Word On The Street

Why Rent Regulation has been a hot topic this election season

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In 1958 was passed a law we know as Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958. In 1995, a revised bill was passed and received presidential assent, but the government, under pressure from traders’ bodies, could never notify it. Later, in the year 1997, an amendment also did not get passed in the Rajya Sabha.

In simple words, properties in Delhi are still governed by a law that was made 56 years ago. While most agree that the 1958 law favours tenants, one section of the tenant community pleads that the defunct state of the law allows landlords to exploit them.

This section is that of outstation students studying at colleges in Delhi. It’s safe to say that these students, miles away from home, are the most defenceless lot of tenants and do not possess any choice but to heed to the demands of their landlords.

There are an estimated 2 lakh students enrolled in Delhi University, including UG and PG students, whereas the number of hostel seats available is a mere 6000. DU, being a central and not a state university (as was recently stressed upon when a 90% quota for Delhiites was demanded), should expect students from all 36 states and union territories. However, to accommodate all these students, the University has no means. Students are also known to have not taken admission in certain colleges solely because of lack of a hostel.

This lack of hostel accommodation more than often leads students to the doors of ‘rent mafias’ who have sprouted around practically every college of DU. These mafias, apart from charging exorbitant rates for rooms, are known for committing felonies. In many rentals, landlords do not provide a formal Rent Agreement which is supposed to act as the student’s address proof. While disclosing rental income to municipal corporations and the Income Tax Department, the rent originally charged is seldom ever disclosed, thereby making the additional money acquired ‘black’. Some landlords also ask for advance payment for the entire semester or year. The 1958 law, however, rules that collecting an advance of more than one month’s stay is a crime.

In recent days, ahead of DUSU elections, political student bodies have taken up the issue of inadequate hostel facilities and rent regulation by means of rallies and signature campaigns. In actuality, a repeal of this archaic law was initiated by the UPA government in 2013 and a new law is expected to take shape in the next 2-3 years. Harsh as it may sound, it is just short of impossible for Delhi University to provide for even nearly all outstation students. Moreover, how much of a say DUSU or student bodies have in these matters is also up for speculation.

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