In view of the COVID-19 outbreak and a nationwide lockdown, a tenant pleaded to invoke Force Majeure and further requesting suspension of rent for the lockdown period. The Delhi High Court, however, rejected the plea to suspend the rent while the tenant is still residing in premises, Live Law reported. The decision was given by a bench of Justice Pratibha M.Singh in connection to an eviction case filed in 2017. Offering some relief to the petitioner, the court deferred the payment of rent.
It is to note that Force Majeure can be invoked after the occurrence of an event which is neither anticipated in law nor controlled by nature and includes events like floods, hurricanes, riots, wars or strikes. The court said in order to invoke this clause, both the tenant as well as the landlord have to agree to the severe conditions. Further, in such circumstances, if the clause had been revoked, it could mean that the tenant had to claim the contract with the landlord as void and surrender the property.
The petitioner had filed for suspension of his rent for a property in Khan Market as he was not able to use the premise for the commercial purpose after a lockdown was imposed in order to curb the Coronavirus transmission, according to Live Law’s report. While the High Court did not rule in the favour of suspending, it has agreed for deferment in rent payment.
After the tenant lost the eviction suit filed in 2017, the tenant had agreed to pay Rs 3.5 lakh rent for a month in order to stay, the report highlighted and since the operations were suspended, it became difficult for the tenant to pay the rent. The court asserted that whether or not to pay the rent for the period under lockdown will arise in thousands of cases.
On March 29 this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs had released a statement stopping many landlords to evict students, migrant labourers and workers for a month if they were unable to pay the rent. Many people across the country had been facing evictions since then as they are not able to clear their dues. Many workers have been returning to their hometowns after failing to pay for their rented accommodation.