Renting a property can be a tricky task. When I was moving to Bengaluru, many of my friends shared several stories of their flatmates and owners, trying to warn me about the risk I was about to take.
And that got me thinking—we can’t predict the personalities that we deal with during this process, but how does the law protect tenants and the landlord/lady?
What rights do I have as a tenant and what are my obligations?
Can I be evacuated without proper notice?
What facilities should I expect when I shift in my new house?
The Government of India passed the Rent Control Act with the motive of controlling rent charges as well as to safeguard the tenants’ rights in terms of unauthorised eviction.
This law is determined by the state government but is formed on the foundation of certain rights that tenants and landowners enjoy.
Before you rent a property (either as an owner or as a tenant), you must look out for certain points that guarantee you a safe transaction.
Since the rent rates and such other details vary in each state, here are the guidelines you can follow, as mandated by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
At the end of this article, we have also provided links to the urban rental laws for the states of Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, which have some of the busiest cities in India.
1. A written agreement.
It is essential to have a written agreement between tenants and owners for the law to safeguard the interests of both the parties. An oral agreement is not legally binding, and no one should ever settle for it.
A ‘Legal Form’ of the agreement with signs from both the parties has to be completed. The owner gets to keep the original form and the tenants receive the duplicates. Until such time that the owner does not provide a copy of the agreement to the tenants, they are not obligated to pay the rent.
However, it is not advised to not pay the rent if the agreement is still in process because the owner can ask you to evacuate on the grounds of non-payment of dues.
2. Maintenance of the property.
Apart from the normal wear and tear, both parties—the tenants and the owners—are jointly responsible for the maintenance of the property, unless the agreement specifies different conditions. For example, as a tenant, you cannot pull down a wall, or as the owner, you cannot renovate the premises unless agreed upon by both parties.
In the case that the tenants refuse to pay for the repairs, the amount can be deducted from their security deposit and if the owners refuse to pay, the amount can be deducted from the periodic rent.
3. Uninhabitable conditions
If the price of maintenance crosses 50% of the agreed rent, the house is considered to be’uninhabitable.’ If the owner refuses to act upon it, the tenant(s) have the right to vacate their premises with a 15-day written notice to the lessor. They can also approach the local Rent Authority to act upon the matter.
4. Damage of property after tenancy commences
Once the tenants occupy the house, they are responsible for maintaining the original conditions (again, except for the minimal, normal wear and tear). They cannot intentionally or negligently damage the property and if in the cases that such damage does occur, they must notify the owner immediately.
5. The landlord or landlady cannot entire the premises without prior notice
Whether it is to carry out repairs, check the conditions of the house or any other reason stated in your rental agreement, the owner cannot enter your premises without a 24 hour written notice.
They must inform you of their arrival beforehand and cannot carry out surprise checks—whether you are a family or a set of bachelors renting the house. The Model Tenancy Act also says that the entry must be between 7 am and 8 pm.
6. Essential supplies
Essential services like the supply of water, electricity, parking, communication links, sanitary services etc. are the basic rights of tenants.
These services cannot be cut off or withheld by either the tenants or the owners—even in the case of non-payment of dues.
In such a case that the essential supplies are cut off by either party, the local Rent Authority may intervene, initiate an inquiry and may also levy a penalty on the party as well as a compensation to the aggrieved party.
7. Eviction of tenants
Tenants may be asked to vacate the premises if they fail to pay their full rent for two consecutive months.
In addition to this, if the tenants have parted ways with the property (for an extended period of time) without a written notice or if they are encroaching upon additional property or misusing it (so as to cause public nuisance, for illegal activities) or damaging it, they can be lawfully asked to evacuate the premises.
If the tenants fail to do so within the specified time, the landowner is entitled to double the monthly rent as compensation.
8. Death of the tenant
If the tenant passes away, the right of tenancy for the remaining time period (according to the rental agreement) goes to his/her successor in the following order:
-Daughter in law (who is the widow of a predeceased son)
This is lawful only if the successors were living with (or in cases of non-residential tenancy, working in the premises) along with the deceased tenant. In the case that none of these successors lived with the tenant, the lease ceases immediately.
9. Rent payable
In the case of a new tenancy, the landowner and the tenant have to agree upon the payable rent as stated on the written agreement. If the rent is revised, the landowner must inform the tenants three months in advance.
The chargeable rent is usually determined by the total value of the building consisting of the market value for a portion of the land, cost of construction and value of amenities.
However, the set percentage of this market value that can be charged as rent changes according to the state of residence. Please refer to the links below to check this.
10. Security deposit
According to the Draft Model Tenancy, it is unlawful to charge a security deposit which is over three times the monthly rent. However, just like the rent charges, the rate of the security deposit is determined by the state laws. Check out the link below to see how much deposit you are liable to pay in your city.
Once the premises are vacated, the owner must refund the security deposit to tenants within one month. They can deduct the liable amount from this (after discussion with the tenants and agreement by both parties) before refunding the amount.
These laws are according to the Draft Model Tenancy prescribed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and function as general guidelines to keep in mind before moving into or renting your place.
The links below will tell you the exact laws that are followed by some Indian states. Make sure you read these before signing the agreement.
1. The Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999.
2. The Delhi Rent Act, 1995.
3. The West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1997.
4. The Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960.
5. The Karnataka Rent Control Act, 2001.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)