Has the time come to convert Leave & License agreements to Tenancy?

At the outset I would like to thank Bombay Samachar for opening up its paper as a medium through which community members can bravely express their views on issues that affect the community in general and Bombay Parsi Punchayet in particular.

It has now been a year since I stood seventh in the October 2015 Trustees’ election of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet. I had been repeatedly asked to write about the various BPP news items we all read on a weekly basis in our community papers as well as the national press, however I had desisted, saying that we need to get on with the matters at hand in the community and let the elected representatives in the BPP resolve these burning issues amicably.

However in the recent past I have been repeatedly asked as to what exactly is the position and views of the BPP’s elected representatives today as regards Flat transfers and leave and licenses. That’s when I realised that nobody really knows what is exactly happening. I was asked whether there are any established norms set up where tenants/licensees can surrender or sell their flats when they wish to leave the country or go back to their native place or

any norms where people could purchase or bid for flats in

the colonies which are still lying vacant.

That’s when I realised that there does not seem to be any cohesive policy at all on this which has been communicated to the community. There are no policy decisions being shared at all with the community and transparency and accountability is virtually non-existent due to which there are all sorts of rumours of favouritism and suppositions being circulated. It would be lovely if there is some continuity of thought and action in the BPP. The old BPP had a Merit Rating Scheme, though not perfect which brought some clarity when it came to allotting of flats. I am told that the current board has scrapped the Merit Rating Scheme in its entirety and have begun allotting flats to beneficiaries on an ad-hoc basis and there is no public communication or transparency in these allotments.

What will happen to the many occupants who are on Leave and License? Are the Leave and License agreements going to be converted to tenancy as promised in various elections in the past? How will a leave and Licensee be compensated if he or she decides to vacate and move elsewhere?I truly believe that if we get some kind of community consensus on these issues it would be for the better of the community. It is better to know the path ahead and not the constant uncertainty. The BPP in the past came up with the Leave and License agreements and I believe that the answer should also come from there. There are currently numerous people living in the various colonies on Leave and License and all these people are surely keen on knowing their fate and understanding the exact stand of the BPP. I am also given to understand that various Leave and Licenses are still to be registered on some ground or the other, while some want to get names of their family members added for a smooth transmission of the property while others await the availability of trustees and their representatives . The BPP has always maintained that Leave and License was necessary to protect the “parsi only covenant”, I would like to throw this open to the community to understand if there is any other manner, lets say by giving an undertaking or an affidavit that no non parsi’s will be inducted and the person concerned agrees to forgo his tenancy at that stage. Can we as a community do this. Would this assist the community in saving a significant amount of money which are currently being paid to the Government by way of Stamp Duty and registration in addition to the various processing fees, legal formalities and costs of visiting the courts.

I am given to understand that Stamp Duty and Registration Charges for tenanted premises in Mumbai are pretty steep already running into lakhs (roughly 60% of 90% of the ready reckoner value of an ownership flat of similar built up area in that locality) and are likely to be increased significantly especially in South Mumbai in the coming years, whilst L&L stamp duty is just Rs. 500/ to Rs. 1000/ per year of license. This is a large expense for our community which is going out of the community coffers, but I am sure that if a choice is given to the community most members would rather pay a higher stamp duty and registration charges for tenancy agreement once and for all instead of the nuisance of renewal L&L every five years. The anxiety and stress of running around to complete these formalities especially for the elderly and the less fortunate cannot even be measured. But for those who cannot afford this one time payment the only alternative is L&L but with an auto renewal clause which the Trustees were advocating at one time but not anymore due to changes in the stamp duty charges.

Add to this the new nuisance of the actual calculation of the Stamp duty with the various combinations of deposits, both refundable and non refundable. The latest move of the Maharashtra Government of e-Registration is another challenge for our community, the majority of whom are currently not well placed to comply with all the provisions of the e-Registration.

Our trustees indeed need to review the provisions of the Leave and License agreements many of the clauses of which have lost their relevance ages ago. They indeed need to review and ascertain for themselves if it is justified to deploy a large monitoring staff, advocates and the time that the signatories spend at the stamp office on a day to day basis. Is it justified to expect our occupants to time and again shell out license fees, stamp fees and professional fees in addition to the loss of a working day to attend the registration process only because the guardians of the trust have not been able to devolve better alternatives to safeguard transmission. Can these resources and funds be better utilized perhaps towards endowment of seats in engineering and management colleges for our youth. Time

has come for this community

which boasts of some of the

most elite professionals to stand united to find better alternatives than this.

I would sincerely hope that we can once again review this and see if the community would be better placed to move towards rental agreements so as to give a sense of security to the Occupants rather than the risks involved inleave and license agreements.

The community needs to thoroughly scrutinise the demerits inherent in Leave & License and build a consensus to ensure all allotments only on rental basis as well as conversion of all Leave & License Agreements to deemed tenancy basis.

Yours Sincerely,

Xerxes Dastur

Published on Mumbai Samachar