The meaning of the terms ‘Landlord’ and ‘Tenant’ both have been defined under the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act. We will learn about these two meanings and that will help us interpret the Act in a sense that the legislators have enacted. It is also important for us to learn about the relationship between the landlord and the tenant.
Who is a landlord?
In general parlance, a landlord may be any person who owns the premises. But under the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act (WBPT Act) the term landlord has been defined under section 2 (C) and it reads as follows:
“landlord” includes any person who, for the time being, is receiving, or is entitled to receive, the rent for any premises, whether on his own account or on account of or on behalf of, or for the benefit of, any other person or as a trustee, guardian, or receiver for any other person or who would so receive the rent or be entitled to receive the rent, if the premises were let to a tenant.WBPT Act
Therefore, it is evident from section 2(C) of the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act that the landlord must not necessarily be the owner of the premises. The definition of the landlord is not exhaustive but indicative.
In other words, the term ‘landlord’ under this act includes any person who:-
- Is receiving or is entitled to receive rent for any premises
- The premises must not necessarily be owned by him
- The rent must be recieved in an account owned by him or in account of someone who has entrusted him as a trustee or a guardian or for some other person for the benefit of that person.
- Any person who would recieve rent or be entitled to recieve rent if the premises were let to a tenant.
Who is a tenant?
The definition of the term ‘tenant’ has been extensively defined by the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act under section 2(G) and it reads as follows:
(g) “tenant” means any person by whom or on whose account or behalf the rent of any premises is or, but for a special contract, would be payable, and includes any person continuing in possession after termination of his tenancy and, in the event of death of any tenant, also includes, for a period not exceeding five years from the date of death of such tenant or from the date of coming into force of this Act, whichever is later, his spouse, son, daughter, parent and the widow of his predeceased son, who were ordinarily living with the tenant up to the date of death of the tenant as the members of his family and were dependent on him and who do not own or occupy any residential premises, and 2 [in respect of premises let out for non-residential purpose his spouse, son, daughter and parent who were ordinarily living with the tenant up to the date of his death as members of his family, and were dependant on him or a person authorised by the tenant who is in possession of such premises] but shall not include any person against whom any decree or order for eviction has been made by a Court of competent jurisdiction:
Provided that the time-limit of five years shall not apply to the spouse of the tenant who was ordinarily living with the tenant up to his death as a member of his family and was dependent on him and who does not own or occupy any residential premises, Provided further that the son, daughter parent or the widow of the predeceased son of the tenant who was ordinarily residing with the tenant in the said premises up to the date of death of the tenant as a member of his family and was dependent on him and who does not own or occupy any residential premises, shall have a right of preference for tenancy in a fresh agreement in respect of such premises 1 [on condition of payment of fair rent]. This proviso shall apply mutatis mutandis to premises let out for non-residential purpose.WBPT Act
Section 2(g) mentions that a tenant is any person by whom rent is payable or on account or behalf of whom rent is payable or under a special contract would be payable. The section also clearly mentions that a tenant even after termination of his tenancy will continue to be a tenant unless evicted by due process of law.
The other part of this section delves to define tenancy in case of the death of the tenant. We’ll come to that in a bit.
The West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act categorizes tenants into two types namely
1. Contractual Tenants: In this case, the rights of tenancy flows through a contractual agreement between the tenant and the landlord.
2. Statutory Tenant: In this case, the rights of tenancy flows through a statute and not necessarily through an express contract or agreement.
The second part of this definition enlarges the meaning of “Who may be a statutory tenant?'”.
The latest amendment to the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act has provided that after the death of the tenant, his spouse, son, daughter, parent, and the widow of his predeceased son, who were ordinarily living with the tenant up to the date of death of the tenant as the members of his family and were dependent on him and who do not own or occupy any residential premises would come under the purview of the tenant for a period not exceeding 5 years as defined in section 2(g). That after the period of 5 years, the same would be entitled to first preference when it comes to tenancy provided that a fair rent is agreed upon.
It is also mentioned that the 5-year time limit will not be applicable to the spouse of the tenant when he/she was residing with the tenant at the time of the death as a family member and he/she does not own any residential premises within the vicinity of the tenanted premises.
The provisions of this section apply mutatis mutandis i.e as far as applicable to non-residential premises too.
so, the above definition explains, Can the legal heirs of the tenant continue possession of the premises after the death of the tenant?
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