KATHMANDU, Feb 28: For Sangeeta Poudel, 25, reaching the top of a three-storey house, where she lives in a rented flat on the ground floor, is very exhausting as she is seven months pregnant.
Irrespective of the difficulty, Poudel, who lives in Kaushaltar of Bhaktapur, must go through the ordeal whenever she washes clothes, as her landlord would not allow her to hang the laundry in the courtyard for drying.
“They say hanging clothes in the courtyard ruins the looks of the house,” she said, adding, “Despite being aware of my condition, they easily get annoyed when I dry the clothes in the courtyard and ask me to go to the top."
Whenever her husband is home, he takes all wet clothes to the top of the house. But when he is not around, she wishes her landlord were less rigid about where the clothes are hung.
Sangeeta´s plight is definitely not a one-off case. In the Kathmandu Valley, which is already overpopulated, renters face multitude of problems every single day.
While for Sangeeta climbing stairs is a great inconvenience for now because of her pregnancy, tenants who live in other houses gripe about not being allowed to go to the rooftop. Especially, the tenants whose landlords live in the upper floors find it difficult to go to the top of the house.
Some landlords do not want single men or women as their tenants, while others refuse families.
The predicament of those who belong to the Dalit communities is different. Even today, many landlords of upper castes do not rent out rooms to Dalits, who often hide their identity to get rooms.
Pramesh KC, 20, who came to Kathmandu a year ago for higher study, lives in a rented room. He feels uneasy whenever his relatives or friends visit him. “If any of my friends or relatives stays in my room just for one night, my landlord gets irritated," says Pramesh. "He does not hesitate to scold me in front of my guests."
Pramesh further shares that his landlord does not hesitate to increase the rent as and when he pleases. “When I started living in this house, the monthly rent was just Rs 2500," he says. "In just one year, he increased the rent to Rs 3500.” He argues that it would still have made some sense had the landlord raised the amount after providing facilities. “He is never concerned about maintaining the room and we bath in the toilet as there is no bathroom,” he says.
Hiking the rent whimsically is not a big deal for landlords. And it is also common for them to ask renters to vacate rooms whenever they feel like.
Ravi Shankar Chaudhary, 20, who now lives in Gwarko, went through such a situation some time ago. His landlord, without any prior, increased the rent, so high that he could not afford it. When he asked the landlord to consider the rent, Ravi was ordered to leave the room in 10 days. "Every day, the landlord asked me if I found a new room," he says. "It was really a horrible situation for me."
Ravi managed to find a room and he immediately shifted there. But, a new kind of problem was awaiting him at the new room. The landlord, who happened to be a vegetarian, did not allow anybody to cook meat in the house.
"Once when I cooked meat, the landlord barged into my room and warned me not to do so again," he says. "These days, I go to nearby restaurants if I feel like eating meat."
Ravi thinks that the landlords and tenants should enter a written agreement beforehand to avoid such uncomfortable situations.
"If there is a prior agreement, the landlords cannot act whimsically," he says. "As things stand today, only tenants have been made to follow the rules."
Sushma Panta, 20, who lives in Kalopul, says she does not feel that she is living an independent life. "My landlady acts like she has the rights to enter my room whenever she feels like," says she.
Likewise, Manoj Adhikari, 21, of Kaushaltar, had never thought his house owner would behave with him improperly. “Despite having ample water in the tank, they stop supplying whenever they like. They always pretend that there is shortage of water,” he says. But it is only pretext, he says, for discouraging him from bring guests and increasing the rent.
“When I have a relative staying with me for a couple of days, I try my best to avoid the house owner,” Manoj says.
Rajan Pandey, 21, of Anamnagar and his friends had had to go through a different sort of problem when they were searching for a room. He says many house owners were reluctant to let them in because they didn´t want boys.
“We could see that many houses had vacant rooms,” Pandey says. “But our fault was that we didn´t have a family.”
More house owners to be brought under rental tax
A majority of house owners in the Kathmandu Valley are reluctant to pay house rental tax, says the authority concerned.
In the year 2012, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) launched a directive on rental tax. There are three categories under the directive: house tax or non-professional tax, commercial rental tax and residential apartment tax.
The house owners under non-professional tax are liable to pay 10 percent of the rental, while commercial and residential apartment taxes have been fixed at 25 percent.
The IRD had estimated to bring 25,500 new taxpayers under the non-professional rental tax net. Along with this, it has aimed to register at lest 205000 rental taxpayers in the Kathmandu Valley alone. According to the officials at the IRD, only around 10, 000 new taxpayers have been brought under the rental tax.
Likewise, the IRD has decided to bring 50,000 house owners from urban cities under the rental tax in the current fiscal year. According to Tankamani Sharma, director general of the IRD, the IRD targets to collect Rs 205 million by the end of the fiscal year from rental taxes.
“We are collecting details about the houses in each ward of KMC and the municipality offices and our tax offices will have their records,” said Sharma, adding, “The IRD has also been issuing notices to those house owners who are yet to register themselves under the rental tax.
He also said that the IRD is in the process to set up a network that would link it with all the municipalities across the country. The network will help the IRD in brining houses in each municipality under the purview of the rental tax.