This month, when I called up the landlord to check when and where he would meet me for rent, he as usual didn’t pick up the call. He called me up next morning and said he was half an hour away from where he would like to meet me. Having learnt my lessons and grown wiser, this time, I told him to call me upon reaching the spot and I would be there within 10 minutes. He never called up. Next morning, he again called me and said I would receive a call once he was at the place of meeting. But he didn’t call.
That day in the evening, I SMSed him asking for his account number so that I could transfer the rent online, sparing myself the ordeal of having to go through so much. He didn’t respond to the SMS.
This reluctance to receive money was something new. Earlier, although he used to keep me waiting, he answered phone calls and turned up for the rent. I knew he needed the money. What then was stopping him from coming?
I told my neighbour about the whole rent episode. He said the ownership of the house has changed and the current owner is the jeweller, whose jewellry shop is below my room on the ground floor. The neighbour, who is on good terms with the jeweller, said he would talk to the jeweler and get back to me on this.
Being a gentleman, if the neighbour told so much then there must be an iota of truth, I thought. But I wasn’t comfortable with him talking to the jeweller on my behalf, although I was reluctant to talk to the jeweller myself. If the house was the jeweller’s property, then it’s for him to approach me for rent, I reasoned.
All this happened over a weekend and once the following week started, I stopped being so concerned, but not for long. On Tuesday night, I found an SMS from the landlord asking me to call him up the next day. I decided as long as I wasn’t sure that he was the continuing owner of the building, I wouldn’t give him the rent. And the landlord would never reveal the true story. He had told me earlier about a possible sale of his property but hadn’t told it was the building in question.
I also reasoned that while both the landlord and the jeweller were crooks, the jeweller was the better of the two in that he was visible staying in the same building and unlike the landlord, I at least don’t know him to run away from anyone. Additionally, he is also financially healthier than the landlord, so I would be happier with him taking responsibility of returning my security deposit, a tidy sum. I made up my mind to talk to the jeweller next morning.
He said what my friend had predicted sometime back. The landlord had borrowed money from a bank mortgaging the house papers. When the landlord defaulted on the payment, the bank decided to auction the house. Upon coming to know that the house was going under the hammer, the jeweller together with a builder friend of his went and paid 10 lakhs to the bank to stop them from auctioning the property. Couple of weeks later, he garnered some more money and paid another 30 lakhs to the bank. The worth of the house has been assessed to be 1.5 crore. And that leaves 75 lakhs more for the jeweller to pay the bank.
I understood this development had been unfolding over quite sometime and the landlord had kept me in the dark. I asked the jeweller about who should I pay the rent to. He said to him.
I went back to my room and phoned the landlord to tell him the jeweller’s version of the story and informed him that I wouldn’t give him the rent this month onwards. I had expected some resistance from him, but I was in for a surprise. After hearing me out, he submissively said, “Oh, ok, no problem.” And I cut the call.
The submission confirmed the jeweller’s version.
So, according to me, this is how it stands. The building’s official owner is still the old landlord, but the ownership is disputed as the property has been forfeited by the bank. When the jeweller pays the remaining part of property worth, the ownership will go to him. A property dispute lawyer will be able to deduce it better.