Tips for handling disputes between landlords and tenants

0
1559
handling disputes between landlord and tenant

By Shweta Kaushik

Introduction

Many of us aspire to purchase our own house and love to live in the luxury of that house which may or may not be possible for everybody. Situations may arise where you have to hire a rented accommodation to live. The reasons can be financial problems, moving to another place while you have purchased a house at some other place and the like.  So in this scenario, we have to enter into a relationship of tenant with the landlord who rents us his or her house. Hardship faced by tenants at the hands of the landlord and vice versa is very common these days. In this article an attempt has been made to help our readers understand the ways of handling a dispute arises out of landlord and tenant problems.  

What footsteps can be taken at first to avoid landlord-tenant disputes?

As it frequently happens, there may come a time during a tenancy when a landlord-tenant dispute arises. These disputes can pop up over many different issues including:

  • lease agreements regarding rental property, 
  • tenant rights, 
  • responsibility for repairs to the property, 
  • rent, 
  • Eviction and more. 

It is always suggested that advocates should also be the resort and we should try not to waste the courts time in getting them indulged in minor landlord tenant disputes as they are to look at major crimes that pertaining to murder, robbery etc.

There are numerous guidelines that both residential landlords and tenants can follow that will help avoid litigation:

  • Analyze the lease terms of the rental agreement carefully and know your legal rights and responsibilities according to state, and local laws.
  • If there is a problem on either side, make sure to notify the other party immediately 
  • Always be open and straightforward in all your dealings.
  • Take hard copies, print outs and notes of all correspondence regarding any problems with the property or the tenancy.
  • Know the laws of your state that deals with handling disputes between landlord and tenant.

Resolving a landlord-tenant dispute out of court?

It is ill-fated that not all landlord-tenant disputes can be settled by a simple conversation between both parties to the lease. 

When communiqué breaks down, there are still steps that can be taken before lawyers are hired and court proceedings start.

  1. You can hire an independent, third-party mediator to help form an agreement between the property owner and the renter. 
  2. Mediator is often misguided for a judge,
  3. The mediator does not have any authority to bind either party to an agreement and is simply there to facilitate communication between the landlord and the tenant. 
  4. Mediation services are often available for little to no cost through various programs.
  5. Mediation services are rendered through both private companies as well as state and local bar associations. You can find more information regarding the mediation services in your area by contacting the bar association closest to you and asking about services for mediating landlord-tenant disputes.
  6. If you are not comfortable in hiring a mediator, you can request the court of law by making an application to engage an arbitrator or a local commissioner to analyze the dispute and help in redressal of that dispute.
  7. You can also have a common third party which is known to both of you to help settle the dispute. Such a third party will decide the dispute and will arrive at a decision which shall be acceptable to both of the parties

Proceeding to Court of Law to settle landlord-tenant dispute 

When all the above options fail, the last resort for landlord-tenant disputes is to approach the court of law of your jurisdiction to get your disputes resolved. 

The courts do act as a last resort for most landlord-tenant disputes and are structured to provide a quick and efficient resolution to these issues. However, you will need to check with your local courts to see the filing requirements for your claims for which you may need the help of a lawyer.

Rights of the Landlord 

Under the rental laws in India, there are rights that safeguard the interests of a landlord, too. The Rent Control Act is one important act passed by the Government of India in 1948, post which several states like Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka have undertaken amendments to the same. The act, however, seen as pro-tenant, also talks about the protection of rights of landlords. Recently, various amendments have taken place pertaining to new laws favoring landlords.  

1. Right to evict a tenant

With the Rent Control Act applicable only to a tenancy of over 12 months, things seemed tougher for landlords to evict tenants living in the property for years. The Act which has been in the news recently, aims to make things easier for landlords as well as tenants by addressing untimely eviction, repossession issues as well as mutually fixing and revising the rent. Laws now allow landlords the right to evict a tenant on the grounds of:

  • breach of rental agreement; 
  • subletting rented premises or a part of it without landlord’s permission; 
  • default in payment of rent for specified period; 
  • misuse of the property; or conducting illegal activities in the rented premises
  • The landlord also has a right to evict a tenant if he or she requires the building for his or her own occupation.

