The modern urban sprawl has been the reason for the growth of tenant-landlord agreements exponentially. In many instances, the tenants are expected to follow a set of unfair rules and pay unnecessary charges not mandated by the law. In other cases, we have seen misuse and even abuse by the tenant of the landlord and society’s trusting instincts, causing nuisance, disturbing general peace, or carrying out illegal or anti-social activities.
Putting aside such extreme cases, all societies, homeowners and tenants agree upon certain ground rules for all parties to follow during the tenancy period. Let’s take a look at the tenant’s rights and duties under a rental agreement.
Below are the rights of a tenant ensured by the law:
1. A lease agreement: More often than not, a tenant enters into a written and legally binding agreement with the landlord, making him entitled to receive a duplicate copy of the agreement while the owner retains the original.
2. Safe and habitable residence: A tenant should be handed a residence/flat which is clean, secure and well-maintained. If the tenant carries out any repair or restoration during his tenancy, he is expected to be reimbursed by the owner.
3. Payment receipts: The tenant should get an acknowledgement or receipt for the deposit, rent or maintenance (if any) that he has paid. Most apartment owners do not charge the members for maintenance.
4. Privacy: A landlord cannot enter the rented premises as per his whims and fancy. He has to provide a 24-hour notice to the tenant and visit during reasonable hours.
5. Guests and visitors: Tenants have the right to invite guests, family, friends and colleagues over to their apartment. If a family member or some other person not mentioned in the agreement moves in or stays for a longer period, the tenant should inform the landlord if such a requirement was initially agreed upon by both parties.
6. Access to amenities: A tenant has complete access to the societies facilities such as parks, gym, swimming pool, common areas, etc., provided the guidelines for use are duly followed.
7. Lawful actions: The landlord is not allowed to disconnect water, gas or electricity services as a means of recovering pending rent or dues from the tenant. Also, they cannot put unlawful restrictions or rules on the tenants such as unnecessary charges under false pretexts, not allowing pets in the apartment, not allowing entry after certain hours, etc.
8. Parking rights: Ideally, the owner’s parking slot is given to the tenant to park his vehicle. If not, the tenant still has the right to park inside the society premises and may be charged a predetermined amount for the service. He should not be made to park on the streets and should receive a parking badge or sticker as well.
9. Right to service staff: A tenant should be allowed to utilise the services of the society’s service staff such as cleaners, liftmen, watchmen, plumber, electrician, carpenter, etc. They should also be allowed to hire domestic help.
10. Eviction notice: The landlord cannot evict the tenant before the tenancy duration in the lease agreement, unless the member has failed to pay rent, has sub-let the residence to someone else without permission, grossly violated society’s laws, terms of the agreement, conducted himself anti-socially, or if the owner himself needs to occupy the residence. If the owner wants the tenant to move out for a genuine and unavoidable reason on his part, he has to inform the member for at least one month in advance so that they can make the necessary arrangements.
11. Right to deposit: The landlord is required to return the security deposit paid by the tenant while the agreement was signed. The landlord holds back a certain amount for unpaid dues such as gas or light bills or deducts from the deposit the amount needed to repair serious damage or destruction that occurred during the tenancy (minor wear and tear not included), but this is to be done after discussing it in detail with the tenant.
12. Right to file a complaint: If the tenant faces any harassment from the owner and if the terms of the tenancy agreement are violated by the owner, the tenant has the right to file an FIR to the police or approach the Civil Court is more severe cases (after ensuring that the owner is not hiding behind any loophole in the agreement and is illegally violating the terms).
Let’s take a look at the duties of a tenant in a housing society.
1. Pay dues on time: A tenant is required to pay his monthly rent, light and gas bill, parking charges, and any other charges agreed upon in a timely manner.
2. Maintain cleanliness: A tenant should take good care of the residence and the society premises, ensuring no damage is caused by him within the apartment/house. If he is responsible for any breakage, such as light fixtures, water heater, etc, he should get it repaired. If something stops functioning by itself or any part of the house is damaged without him having caused it, he should get it repaired and seek reimbursement from the owner.
3. Pay increased rent: At a pre-fixed rate of calculation, the monthly rent increases after the tenant completes one year and wishes to renew his stay. For e.g., in Maharashtra state, the rent increases by 10% of the original rent amount. It is the tenant’s duty to pay the increased rent.
4. Follow the rules: As a conscientious member, you must obtain a copy of the society’s bye-laws or at least familiarise yourself with the society’s membership rules/ code of conduct so as to be in compliance with what is considered acceptable and civilised behaviour in collective living.
5. Refrain from causing nuisance: A tenant should not cause inconvenience and create a nuisance to neighbours by behaving in a disrespectful way, throwing litter in society premises or strewing garbage outside the apartment, encroaching unentitled space, having big parties, blaring music, loud arguments, etc. In other words, no action of the tenant should warrant a complaint from the other residents.
6. Not to sublet: A tenant should not abandon the apartment and go missing for long periods (unless it is discussed and approved by the owner beforehand). He is not allowed to sublet the apartment to someone else illegally as most agreement clauses do not allow this. However, if it has been mutually agreed upon between the tenant and the owner (such cases occur rarely), written permission is needed by the owner.
The role of a housing society: Ideally, the housing society has no say in the homeowner’s decision to sublet his residence as he sees fit. The society is not to intervene or discriminate on the basis of racial, religious, gender or marital status of the tenant. Homeowners, upon a prior understanding with the society, prefer renting out their residence to sound, stable and reliable tenants who are usually well-screened during the initial interview process.