More so, it is important to not forget one’s responsibilities as a landlord, to keep oneself safe from all forms of legal action.

Landlord Tenant laws – Step by Step Understanding

Landlord Tenant laws

Landlord and tenant laws become the focus in many NRI property disputes. Being the owner of any property and ensuring that all matters stay sorted out is not easy for an overseas citizen primarily because they do not manage to come to India as frequently as would be required for such cases.

If we are to understand the rights of landlords, it is vital to understand what the core tenets of the laws here in India are – as much as it is crucial to comprehend the exact meaning of all the terms used in these situations.

Tenancy
Tenancy, simply stated, is when somebody occupies or possesses some property (land, building, other property) through a title or a lease that’s formulated as per law or on some rent payment. By the same logic, a landlord then is an individual who is the actual owner of any property – whether land or house or building- who has rented or leased that property to any other person.

Tenancy is the occupation of the property belonging to somebody else instead of a written agreement.
There are individual rights that landlords have been granted to ensure that there is no unlawful occupation of the property. These have to do with the screening of the prospective tenants as well as specifications about the rent collection. Over a period, the law has been modified to favour the landlords. This is due in large part to the advantage that prolonged occupation gave to the tenants; landlord rights were threatened hence the law had to consider protecting their interests.

Landlord rights, duties, and responsibilities

  • Any owner of a property is not given the right to evict his tenant without a valid reason for at least five years if he has paid the rent without any delay as per the agreement between both of them unless he wants to use the house himself/herself.
  • The landlord can force the tenant to evict the house only if there is any wrongdoing on the renter’s behalf (as prescribed in the Rental Control Act and Indian Law) such as any crime against the country or terrorism.
  • Usually, the renting person is supposed to sign an agreement with the owner under specifying that he occupies the property for only a period of 11 months.
  • It needs to be remembered that the Rent Control Act -which happens to be majorly in favour of the tenants- is applicable where there is an agreement for at least 12 months. Hence stipulations regarding an 11-month contract act as a preventive measure for the landlord.
  • As a necessary precaution, landlords ensure that a security deposit of up to 10 months’ rent is taken from the tenant. This gets fully refunded once the rental lease ceases to exist, and the property has been left in proper condition.
  • For transparency and better enforcement of the tenancy laws, it is important that everything is stated clearly in written – for the benefit of both the parties.
  • The landlord deserves a three-month notice in case the tenant wants to vacate the property before the stipulated time. In such cases, either the tenant pays the rent for the remaining months or then foregoes his security deposit.
  • If a tenant decides that he does not want to opt for any written rental agreement he can do so; though he would lose his security deposit in such a situation.
  • Landlords can charge market rates from their tenants and can also increase the rent periodically and if need be, have the premises vacated without entering into a court battle.
  • The law says that a landlord can enter the property after giving a 24-hour notice – in most cases, it is understood that this will be between 7 am and 8 pm.
  • The tenancy agreement requires being registered with the state-appointed rent control authority.
  • The law makes it mandatory not to rent the premises out without registering a written lease agreement with this authority, which also entertain the cases for the settlement of disputes on the revision and fixation of rents.
  • In case the landlord wishes to ask a tenant to vacate the property he has to approach the Rent Court.

Paying the Rent

a) Rent can be paid with cash or through a cheque issued by an Indian bank.

b) Other Regulations

  • It is not uncommon to see that sometimes the landlord imposes certain lifestyle restrictions in a rental lease.
  • Most important, a tenant cannot sublet the property unless he has taken written consent from the landlord. It can’t be denied, though, that these restrictions or other terms are negotiable with the landlord.
  • It is commonly also seen that the owners consider the marital status of the tenants before letting out their property on rent.

Besides the landlord tenant laws, there are various aspects that one needs to keep in mind while preparing rent leases. More on this in the coming blogs!