Delhi high court’s decision to hear a petition challenging the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 has come as a shot in the arm for beleaguered landlords who have been getting paltry rents for the prime properties they let out. The landlord-tenant dispute has once again come into focus with an association of women landlords from the capital recently moving court.
With the Supreme Court tilting the balance in favour of landlords — allowing them to invoke need even for commercial properties — through a series of rulings over the past few years, the only defence still available to a tenant is the age-old DRC Act which places a ceiling on rent in the capital.
If the HC now bats for landlords while adjudicating the latest petition, one can expect swift disposal of disputes before the rent control tribunals where such cases are decided.
Until now, additional rent control (ARC) courts remained bereft of fresh cases because property owners were hesitant to take to court disputes which would drag on for years, even as the tenant enjoyed continuous and unhindered rights of occupancy over a premise. The status quo meant a property continued to be enjoyed by the tenant.
The only way a tenant can now hope to cling on to a house is by proving in court that his landlord does not actually need the property, a very difficult thing to do.
Speaking to TOI, advocate Atul Mathur, who takes up property-related disputes, said tenants were becoming increasingly indefensible now that the odds are clearly stacked in favour of landlords.
‘‘Although it is too early to say anything definitively, since fresh cases are still at the arguments stage, but there is actually no defence left for a tenant living in a commercial property. I have myself advised three landlord clients to move court because their chances of winning have, after the SC rulings, brightened,’’ Mathur confided.
Lawyers said that for the first time a tenant can be asked by a landlord to vacate his premises. Earlier, non-payment of rent or discreet subletting were the only two technical defaults committed by a tenant that allowed a landlord to take back his property.
Eviction can now be sought on need. And courts hearing such cases will witness how landlords play around with the word need, since the scope for it has been widened. More importantly, bonafide need can now be claimed not just for the owner of the property but also for his or her dependent family, elaborated another lawyer.
As petitioners before the Delhi high court, the landladies Shobha Aggarwal, Suman Jain and Seema Khandelwal argue, the DRC Act is ‘‘an archaic legislation that needs to be struck down as unconstitutional’’.
Provided the high court agrees with these women, numerous landlords in Delhi can now become hopeful about getting much higher rents for the properties that they let out.
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