FAQs: NBFCs not to charge foreclosure / pre-payment penalties on floating rate term loans for Individual borrowers

-Kanakprabha Jethani and Julie Mehta

finserv@vinodkothari.com

 

RBI has vide notification[1] dated August 02, 2019 issued a clarification regarding waiver of foreclosure charges/ prepayment penalty on all floating rate term loans sanctioned to individual borrowers, as referred to in paragraph 30(4) of Chapter VI of Master Direction – Non-Banking Financial Company – Systemically Important Non-Deposit taking Company and Deposit taking Company (Reserve Bank) Directions, 2016 and paragraph 30(4) of Chapter V of Master Direction – Non-Banking Financial Company – Non-Systemically Important Non-Deposit taking Company (Reserve Bank) Directions, 2016.

As per the fair practice code, NBFCs cannot charge foreclosure charges/ pre-payment penalties on all floating rate term loans sanctioned to individual borrowers

RBI has further clarified that NBFCs shall not charge foreclosure charges/ pre-payment penalties on any floating rate term loan sanctioned for purposes other than business to individual borrowers, with or without co-obligant(s).

To understand its implication and for further understanding, please refer to the list of ‘frequently asked questions’ listed below:

Basic understanding

  1. What is pre-payment or foreclosure?

 Ans. Prepayment or foreclosure is the repayment of a loan by a borrower, in part or in full ahead of the pre-determined payment schedule.

However, the distinguishing factor is that pre-payment means early payment of scheduled instalments, while foreclosure means early payment of the entire outstanding amount leading to early closure of the loan term. To extend, pre-payment is partial in nature whereas foreclosure is the closure of the loan account before the due-date.

  1. How do foreclosure charges and pre-payment penalties differ?

Ans. Conceptually, both have the same meaning. The only difference is in the terminology as the charges levied at the time of foreclosure are termed as foreclosure charges and charges levied at the time of pre-payment of an instalment are termed as pre-payment penalties.

  1. What is a term loan?

Ans. A term loan means a loan for which the term for repayment is pre-determined. This is unlike a demand loan in which the borrower has to repay on demand of repayment by the lender.

  1. How is a floating rate term loan different from a fixed rate term loan?

Ans. A fixed-rate term loan refers to interest rates that remain locked throughout the loan period, while floating-rate term loan refers to interest rates that are subject to fluctuate owing to certain factors.

  1. How is floating rate determined?

Ans. Lenders determine the floating rate on the basis of certain base rate. Usually, the floating rate is some percentage points more than the base rate. Base rate is determined by taking into account the cost of funds of the lender.

  1. Where do we find such floating rate term loans?

Ans. Floating rates are generally found in loans of long-term as the cost of funds is likely to fluctuate in the long run. However, certain medium term loans also have floating interest rate depending upon the agreement between the lender and borrower.

  1. Can a borrower make pre-payment of a term loan?

 Ans. Courts have, in many cases, given judgements stating that in the absence of specific provision in the agreement between the lender and the borrower (Loan Agreement), the borrower has the inherent right to make pre-payment of a loan. This puts light on the principle that ‘every borrower has an inherent right to free himself from the loan’.[2]

In case a lender requires that the loan amount should not be prepaid, such a restriction must be expressly mentioned in the Loan Agreement.

  1. Can a lender levy foreclosure charges/pre-payment penalty?

Ans. Unlike the provisions relating to pre-payment of loan by the borrower, the provisions for levy of foreclosure charges/pre-payment penalties are largely governed by the terms of the Loan Agreement. A lender can levy only those charges which form part of the Loan Agreement.

If provisions for levy of foreclosure charges/pre-payment penalties are expressly mentioned in the Loan Agreement, the lender can levy such charges/penalty. In absence of such provision, the lender does not have the right to levy such charges/penalty.

Further, for entities regulated by RBI, it is mandatory to mention all kinds of charges and penalties applicable to a loan transaction in the loan application form.

  1. What happens on prepayment of loan?

 Ans. Pre-payment of loan amount by the borrower has dual-impact. One is saving of interest cost and the other is reduction in the loan period. When a borrower pre-pays the loan, huge interest cost is saved, specifically in case of personal loans, where the interest rates are quite high.

  1. Why are borrowers charged in event of pre-payment?

Ans. Lenders pre-determine a schedule in terms of the specified term of a loan, including the repayment schedule, and the interest expectation. An early prepayment disrupts this schedule and also means that the borrower has to pay lesser interest (since interest is calculated from the time the loan is disbursed, till it is repaid).

