Tag Archives: Relationship of Landlord and Tenant

One Co-Owner – Can Maintain An Action for Eviction

One co-owner, in the absence of any objection from the other co-owners, can maintain an action for eviction against a tenant, without impleading all the co-owners. The governing principle is the doctrine of agency. When one co-owner institutes a suit for eviction against the tenant, it is construed as the suit having been instituted in his own right and also as an agent of the other co-owners. What is of importance is the jural-relationship of the landlord and tenant. Once a co-owner satisfies the description of the landlord, the fact that the other co-owners have not joined in action pales in significance and does not affect the maintainability of the suit. Of course, different considerations come into play when existence of a dispute between the co-owners as regards the institution of the very action of eviction, is brought to the notice of the Court.

A reference in this context can be made to a decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Mohinder Prasad Jain v. Manohar Lal Jain, (2006) 2 SCC 724, wherein it was held as under:

This question now stands concluded by a decision of this Court in India Umbrella Manufacturing Cov. Bhagabandei Agarwalla (Dead) by Lrs. Savitri Agarwalla (Smt.), (2004) 3 SCC 178,wherein the Hon’ble Court opined:

 It is well settled that one of the co-owners can file a suit for eviction of a tenant in the property generally owned by the co-owners. (See Sri. Ram Pasricha v. Jagannath, (1976) 4 SCC 184 and Dhannalal v. Kalawatibai, (2002) 6 SCC 16.This principle is based on the doctrine of agency. One co-owner filing a suit for eviction against the tenant does so on his own behalf in his own right and as an agent of the other co-owners. The consent of other co-owners is assumed as taken unless it is shown that the other co-owners were not agreeable to eject the tenant and the suit was filed in spite of their disagreement. In the present case, the suit was filed by both the co-owners. One of the co-owners cannot withdraw his consent midway the suit so as to prejudice the other co-owner. The suit once filed, the rights of the parties stand crystallised on the date of the suit and the entitlement of the co-owners to seek ejectment must be adjudged by reference to the date of institution of the suit; the only exception being when by virtue of a subsequent event the entitlement of the body of co-owners to eject the tenant comes to an end by act of parties or by operation of law.”

A suit filed by a co-owner, thus, is maintainable in law. It is not necessary for the co-owner to show before initiating the eviction proceeding before the Rent Controller that he had taken option or consent of the other co-owners. However, in the event, a co-owner objects thereto, the same may be a relevant fact. In the instant case, nothing has been brought on record to show that the co-owners of the respondent had objected to eviction proceedings initiated by the respondent herein.

 This aspect was again considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Boorugu Mahadev and Sons v. Sirigiri Narasing Rao, (2016) 3 SCC 343, in the context of the proceedings between a landlord and tenant, governed by the rent control legislation. The Supreme Court enunciated that the concept of ownership and consequently the right to sue, in such cases, has to be distinguished from the one in a title suit. The observations in the said judgment are extracted below:

 It is also now a settled principle of law that the concept of ownership in a landlord-tenant litigation governed by Rent control laws has to be distinguished from the one in a title suit. Indeed, ownership is a relative term, the import whereof depends on the context in which it is used. In rent control legislation, the landlord can be said to be the owner if he is entitled in his own legal right, as distinguished from for and on behalf of someone else to evict the tenant and then to retain control, hold and use the premises for himself. What may suffice and hold good as proof of ownership in landlord-tenant litigation probably may or may not be enough to successfully sustain a claim for ownership in a title suit. (vide Sheela v. Firm Prahlad Rai Prem Prakash(2002) 3 SCC 375).” Madhuri Doulatram Choitram v. Lachmandas Tulsiram Nayar, 2019 SCC Online Bom 6111.

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Once Lease or Tenancy Stands Determined – Tenant’s Right to Possess the Leased Property Ends

In Atma Ram Properties (P) Ltd. v. Federal Motors (P) Ltd., (2005) 1 SCC 705, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that “the litigation goes on for an unreasonable length of time and the tenants in possession of the premises do not miss any opportunity of filing appeals or revisions so long as they can thereby afford to perpetuate the life of litigation and continue in occupation of the premises.” It has, then, observed that once the lease or tenancy stands determined, say, through a decree from a competent court, the tenant’s right to continue to possess the leased property ends. And for his continued use and occupation of the property for any period thereafter, he must pay damages at the rate the landlord could have let out the premises if there had been no tenant or the tenant had vacated with the lease termination. Thus, Atma Ram Properties (P) Ltd. v. Federal Motors (P) Ltd., (2005) 1 SCC 705 has summed up the principles of interim compensation:

(1) while passing an order of stay under Rule 5 of Order 41 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, the appellate Court does have jurisdiction to put the applicant on such reasonable terms as would in its opinion reasonably compensate the decree-holder for loss occasioned by delay in execution of decree by the grant of stay order, in the event of the appeal being dismissed and in so far as those proceedings are concerned. Such terms, needless to say, shall be reasonable;

(2) in case of premises governed by the provisions of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958, in view of the definition of tenant contained in clause (l) of Section 2 of the Act, the tenancy does not stand terminated merely by its termination under the general law; it terminates with the passing of the decree for eviction. With effect from that date, the tenant is liable to pay mesne profits or compensation for use and occupation of the premises at the same rate at which the landlord would have been able to let out the premises and earn rent if the tenant would have vacated the premises. The landlord is not bound by the contractual rate of rent effective for the period preceding the date of the decree; (3) the doctrine of merger does not have the effect of postponing the date of termination of tenancy merely because the decree of eviction stands merged in the decree passed by the superior forum at a later date. Ishwarlal Vrajlal Mistry v. Manohar U. Shetty, Writ Petition No. 13100 of 2018 decided on 18.12.2019.

