In India, HC judge recuses in Rent Act case

 

 

 

 

By: Abhinav Garg, TNN

NEW DELHI: A petition challenging the Rent Control Act, 1958, has been transferred to another bench because one of the judges hearing the case is a tenant who pays rent for a property falling under this Act.

A bench of chief justice D Murugesan and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw on Friday transferred the batch of petitions filed by women landlords in the capital to another bench, after the petitioners sought recusal of justice Endlaw.

Citing the assets/properties declared by justice Endlaw under the Right to Information Act and posted on the HC website, advocate Shobha Aggarwal, president, Committee For Repeal of Delhi Rent Control Act and one of the petitioners, had urged the judge to recuse from hearing the case.

In the recusal application, Aggarwal contended she learnt from the disclosures made under the RTI Act that justice Endlaw’s assets in real estate or investments include an old tenancy premises in the Walled City area.

She said the premises were earlier occupied by the judge’s father. Pointing out that the property is known to be under rent control, the application cited this as “one of the several grounds for justice Endlaw to recuse himself from the case”.

Elaborating the reasons for seeking recusal, the application argued that if the HC were to declare Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 unconstitutional, “tenants like justice Endlaw would have to vacate the premises immediately. Thus, there is a natural apprehension in the minds of the petitioners that because of the conflict of interest involved, justice may elude them.”

In 2010, the HC had decided to entertain the petition challenging the DRC Act, 1958, which is being keenly followed by beleaguered landlords who have been getting paltry rents for the prime properties they let out. It had then issued notices to the Centre and Delhi governments asking them to furnish a reply.

Through a series of rulings, the Supreme Court has already tilted the balance in favour of landlords — allowing them to invoke need as a ground even for commercial properties. The only defence still available to a tenant for not paying market rent is the DRC Act which places a ceiling on rent in the capital.

Arguing that DRCA should be done away with as it is a five-decade old Act that fails to adhere to the present rent structure, the petitioners have given examples of prime properties where tenants have been paying paltry rents for years and can’t be evicted. The Act, passed way back in 1958, is an archaic legislation liable to be struck down as unconstitutional and violative of Article 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India, the petitioners argue. “Lakhs of landlords who own property worth crores are getting monthly rents of Rs 400, Rs 600 or at the most Rs 1,200 and are living in a miserable state as they do not get the worth of their property,” the petitioners lament, adding tenants, who would have otherwise had to shell out about Rs 2-4 lakh rent for the same properties, are paying a pittance to the landlords.

 

Source: The Times of India

Landlords must be aware of rent control regime

Royal Gazette Online

Neil Molyneux | Published Jul 23, 2012 at 8:00 am

The objectives of Bermuda’s rent control regime are to provide tenants with security of tenure so that a court order is required to evict a tenant and also to prevent landlords from arbitrarily and unfairly increasing a tenant’s rent payments. In this column, I will address the latter objective.

Currently, residential properties with an annual rental value (“ARV”) threshold of $27,000 or less fall under the rent control regime. Previous AVR thresholds have been set at $24,000 or less, $16,200 or less and $9,900 or less.

A property can easily fall into or out of rent control, either when the threshold itself is altered, or when the ARV of a property is altered. The best way to check if a property is or has ever been rent controlled, is to contact the Office of the Rent Commissioner.

A property rented for the first time (eg a newly-constructed unit), may be rented for any amount, even if the property falls under rent control. Subsequent rent increases, whether to the same or to a different tenant, are restricted. In those cases, rent should not be higher than the rent charged to the first tenant of a rent-controlled property (even if by a previous owner/landlord) unless:

– the landlord and tenant have agreed an increase, following which the landlord has lodged notice with the Rent Commissioner, and the landlord holds a copy of such notice, duly endorsed by the Rent Commissioner, and

– the landlord has received the Rent Commissioner’s approval for an increase.

If a landlord applies for an increase to a tenanted, rent-controlled property, the Rent Commissioner consults with the tenant. If there is no tenant, then the landlord simply makes application to the Rent Commissioner, who makes the determination.

If a landlord or a tenant is dissatisfied with the Rent Commissioner’s determination, either may lodge an application for review by the Rent Commissioner. In such a case, the Rent Commissioner shall consult the Rent Increases Advisory Panel and then make his final determination.

A prospective tenant cannot agree a rent increase to a rent-controlled property. In such a circumstance, a landlord should lodge an application for increase with the Rent Commissioner.

Often a landlord does not know of the last authorised rent because the landlord is a new owner, or has simply lost track (eg with the property falling into and out of rent control over time). In the former case, a new landlord must beware if a previous landlord unlawfully increased rent, the current landlord may be penalised, even where he had no knowledge of the unlawful increase.

Contravention of rent control can result in criminal prosecution, or in a tenant’s claim for up to two years’ rent paid in excess of the controlled rent. Continue reading

Montgomery County Executive Leggett proposes 11-point renters plan

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Short of rent control, proposal seeks more transparency

by Kate S. Alexander,  Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 18, 2012

As the Montgomery County Council discusses renter rights, County Executive Isiah Leggett has offered an 11-point plan to strengthen the county’s voluntary rental guidelines.

Leggett (D) opposes rent control because it could stifle economic development and limit affordable housing stock.

Still, he said he believes changes are necessary to better serve renters.

Leggett’s plan comes as the county’s Planning Housing and Economic Development committee continues discussions of rental issues, during which Councilman Marc B. Elrich floated the idea of rent stabilization.

“I feel it is not wise to pursue that effort,” Leggett said of rent stabilization, adding “but I do believe there are things we can do.”

Leggett’s proposal would not prevent large rent increases, but rather make increases more transparent. It would give tenants more warning, justification for increases and time to find alternative housing, he said.

Mandatory reporting of rent increases, unit by unit, would be required under Leggett’s plan, as would enforcement of existing fines of up to $1,000 for landlords who do not submit a required rental survey. Data collected by the survey would be published on the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) website. Continue reading

Grand Jury criticizes Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board

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June 26, 2012 9:27 am by Frances Dinkelspiel

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Berkeley voters passed a rent stabilization law in 1980, and the law now covers 19,000 rental units in the city. Photo: Tracey Taylor

 

A highly critical report by the Alameda County Grand Jury has found that the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board is a “self-sustaining bureaucracy that operates without effective oversight and accountability.”

This rent board pays Jay Kelekian, its director, $183,000 a year to oversee a $4 million budget and manage just 21 employees – which is more than the city Berkeley pays its director of public works, who oversees 326 employees and has a $90 million annual budget, according to the report.

“The executive director makes an exorbitant salary that comprises nearly 5% of the entire budget of the agency,” according to the report. “The Grand Jury finds this unacceptable and concludes the board needs to reprioritize services and to reduce costs, not only in its administration but in services to the citizens of Berkeley.”

The rent board also pays its board members an “excessive” $500 a month and provides health benefits, according to the report. BRSB also spends $50,000 a year on a Sacramento lobbyist.

The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board is able to pay its administrators so handsomely because it imposes some of the highest rental registration fees in the state, according to the report. Berkeley assesses landlords $194 per rental unit, compared to Oakland’s assessment of $30 per unit, and San Francisco’s $25 per unit assessment. While Santa Monica assesses landlords $156 per rental unit, it also permits landlords to recoup those costs from tenants by levying a $13 monthly fee. Berkeley, in contrast, does not allow landlords to recoup their costs, according to the report. Property owners can only assess tenants $4 a month for a total of $48. Continue reading