The concept of tenancy
A tenant is a person who pays a compensation or rent to use a house, premise, building or land, which originally belongs to a landlord or the rightful owner. Nowadays, the induction of tenants is also governed by a duly registered agreement, unlike the olden times when there was no agreement for the said purpose. Based on the various types of a,greements for tenancy that is entered into the following types of tenancies exist:
However, we have to keep in mind that the Tenancy Agreement, Lease Agreement or the Leave and licence Agreement are all compulsorily registered registble and non-registration of the same can land the landlord behind bars.
From 21st March 2020 the entire country went into a lockdown to stop the spreading of the COVID 19 virus. This pandemic situation led to a wave of depression and a kind of recession in terms of people suddenly becoming unemployed, with massive job losses, leading to a scenario where many people could be rendered homeless for not being able to pay their house rent. The situation was tough for the landlords too who may have loans or EMIs on their tenanted properties and relied a lot on the rent payments to pay their EMI on a loan.
Looking at the plight of the tenants the Government of different states tried intervening in various ways for eg: CM of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal called upon the landlords to exonerate rent for atleast 3 months. He also offered that the government could help pay rent, if tenants could not do so in this pandemic situation. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh government published an authoritative ruling to imprison or penalise landlords failing to grant concessions in rent collection.
When all this tussle was going on for rent payments, suddenly by the judgment dated 21st May 2020 the Delhi High Court ruled in Ramanand and Others v. Dr. Girish Soni and Others that there was no excuse for not paying rent in the period of lockdown on account of COVID-19. The Court ruled that a tenant may get a waiver or suspension of rent subject to the fact that the contract contains a force majeure clause that makes provision for such a situation. However, it highlighted a postponement to the payment of rent scenario as an option without any complete relaxation.
As we all are aware payment is the essence of any leave and licence Agreement and non-payment of the compensation/ Rent can lead to the eviction of the tenant. Further, all the initiatives done by various Governments were mostly advisory in nature because there was a complete absence of either a Government Circular or Ordinance to grant respite to tenants during the COVID Pandemic Lockdown. Therefore, the tenants were left with no option but to pay the rent unless there is a mutual agreement between the landlord and the tenant to delay payments for a few months. On the other hand, most commercial tenancy contracts have the Force Majeure Clause which can help the tenant claim some respite till the situation improves.
But others who cannot take respite because of the absence of the clause, can work out an arrangement with the landlord in the following ways:
In order to get the best possible outcome, both parties to the tenancy can in their best interests work in unison to figure out short term solutions for rent payment, until normal dealings and commerce resumes again. However, if short term solutions do not work out then it may lead to ugly scenarios, wherein tenants may get vacated for non-payment of dues, in the absence of Force Majeure to protect them in non-commercial Agreements