Due to the outbreak of the pandemic in the country and lockdown being imposed many enterprises were un-operational owing to which the economy toppled down at a global level. This is the most-deadliest pandemic in the history of mankind. Due to the businesses being shutdown completely during the lockdown and the fear of catching the virus among the people after the lockdown prevented the businesses from making profits owing to which there were thousands of layoffs and salary cuts of the existing employees across the country. For example, in the year 2020 Uber being worst hit due to the pandemic laid of over 3500 employees. In such a situation where businesses were incurring huge losses and layoffs being done at large it was difficult for the business entities and the common man as well to pay rent. Looking at this situation the National Executive Committee in 2020 exercised its powers conferred to it under u/s 10(2)(I) of the Disaster Management Act and prompted the central/state governments and the union territories of the country to impose lockdown with strict measures being implemented for the same. Seeing the large moment of the labor force to their respective hometowns from several parts of the country including the capital of the country an order on march 29, 2020 was passes which stated the following:
- The landlords of places where the migrant workers reside shall not demand rent for a one-month period from them.
- Landlords forcing the laborers and the students to vacate their premises shall be liable under the Disaster Management Act.
The rights and obligation of the tenants in the following circumstances are as follows:
- Tenants who are not in a position to pay rent to their landlords owing to such troubled times can ask for extensions for the payment of rent due or can amicably reach a settlement with their respective landlords.
- The tenants cannot be forced to vacate their premises without having been given a 30 days prior notice by their respective landlords which is also prescribed under the law. The tenant gets a three-month time period after the notice of eviction is received by him/her for the repayment of the amount of rent due to the landlord.
- In the case of tenancy agreements for a commercial property, the tenants can make use of a Force Majeure clause in the agreement. ForceMajeure clause states that the duty and obligations of the party to the agreement can be waived off or can even be permanently suspended if an event which is beyond the control of the parties happens thereby rendering the performance of the contract impossible. The usage of this clause entirely differs from case to case and depends upon the what interpretations the courts have to make in this regard. In the case OF RAMANAND AND OTHERS V GIRISH SONI AND ANOTHER the Delhi high court rejected the application filled by the tenant for the permanent suspension of rent for the period of lockdown using the Force Majeure clause. The court provided relief to the tenant by not providing permanent suspension of the rent but instead granted deferred payment of the rent due to the landlord for that period. According to this decision it can be well understood that mere existence of the aforementioned clause cannot be sued for waving of the rentals but depends entirely on the facts and circumstances of the case. The rentals cannot be completely waived off unless it is contractually specified in the contract that the clause can be used by the tenant for the waiver of rentals or suspension of rent when the tenant is not being able to access the premises due to reasons similar to those of the current pandemic.
- Tenants who are associated with the medical field and are doctors, nurses etc. cannot be stopped by their landlord of society’s in-charge from entering their own rented premises for the mere fact that they are working as covid warriors. If this harassment is being suffered by such tenants, then in that case, they can file a complain regarding the same to their nearest Police Station and rest will be taken care of by them.
- Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 explicitly specifies that anyone found breaking any rule issued under the Act would be prosecuted under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.
Furthermore, Section 4 of the Act states that any individual who has been lawfully obeying the instructions supplied during such a period would not be liable to any litigation brought against him for obeying the government's instructions. Therefor the tenants who are not in a position to pay can postpone the payment of their rent due to landlord but in the mean-time it is their moral duty to take good care of the property of the landlord and provide him necessary maintenance for the same and on the other hand if the tenant is able to pay the rent, then he would be liable to make the timely payment of the rent due to the landlord.