You hear a lot of stories on social media that come as feedback about renting, that make you think twice about renting out a place as an owner, or renting a place to stay as a tenant. Owners often face problems like tenants who don’t pay rent for delayed periods or who make major changes to the house without permission, and tenants sometimes face problems like being depraved of basic amenities and overly nosy owners.
What most home owners and tenants in India are not aware of, are the basic laws that are in place to protect both, home owners and tenants. Most issues that either parties face can often be resolved by approaching the local Rent Authority. A lot of hassle can be avoided just by being aware of what you are entitled to.
In this article, we cover the important laws that are in place to protect both, home owners in India, and tenants who rent a house. By knowing these laws, both the homeowner and the tenant will have a clear idea of what is acceptable and what is not, what can be actioned, and what cannot.
Basic Laws Both Parties Must Abide By
1. A Rental Agreement
The must be a written agreement drafted by a notary, and signed by both the home owner and the tenant in order for the home rental to be legally binding. An oral agreement is NOT considered legally binding and both the tenant and the owner could face problems if they agree on an oral agreement.
The rental agreement must cover the decided rent, additional fees, the amenities that are provided while moving in, the rate of rent increase and duration, validity of the agreement, etc. If the owner does not provide a tenant with an agreement, technically the tenant can avoid paying rent (because as per the law they have not officially rented the place), but this will also mean that the owner can evict the tenant without any notice. These complications are why oral agreements must be avoided, and an official legal agreement must be signed.
2. Property Maintenance
As per the law, maintenance of the rented property is a joint responsibility between the tenant and the renter. This is often defined in the rental agreement. For example, repairs of provided amenities, especially during the move, is handles by the owner. Repairs of items that are damaged by the tenant are done by the tenant.
This law also ensures that neither the tenant nor the owner can make major, discomforting changes to the property without intimation and approval. A tenant cannot tear down a wall to make more space and the owner cannot begin painting work while the tenant is living in the house. Any damage rendered by the tenant that they refuse to pay for, can be covered by deducting a sum from the security deposit.
There is a situation called ‘uninhabitable conditions’ which we cover later.
3. Payable Rent
The rent amount must be agreed upon by both parties, prior to move in. This amount must also be reflected in the rental agreement. Once this amount is set, the landlord cannot charge any extra amount, or raise the amount until the time period stipulated in the contract. Similarly, the tenant cannot pay a lesser amount after moving in.
The rent is usually decided depending on the size of the house, the amenities provided, and the locality. This might differ depending on the state you’re living in. We have provided a list of state laws below.
4. Security Deposit Payable
As per the Draft Model Tenancy it is not legal to charge a deposit that is more than 3 months’ rent. However, this depends on the state that you are living in. e have provided a list of state laws below.
The security deposit must be agreed upon beforehand, and included in the rental agreement. The deposit amount must be returned to the tenant post house vacation. Only deductions that are agreed upon and recorded in the agreement can be deducted.
Laws Protecting Home Owners
1. Eviction of the Tenant
A landlord can evict a tenant and ask them to immediately leave if they fail to pay rent for two consecutive months. Additionally, and eviction notice can be issued if the tenant leaves the property for an extended period of time without any intimation, if they are misusing the property (running illegal activities or being a nuisance to society), if they breach the agreement, or sublet the apartment to someone else.
If a tenant does not obey the eviction notice, the landlord has the right to double the rent as compensation.
2. Right to Temporary Recovery of Possession
If the house in question requires immediate repairs or a renovation, needs alterations, or is unsafe for habitation unless repairs are carried out, the owner is entitles to take back possession of the property, carry out the maintenance work and then return the property to the tenant. There has to be proper grounds for requesting property vacation.
3. Right to be Advised of Repairs and Changes
While minor repair and changes can be carried out by a tenant, for any major changes, tenants are required by law to inform the tenant and get permission in writing.
4. Maintenance and Damage Repairs Post Renting
Tenants are required to hand over the property back to the owner while vacating, in the same condition as it was received. The amenities, electronics, furniture, etc has to be returned and in working condition. Any damage done to the property can be reimbursed via the security deposit.
Laws Protecting Tenants
1. A Landlord Cannot Entire a Property Without Permission After Renting
Once a property has been rented out, the owner does not have the right to enter the property barring an emergency. For any other reason, the owner must provide prior notice to the tenants and ‘surprise checks’ etc cannot be carried out as per the law.
2. Uninhabitable Conditions
We discussed earlier that maintenance and repairs are the duty of both the owner and the tenants: responsibility of the owner before a tenant moves in and that of the tenant after occupation. However, in case of the latter, if the cost of repairs exceeds 50% of the agreed rent, the property is deemed ‘uninhabitable’ and the tenant has the right to vacate in just 15 days, by giving a notice. They can also approach the local Rent Authority to act upon the matter.
3. Provision of Essential Supplies
It is the basic right of the tenant, and duty of the home owner, to provide tenants with basic amenities like water, electricity, parking, communication links, sanitary services etc. The landlord cannot withhold these amenities even in the case of non payment of rent. If a landlord does withhold essential amenities, the tenant can approach the Rent Authority who will launch an investigation and can penalize the home owner if found in the wrong.
Now that you are aware of your basic rights, you can take action via the Rent Authority if you feel your rights have been violated, as a tenant or a home owner. Here are the state laws of major states that you might find useful:
- The Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999.
- The Delhi Rent Act, 1995.
- The West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1997.
- The Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960.
- The Karnataka Rent Control Act, 2001.
P.S. If you’re a home owner who wants to get away from the hassle of managing tenants, a property management company can help. We take over all tenant responsibilities like verification, repairs, maintenance, documentation, etc. We also help you find new tenants post vacancy. Here is a list of services provided by a property management company: Property Management Services – A Detailed List