The society has arbitrarily fined the tenant for a lawful act

Question asked on: 13/07/2019

I’m a tenant, and I think I’m being ripped off my money. The scenario is, the rented apartment had an AC, which is very old and did not cool properly. After raising multiple complaints and not getting any help from the owner or the broker, I bought my own AC. Now since my room does not have a place to keep the compressor, I figure I could keep it my flatmates balcony. Which worked, the only thing is the pipe had to go from the wall between our rooms. Since my lease says I can do any structural damage, I put the hose around the wall outside.

After two to three months the society office calls me and since that’s not allowed and I should either take it out or put a grill on the window. Again the grill would be a permanent change, and I didn’t want to spend money on it, I asked the broker to talk to the owner to pay for it (who rudely said no chance they are doing that).

After two weeks of being behind the broker, he says you don’t worry society office must’ve just warned they won’t take any action and will forget about it so don’t do anything. Moreover, so I didn’t. After another month the issue went out of hand, and they wanted it out. The broker got involved again (when I had informed him this would happen). He started telling me can you remove it or come up with any alternative. We did, and we decided to put braces, which I was going to pay for.

The owner doesn’t like this and wanted a grill only (which she doesn’t want to pay for). Thinking I being taken advantage of I said no, not happening either give me an AC or put the grill. The broker in an attempt to diffuse tension said he would pay for it. Then he calls me after a few days. He says there’s no point of him paying for the grill for the owner (which btw is exactly what he expected me to do earlier). He then says he will get the old AC repaired, which is ok with me.

He told the society office it would out in a week. He didn’t give me the repaired AC till two weeks later on a Wednesday. I then had decided to get the new AC out on Sunday on which day I get a message from the owner saying we have been fined 5000₹ for the pipe. The pipe was taken out that day.

I did my part of informing the broker and trying to get it sorted. I even was willing to pay for an alternative. I did not sign or see any document for the society where it says I can’t put a pipe on the wall. It did not cause any damage to the property. Now tell me is there any legal right for them to fine me the 5000₹.

Oh and the owner is the chairman of the society board who between does not like me, and I think all of this is a ruse. Can you please tell me if there is anything that I can do.

Advised by: Shivendra Pratap Singh,

When the landlord let out his house, he has to maintain the house in inhabitable condition and also assure to supply all the necessary amenities. In your case, the air conditioner (fixture) was not working properly, and in that condition, it was inevitable for you to install and new AC.

Whenever a new fixture is necessary to install in the inhabitable house, either owned or rented, so it becomes essential to do some modification in the house. You did so because the old AC was not working and the landlord was not keen to co-operate in the matter.

The fine imposed by society is unlawful and arbitrary. Society has no power to levy such hefty fine without appreciating the facts of the case. It is not mandatory that each act of tenant must reflect in the rent agreement. The tenant has inherent power to make some minor alteration in the house if the landlord refuses or neglects to do so.

However, it is the paramount duty of the landlord to maintain essential amenities in the house. Installation of AC in full working condition is the facility which increases the amount of rent. You have paid high rent in lieu of the facilities provided by the landlord.

You have done your part by taking out the pipe from the balcony of neighbour’s flat. You may restore the wall so as to bring it in the previous condition. It was not a crime like mischief as far as the circumstances of your case are concerned.

You have the right to install a new AC if the old one was not working well. However, it was the duty of the landlord to repair it so as to work properly. You said that you raised multiple complaints to the landlord and got no response from him; hence, it was the last resort to install your own AC. Your act is entirely lawful and according to the provision made in the rent control act. If the landlord files any case against you, he will not succeed.

You should not pay the fine because the act of society is ultra vires. Society acted arbitrarily without allowing you to be heard. It has levied a fine for the lawful and bona-fide act of the tenant. You did nothing wrong. Instead of it, you have exercised your duty to maintain the basic amenity whereas the landlord refused to do so.  

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Shivendra Pratap Singh

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