To prevent tenants from overstaying, landlords can also add a clause of hike in rent in the agreement, if the tenant does not leave when the contract ends.

2. Right to temporary recovery of possession

A landlord is entitled to obtain possession of the property, in case there is a requirement for him

  • to carry out repairs, 
  • Alterations or additions to the building, which cannot be carried out without the building being vacated, after which the building will again be offered to the tenant. 
  • Or, if the rented accommodation has become unsafe for habitation and cannot be refurbished without being vacated, the landlord is entitled to get possession of the property.

3. Right to increase the rent

Regulations allow landlords to have an upper hand as far as the collection of rent is concerned. Owners of residential or commercial properties have the right to raise the rent periodically. The Act clearly specifies the period, rents payable as well as the obligations of landlord and tenants. In India, the applicable rate of rent increase is around 10 per cent, every two years, for residential properties. But, mostly, there are laws governing this too. 

4. To be advised of necessary repairs

It is the duty and the right of the landlord to respond to the requests for repairs in a reasonable amount of time. Minor repairs of the property could be undertaken by the tenant. However, for all major repairs requiring reimbursement, prior permission needs to be taken from the landlord in writing. So, a landlord has the right to be informed about necessary repairs being made to his or her property. As per law, the landlord is under obligation to keep the property in good and tenantable form. But the rent control act provides the provision for both parties to share the financial burden of the repairs.

Rights of Tenant

  • Right to house that is fit to be lived in. Unsafe conditions, such as holes in the floor, plaster coming down from the ceiling, bad wiring, and the like are considered unfit. It is the landlord’s responsibility to see that the house meets the minimum standards of accommodation.
  • Tenants should be fully informed of all the contents, terms and conditions of the contract and only upon the consent of the tenant can the agreement be signed by both the parties which then become a valid document.
  • Both the parties will have to maintain a copy of each of the agreements all the time. The tenant is also entitled to have appropriate contact information (telephone numbers, email addresses, postal addresses, etc.) and the landlord can be contacted at any point of time.
  • The tenant has the right to privacy. 
  • It is considered unlawful for a landlord to disconnect essential services such as electricity and water or restrict a tenant from using common amenities for recovery of rental dues or for other reasons. 
  • If the landlord harasses the tenant by asking to evict the premises without any lawful reason and fails to accept rent, the tenant can first issue a notice in writing to the landlord, asking for details of a bank into which the tenant can directly deposit the rent to the credit of the landlord. If the landlord fails to respond, the rent can be sent via money order to the landlord. If this attempt to pay the rent also fails, the tenant must immediately file an application before a Rent Control Court to deposit further rents in court.
  • For eviction, the landlord would have to file a petition before the competent Rent Control Court to seek eviction of the tenant. Under the Rent Control Act, landlords can evict tenants only under specific grounds, which include willful default in rent payment, subletting without the prior consent, causing nuisance or when the landlord himself requires premises for personal occupation.
  • The tenant is entitled to reimbursement for any repairs that he/she carries out that are the landlord’s responsibility.
  • The tenant is entitled to have visitors to stay overnight or for short periods, unless specifically forbidden in the tenancy agreement. The landlord must be informed if the tenant has an extra person moving in.
  • The tenant is entitled to a certain amount of notice of the termination of tenancy.
  • The landlord must return the deposit to the Tenant at the end of the lease term with interest set by a statute.

With knowledge of these rights, a tenant can enjoy a perfect living at the house. 

It is worthwhile if some of the important rights of both landlord and the tenant are highlighted in the contract. A simple step like that can save from many complaints, lawsuits and harassment.

Get Professional Legal Help with Your Landlord-Tenant Dispute

Maybe you’ve had enough of trying to negotiate a landlord-tenant dispute on your own. If you aren’t getting the results you were hoping for, you may need some professional guidance on how to move towards a solution. Consider speaking with an experienced, mediator at Vakilno.1 to get helpful legal advice @ vakilnumber1@gmail.com or call at 9115892585