Don't collect rent for 3 months, Maharashtra housing department advises landlords
The state housing department on April 17 issued a circular asking landlords and homeowners to postpone collecting rents from tenants for at least three months due to the lockdown. It also said that during this period no tenant should be evicted by the landlord because of non-payment of rent.
As the circular signed by Housing Secretary Sanjay Kumar went viral on social media, it created a stir among landlords who wondered whether the government had the legal power to enforce it.
When TOI contacted a top state bureaucrat, he said: "This is an advisory and cannot be enforced legally. For that, the government will have to change the law. We are only telling everyone, please adjust with one another." The bureaucrat said the decision to issue the circular was taken by CM Uddhav Thackeray on April 16 following complaints that tenants were being harassed during the lockdown. "The message we want to send out through this circular is please allow breathing time to tenants unable to pay rents during these difficult times," he added.
On the other hand, there are several flat owners whose survival depends on rents. TOI spoke to Sophia Sawant, a widow who lives in Chembur and has rented out her apartment in Tilak Nagar. "My monthly expenses depend on the Rs 39,000 rent I get from this flat. I pay Rs 8,000 a month as maintenance for my Chembur flat. I get very little in hand after taxes. This is my only source of income."
'How will landlord pay maintenance, EMI without rent?'
Imran Furniturewala, who has leased out a couple of flats, said, "It's genuinely a sympathetic step by the government. However, landlords too must get some respite. There are expenses to be incurred for three months by landlords too. Eventually, there must be mutual consensus between the licensee and the landlord," he said, adding several homeowners, especially old people, depend on rent.
"It is the most stable form of income post-retirement," he added.
A participant in a debate on Facebook argued, "Is there an economic criterion? If the tenant is well-equipped to pay, then why should he not pay?" Another said, "My landlord says he is not agreeable to even delay the rent and wants full payment." A music teacher complained, "One of my students had to move out very recently since her landlord increased her rent end of March. It is inhuman."
Advocate K K Ramani said even if the landlord were to file a suit for eviction during lockdown, the court would restrain him and take a sympathetic view to protect the tenant.
Advocate Vinod Sampat, an expert in housing matters, said the notice will create chaos and litigations.
"How does the landlord pay maintenance charges and property tax if the rent is not received? The government has not clarified if a tenant or a licensee is liable to pay interest on delayed payment. If the landlord is paying EMI for the flat, how does he offset it? There are several issues such as these which will crop up and create a rift between the two parties," he said.
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