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Property Plus — Chennai

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LEGAL CHAT

Conditions for eviction

SRINATH SRIDEVAN

The right of eviction must be for one of the reasons specified in the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act.

HAVING reviewed in the last two columns the rights of the landlord and the tenant with regard to the primary obligations, I now move on to list the various acts or omissions which a tenant must avoid, and which will entitle the landlord to seek the tenant's eviction, if in fact, they occur.

Please note that what I have given below applies only to the major cities and towns of Tamil Nadu. These are the areas, which come under the purview of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act. Smaller towns and villages do not normally come under this Act's scope. If you have a doubt as to whether your town/panchayat area is covered by this Act or not, you must consult a local lawyer who will advise you appropriately.

This Act applies to all tenancies where the building is more than five years old, and where the lease is for a land and/or a building, and not a composite lease, which includes for instance, the running of a business as a going concern. This Act does not apply to tenancies created by public religious trusts or charitable institutions. It does not also apply to tenancies created by government undertakings.

Wherever the Act has no application, a landlord can simply give a notice (of at least six months' duration in the case of an agricultural or a manufacturing lease, and of at least 15 days' duration in most other cases) and determine the tenancy, with the end of the period of the tenancy. Of course, where the lease in question is in force and it stipulates a different period of tenancy, the notice must be in compliance therewith. Once such notice is given and the period specified expires, the landlord will be entitled to evict the tenant. The landlord need not have any good or satisfactory reason for doing so. A proper notice is all that is required.

Now, we come to tenancies to which the Act applies. The right of the landlord to evict the tenant in such cases is greatly fettered, and the right of eviction must be for one of the reasons specified in the statute. If you are a landlord and you are unable to fit your requirement for eviction into one of the pigeonholes set up by the statute, you will not be entitled for eviction.

The various grounds on which the statute enables eviction are as follows:

1. Where the tenant has not paid the stipulated rent for more than 15 days after the rent fell due, and such non-payment is wilful.

2. Where the tenant has, without the landlord's written consent, allowed some other person to occupy the premises, either wholly or in part.

3. Where the tenant has put the building to a use other than that which the landlord had originally agreed. The term "use" must be reckoned with reference to the lease deed.

4. Where the tenant has done any act, which has materially impaired the building or its value or utility.

5. Where the tenant has used the building, or has allowed the building to be used, for illegal purposes or immoral purposes.

6. Where the tenant is making such a nuisance of himself that his continuance is objectionable either to other tenants of the same building or other persons in the neighbourhood.

7. Where the tenant has not occupied the premises in question for a period in excess of four months. (This rule does not apply in hill stations for obvious reasons.)

8. Where the tenant denies the landlord's title to the building itself, and such denial is not well founded. I only wish to add that once a tenant commences tenancy under a particular person as a landlord, the law does not allow the tenant to thereafter disown the landlord, or to assert title to the building in anyone else (save for one exception, which is not relevant here).

9. Where the landlord genuinely requires the building either for his residential or non-residential occupation, or for the residential or non-residential occupation of any member of his family. Where the landlord (or the person for whom he is seeking eviction of the premises) already owns and occupies another premises in the same town, the landlord must additionally be in a position to state and prove that the hardship that will be caused to him by not giving him the premises will outweigh the hardship caused to the tenant by throwing the tenant out of the premises. This clause is subject to a few exceptions, but these are beyond the scope of this summary.

10. Where the landlord genuinely requires the building for effecting repairs, which cannot be carried out unless the building is vacated. Please note that once the repairs are carried out, the tenant will be entitled to re-enter the premises.

11. Where the landlord genuinely requires the building for the purpose of immediately demolishing it and putting up a new building in its place.

There are a few other grounds of eviction mentioned in the statute such as those involving members of the armed forces or where the government is the tenant. These again, are beyond the scope of what is an attempt to put the primary sections of the statute in a nutshell.

If you, as a landlord, are able to fit your requirements for eviction into one of these categories, you will be entitled to file a petition for eviction before a court called the Rent Controller's Court.

By the same token, if you as a tenant, are being threatened with eviction, you can resist any attempt at eviction other than one falling within one of the above categories.

(The author holds a Master's Degree in Corporate Law from New York University and is a partner in the law firm, Sridevan and Krishnaswami, Chennai.)

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