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Know Your Tenant

House and flat owners must get their tenants verified by police

The state police have sought changes in the rules for securing better compliance by flat or house owners in tenant verification. The police want powers to register first information reports against erring owners of residential properties who let them without getting police verification of the tenants done. The police want to make non-compliance a cognizable offence. If the changes sought by the police are approved by the state government, the police can go ahead and register an FIR against anyone failing to comply with tenant verification. Under the present regimen, the police have to get the approval of the district administration to act against those failing to comply with tenant verification. Though the state made tenant verification compulsory a few years ago, the compliance by house owners who have been renting out their premises has been far from satisfactory.

It is apparent that the police have moved for more powers after they found themselves handicapped in dealing with errant house owners. With all house or flat owners not seeking verification of their tenants there is a possibility of criminals, who are on the run after committing crimes in their states, managing to stay undetected in Goa. The police verify only those cases that are referred to by house owners, while tenants in the residential properties whose owners do not submit the duly filled forms for tenant verification to the local police go unchecked. Non-reporting of renting to local bodies and police also help the owners of houses or flats to conceal their income and avoid taxes. Many of them do not even allow their tenants to give their address to any local authority to prove their bonafides, which in turn helps them hide their unreported operations. Many of the house and flat owners seek rent from tenants in cash to conceal any proof of tenancy from the authorities.

The state continues to receive migrant labourers from other states to meet the needs of private and public sector works. The influx sustains the demand for cheap accommodation and house owners in various parts of Goa have rented out their rooms or built extensions to their houses, some of which lack basic facilities. Many house owners have avoided reporting tenants to the police and panchayats. According to officials, there have been cases in which migrants have expressed willingness to pay Rs 1,000 or more to avoid tenant verification by local police. Such instances only give room for doubt about the intentions of the house owners as well as tenants. Although it would be unfair to assume that all those house owners and tenants who evade verification have criminal activities to hide, it needs to be understood by both the sections that there have been numerous cases in which criminal elements have hired rooms or flats or parts or whole of houses. All over the country, and in most countries of the world, a strict vigilance system has been set up to screen migrants and tenants, for though ninety-nine per cent of them would be innocent, the remaining one per cent could take advantage of the laxity and carry out terror and criminal activities. They may include criminals who are in the sleeper cells of militant groups. There have been several cases in which drug traders have been caught by the state police living in rooms or flats leased in to them by owners who never reported them for tenant verification.

The police are seeking direct powers to proceed against erring house owners because sometimes the district administration sits over the files of complaints from the police or does not give them sanction for action. It is not known on what grounds the district administration usually refused the sanction. As verification of tenants would help in securing the state from alleged criminals, the government should give its approval to the changes sought by police. We hope direct powers would leave no room for the police to have any excuse for defence if any criminal activity originates in a tenanted property.  While granting powers to the police the government should make the changes in the rules in such a way that there is no scope for manipulation and selective use of the process of law in this regard.

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