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No second chance for Delhi tenants

If you are tenant in Delhi and default on paying rent for the second time, get ready to pack up.

delhi Updated: Jul 17, 2009 01:05 IST
Satya Prakash

If you are tenant in Delhi and default on paying rent for the second time, get ready to pack up.

In an important judgment affecting lakhs of tenants in the Capital, the Supreme Court has ruled that a tenant is liable to be evicted if he makes a “second default” in payment of rent.

Against the first default in payment of rent, he/she is protected from eviction under Section 14 (2) of the Delhi Rent (Control) Act, 1958.

Reversing a December 2007 order of the Delhi High Court, a bench headed by Justice Tarun Chaterjee ordered eviction of Kishan Chand, a tenant in a house owned by Sarla Goel and others (House No. 18/15, Mandir Wali Gali, Yusuf Sarai, New Delhi) after the former defaulted on payment the second time. The landlord had filed the case in 1999.

The HC had altered the order passed by Additional Rent Controller Delhi directing the tenant to vacate the premises on the ground of second default.

The SC directed Chand “to deliver peaceful and actual possession” of the premises to the landlord within six months.

Interestingly, the tenant had sent rent to the landlord through a money order but the latter didn’t accept it. Despite that the SC held the tenant had defaulted.

The court virtually amended Section 27 of the Act, according to which in case the landlord does not accept the rent, the tenant “may” deposit it with the Additional Rent Controller’s court.

“…Considering the scope and object of the Act and the provisions of the same, we are of the view that the word ‘may’ in the context of the Act, shall be construed as ‘shall’ and therefore, the tenant shall deposit the rent after refusal by the landlord and, accordingly, having not done so, he is liable to be evicted,” the court said.

The court took note of the fact that the tenant had availed the benefit of Section 14(2) of the Act (for the first default) on 3rd of December 2001 through an order passed by the Additional Rent Controller, Delhi.

It also noted that the landlord had issued demand notice to the tenant regarding arrears of rent for three months —January to March 2003.

The landlord refused to accept the rent sent by the tenant through money order. The court said that after the landlord refused to accept the rent, “it was the duty of the tenant to deposit such rent before the Rent Controller as prescribed in Section 27 of the Act. Admittedly, this step was not taken by the respondent (tenant), which is mandatory in nature…”