Mumbai: In April, in a much-needed relief to renters in the city, the housing department of the government of Maharashtra had asked landlords and houseowners to consider deferring rent collection for three months and to refrain from evicting tenants, as the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak had impacted the incomes of many.
However, this relief seems to be short-lived for many tenants in Mumbai because despite government notification, many landlords are forcing their tenants to pay rents.
Rajiv Kumar, a freelance sound designer in the Hindi film industry, has been renting a 1-BHK flat in Andheri east for the last three years. He has had no earnings since April but managed to cobble up the rent payment for that month. After the housing department issued the notification Kumar requested his landlord to defer the rent by a month, but the latter was reluctant.
"My earnings have stopped since April but I somehow managed to pay my rent. Since the cost of living in Mumbai is high, 30 per cent of my income goes towards rent, so I requested my landlord to defer payment for a month. However, he didn't agree," said Kumar.
Echoing Kumar's sentiment, marketing executive Manashree Singh said her landlord had already sent her an eviction notice as she had failed to pay the rent last month.
"I spoke with my landlord and asked him to consider defer rent payment by a month. But this month, he directly handed me a letter which asked me to pay not just this month's rent but also last month's dues, failing which I would be required to vacate the flat," said Singh.
A similar predicament is being faced by Biswatosh Chatterjee, who works as an illustrator at an advertising firm in the city. Chatterjee said initially the landlord was quite lenient but as the lockdown keeps getting extended, the latter is not ready to hold out anymore. "Last month, I had a word with my landlord and he allowed me to pay half the rent. However, this month he has asked me to pay the entire amount plus the balance from last month" said Chatterjee.
However, property agents defended the owners, saying most flat-owners are dependent on the revenue generated by leasing out their properties and hence, are compelled to demand payment from their tenants. "Almost every owner in Mumbai is a senior citizen and they do not have any alternative source of income. They are solely dependent on rental revenue, so they are compelled to put pressure on their tenants," said Niraj Karnik, a property agent.