All about statu­tory ten­ants and their rights

HT Estates - - HTESTATES -

It is well known that ten­ants en­joy pro­tec­tion from evic­tion if they are statu­tory ten­ants un­der the Delhi Rent Con­trol Act, 1958 ( the “DRC Act”). A statu­tory ten­ant is a term used to de­scribe a ten­ancy that is cov­ered by the DRC Act. So, there­fore, any prop­erty in Delhi, that is given for rent be­low ₹ 3,500 per month would fall within the of the DRC Act and the ten­ant would be known as a statu­tory ten­ant. Ten­an­cies where the rent re­served is above ₹ 3,500 per month, would by de­fault, be cov­ered by the Trans­fer of Prop­erty Act, 1882 (“TPA”). The ex­pres­sion statu­tory ten­ant is not de­fined, but be­cause rent con­trol ten­an­cies en­joy the pro­tec­tion of a statute, ten­ants of such prop­er­ties have come to be known as statu­tory ten­ants and the ex­pres­sion is used to dis­tin­guish from other ten­ants that do not fall un­der the DRC Act, but en­joy or­di­nary ten­an­cies un­der the TPA.

Un­der the DRC Act a land­lord can only seek re­cov­ery of pos­ses­sion only on the limited grounds men­tioned in sec­tion 14 of the DRC Act. One of the grounds avail­able to a land­lord to seek of pos­ses­sion, is bonafide need of the land­lord. Sec­tion 14(1)(e) of the DRC Act deals with bonafide need.

Sec­tion 14 has been at the source of much con­tro­versy over the years. Al­beit, there are many di­men­sions to this Sec­tion but for the pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle, we will deal only with Sec­tion 14 (1)(e) and in par­tic­u­lar, the mean­ing of bona-fide re­quire­ment of the land­lord in case of a statu­tory ten­ancy. What is bonafide has not been de­fined and is de­ter­mined by the court on a case to case ba­sis, de­pend­ing on the unique facts and cir­cum­stances of each case. Through this ar­ti­cle, I will try to re­trace the var­i­ous ways in which the courts have con­strued bonafide need of the land­lord to be able to gain re­cov­ery of his ten­anted premises back from the statu­tory ten­ant.

The ex­pres­sion bonafide re­quire­ment i s not t o be con­strued for the land­lor­downer alone, but also of the owner’s fam­ily mem­bers that are de­pen­dent on him and for the re­quire­ment of any per­son for whose ben­e­fit the prop­erty is held. How­ever, in order for the land­lord to seek ben­e­fit of a bonafide need, it is im­per­a­tive that such per­sons must not have any other rea­son­ably suit­able ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The essence of bonafide re­quire­ment was cap­tured suc­cinctly in the mat­ter of Rup Lal Mehra v. Kamla Soni, in 1966, whereby the divi­sion bench of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court held: “The at­ten- tion of the courts will have, there­fore, to be di­rected to find out (a) whether or not the re­quire­ment of pos­ses­sion is bonafide, and (b) whether or not the premises al­ready in pos­ses­sion of the land­lord af­ford a rea­son­ably suit­able al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion…. So long as the land­lord is able to es­tab­lish that he in good faith and gen­uinely wishes to oc­cupy the premises in pos­ses­sion of the ten­ant and that good faith or gen­uine­ness is of a rea­son­able man, it would not be open to the con­troller to weigh the claim of the land­lord in a fine scale. Sim­i­larly, the suit­abil­ity of the other ac­com­mo­da­tion will also have to be de­cided from the stand­point of a rea­son­able land­lord. This de­ci­sion was af­firmed, in 1969, by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Si nce bonafide i s not de­fined, the court is of­ten left with the dif­fi­cult task of bal­anc­ing eq­ui­ties be­tween land­lords and ten­ants. The pre­sump­tion of bonafide is in favour of the land­lord and the onus to re­but the pre­sump­tion is on the ten­ant. There­fore, the ten­ant has his work cut out and has to be able to ef­fec­tively demon­strate to the court that the need of the land­lord is not bonafide.

THINKSTOCK

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