Chennai, Aug 7: Tenants can now breathe easy while house-owners have a tough task ahead as a city court has said that landlords renting out their premises can ask for only one month's rent as advance.
The XIII Small Causes Court recently underlined the precedent established by the Supreme Court.
In a verdict in 1996, the apex court had said, "The landlord is entitled to receive only one month's agreed rent by way of advance and any amount paid in excess of agreed rent... shall be refunded or adjusted towards rent."
The court had then directed a house-owner to adjust the advance amount paid for rent arrears.
Petitioner Nimauthuallah submitted that he had filed aneviction petition under the relevant sections of Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act pertaining to the renting out of his premises to an advocate who had agreed to pay Rs 2,500, excluding electricity charges.
But the tenant defaulted on payment of rent and electricity charges for 11 months from February 1, 2007, to January 31, 2008, amounting to a cumulative Rs 27,500.
So, the tenant could be evicted on the basis of 'wilful default', the petitoner said. The advocate contended that he had given Rs 25,000 as advance to the house-owner, but had failed to get rent receipts.
When the amount was sent via money order, Niamuthullah refused to accept it. So, he moved a small causes court for depositing rent, which allowed his petition.
The lawyer said that the house-owner, in contravention of rules, had collected more than one month's rent as advance and that any pending amount could be adjusted from the advance.
Judge C Sasikumar noted that the advocate had submitted rental receipts as proof. It showed the rent for May and July, 2007, were not paid.
As the house-owner already collected Rs 25,000 as advance, arrears of Rs 5,000 could be adjusted from it.
"The contention of Niamuthullah that (the advocate) had committed wilful default is not acceptable and the court comes to the conclusion that he had not committed wilful default. This petition deserves to be dismissed," said the judge.
The verdict, however, attracted criticism from the legal fraternity. "Whittling down the advance amount to one month is impractical and unfair," said advocate Sanjay Pinto.
Underlining that the rent control Act favoured tenants, he said the law had to be fair to tenants and houseowners.
Evicting a tenant for not paying rent was a cumbersome process and the only safeguard an owner had against default in rent and damage to property or fixtures by a tenant who is often a stranger is the rental advance, he said.