CHENNAI: A couple of weeks ago, S Madhav received a ‘maintenance bill’ from the owner of his Chennai apartment, indicating the Rs 1.25 lakh deposit wouldn’t be returned.

With Madhav and his cotenants in their native places due to lockdown, the owner began ‘maintenance’ work. “We were maintaining the flat very well. There was a leakage on the wooden floor of the hall when we moved in. The wetness eventually spoiled the wood and now the owner says we are responsible,” said Madhav, a BTech student at a popular city college. “My certificates are there. I don’t know whether the workers doing the maintenance have misplaced them,” he said.

Several students in the city, particularly women, are facing such problems. S Beena Cherian (name changed) had no rental dues but her landlord wanted her to leave the flat in a month. “My two friends and I are in our native places in Kerala, having rushed home without taking our valuables. We can’t go to Guduvancherry where the flat is and vacate it because of Covid restrictions. We don’t know what to do,” she said.

Many students opt for private stay because they cannot afford high hostel fees in colleges.

S Navin Nair, who has just completed visual communication at SRM University, said the landlord didn’t return the ₹1lakh deposit when he and three others vacated the flat a week ago. “He said the amount would be adjusted for maintenance. We couldn’t say anything because we had to pick up our valuables, mainly certificates from the flat,” said Navin.

A P Paramesh, a final year student of mechanical engineering, was charged ₹18,000 for painting and other maintenance charges. “He [the owner] didn’t want to return the deposit. The details in the bill don’t make sense. He calculated it based on his whims and fancies. It’s unfair,” he said.

Many landlords say they are resorting to such steps as they haven’t been getting rents from tenants, mostly students. K Rajagopal, who has let out his Guduvancherry flat for rent, said he had told his tenant not to pay rent for two months. “But I can’t do more than this because I need to pay the bank the monthly loan. Even though most students stay together, they don’t take responsibility together,” he said.

Madhav said many like him would be in trouble if the situation continued. “I have vacated my apartment. I have to find one soon.”



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