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“Tenant at Sufferance”

        ‘Tenant at sufferance’ is one who comes into possession of land by lawful title, but who holds it by wrong after termination of term or expiry of lease by efflux of time. The tenant at sufferance is on who wrongfully continues in possession after extinction of a lawful title. There is little difference between him and a trespasser. A “tenancy at sufferance” does not create relationship of landlord and tenant.

        Moreover, even possession of lessee after determination of lease or expiry of period of lease becomes that of “Tenant at Sufferance”, therefore, even a quit notice is not necessary to be given and Section 106, Transfer of Property Act, 1882 is not at all attracted. Relying on earlier decision in R.V. Bhupal Prasad v. State of A.P., (1995) 5 SCC 698, the Hon’ble Apex Court in Sevoke Properties Ltd. v. West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd., AIR 2019 SC 2664 held that once it is admitted by lessee that term of lease has expired, lease stood determined by efflux of time and in such a case, a quit notice under Section 106 of the Transfer of Property is not required to be given. It was held as under:

        “Once the lease stood determined by efflux of time, there was no necessity for a notice of termination under Section 106.” Lov Mandeshwari Saran Singh v. State of U.P., 2020 (138) ALR 845.

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Entertainment of – Release Application

The phrase “entertained” used in the 1st proviso to Section 21(1)(a) of the Uttar Pradesh Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act, 1972 would mean that the period of three years since the date of purchase by the landlord must have expired when the Prescribed Authority is required to entertain the release application on the grounds mentioned in Clause (a) of Section 21(1) of Uttar Pradesh Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act, 1972. This would be a stage reached when the Court applies its judicial mind and takes up the case for decision on merits concerning the grounds mentioned in Clause (a) of Section 21(1) of Uttar Pradesh Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act, 1972. The word “entertained” would necessarily mean entertain the grounds for consideration for the purpose of adjudication of merits and not at any stage prior thereto, i.e. neither at the stage at which the application is filed in the office of the prescribed authority nor at the stage when summons is issued to the tenant. The crux of the conclusion is that by the time the application for possession on the grounds mentioned in clause (a) of Section 21(1) is taken up by the Prescribed Authority for consideration on merits, at least minimum three years period should have elapsed since the date of purchase of the premises by the landlord/landlady. Pradeep Kumar v. Meena Devi Sahu, 2020 (138) ALR 91.

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Failure to Pay Rent – Deliberate Default

In Santosh Mehta v. Om Prakash, (1980) 3 SCC 610, it was held that the power to strike out a party’s defence is an exceptional step and has only to be exercised where a “mood of defiance” and “gross negligence” on the part of the tenant is detected. It was held as under: “We must adopt a socially informed perspective while construing the provisions and then it will be plain that the Controller is armed with a facultative power. He may, or may not strike out the tenant’s defence. A judicial discretion has built-in self-restraint, has the scheme of the statute in mind, cannot ignore the conspectus of circumstances which are present in the case and has the brooding thought playing on the power that, in a court, striking out a party’s defence is an exceptional step, not a routine visitation of a punitive extreme following upon a mere failure to pay rent. First of all, there must be a failure to pay rent which, in the context, indicates wilful failure, deliberate default or volitional non-performance. Secondly, the section provides no automatic weapon but prescribes a wise discretion, inscribes no mechanical consequence but invests a power to overcome intransigence. Thus, if a tenant fails or refuses to pay or deposit rent and the court discerns a mood of defiance or gross neglect, the tenant may forfeit his right to be heard in defence. The last resort cannot be converted into the first resort; a punitive direction of court cannot be used as a booby trap to get the tenant out. Once this teleological interpretation dawns, the mist of misconception about matter-of-course invocation of the power to strike out will vanish. Farewell to the realities of a given case is playing truant with the duty underlying the power. Dina Nath v. Subhash Chand Saini, (2019) 9 SCC 477

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Eviction Suit – Title of Landlord

As regards the relevance of the issue of title of the landlord in an eviction suit under rent laws it is fairly well settled that the impleadment of co-owner/co-sharer to the proceedings is not essential as eviction proceedings can normally be decided on merits in absence of such co-owner/co-sharer. In an eviction suit filed by the landlord, only landlord and tenant are necessary parties and in view thereof title of landlord in an eviction suit is not relevant. If the landlord fails to prove his title but proves relationship of landlord and tenant, and proves existence of any ground pleaded for eviction then his suit would succeed. On the other hand, if the landlord proves his title but fails to prove relationship of landlord and tenant, then his suit would fail. Shahnaj Begum v. Taj Mohammad, 2019 (134) ALR 800.

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