Pre-payment charges are used as a client retention tool to discourage borrowers to move to other lenders, who may offer better interest for transferring the outstanding amount. It puts a limitation to the number of choices a customer can have due to market competition.

To compensate for such loss, pre-payment charges exist.

  1. What is the rate at which pre-payment charges are imposed?

Ans. The rate is determined by the opportunity cost foregone due to pre-payment/foreclosure. The future cash flows are discounted at a relatively lower rate and accordingly imposed. The rate differs from bank to bank depending on their relevant factors and policies. For example: several banks charge early repayment penalties up to 2-3% of the principal amount outstanding.

  1. How do banks benefit from the pre-payment penalties?

Ans. The prepayment penalty is not charged with the motive to generate revenue, but to recover costs incurred due to mismatch in assets and liabilities. It is believed that when long-term loans are offered to borrowers, lending facility raises long-term deposits to match their assets and liabilities on their balance sheet. So when the loans are pre-paid with respect to their scheduled payments, lenders continue to have long-term deposits on their books, leading to a mismatch

  1. What are the other factors that need to be kept in mind for pre-payment or foreclosure of loan?

Ans. The applicable rate at which penalty shall be charged is a major factor as it should not result in higher cost to the borrower. Other factors include the process of undergoing pre-payment/foreclosure, lock-in period associated with the option, documentation etc.

  1. What has been clarified?

Ans. Earlier, the FPC provided that NBFCs shall not charge foreclosure charges/prepayment penalties from individuals on floating rate term loans.

The clarification that has been provided by the RBI is that the foreclosure charges/prepayment penalties shall not be charged floating rate term loans, provided to individuals for purposes other than business i.e. personal purposes loans

Applicability

  1. On whom will this restriction be applicable?

Ans. The change shall be applicable to all kinds of NBFCs, including systemically important as well as non-systemically important NBFCs who are into business of lending to individuals. However, NBFCs engaged in lending to non-individuals only are not required to comply with this requirement.

  1. What kinds of loans will be covered?

Ans. All floating rate term loans provided to individuals for purposes other than business shall be covered under the said restriction.

  1. How will the lender define that loan is for purposes other than business?

 Ans. Before extending loans, documentation and background checks are performed. This process includes specification of the purpose for which the loan is taken. This gives a clear picture of the nature of the agreement and helps distinguish between business purpose and personal purposes.

  1. Why is this restriction on floating rate term loans only and not on fixed rate terms loans?

 Ans. Fixed rate loans involve no fluctuations in interest rates in the entire loan term. Thus in case of pre-payment, the interest foregone can be computed and realised to evaluate pre-payment penalties to be imposed.

While floating rate loans involve fluctuations based on the underlying benchmark and thus interest foregone cannot be estimated. There lies no confirmation of the lender being in the loss position. There is no way to realise interest rate sulking or hiking. Thus there is no basis on which overall loss might be estimated. In response to this situation, restrictions are on floating rate term loans and not on fixed rate term loans.

  1. Are there any other entities under similar restriction?

 Ans. RBI has put restrictions, similar to this, on banks and Housing Finance Companies as well. Banks are not permitted to charge foreclosure charges / pre-payment penalties on home loans / all floating rate term loans, for purposes other than business, sanctioned to individual borrowers. HFCs are not permitted to charge foreclosure charges/ pre-payment penalties in case of foreclosure of floating interest rate housing loans or housing loans on fixed interest rate basis which are pre-closed by the borrowers out of their own sources.

  1. When does this clarification come to effect?

Ans. It is noteworthy that this is a clarification (and not a separate provision) issued by the RBI in respect of a provision which is already a part of RBI Master Directions for NBFCs. Therefore, this clarification is deemed to be in effect from the date the corresponding provision was issued by the RBI by way of a notification[3] i.e. August 01, 2014.

Implication

  1. What is the borrower’s perspective?

Ans. Borrower’s may choose to pre-pay due to their personal obligations/burden, or if they obtain their funds which were earlier stuck, or by borrowing from a cheaper source to repay. This waive off of penalty charges, might be a sign of relief to them as they would get out of the obligation of an existing loan arrangement by paying off early and save the compounding interests and explore from the other options available in the market.

  1. What will happen after such clarification?

Ans. Prior to this clarification, the provision seemed to be providing a safe shelter to individual borrowers where they could foreclose or pre-pay any loan taken by them. Sometimes, the borrowers misused this facility by availing funds at a lower cost from some other lender to pre-pay the loans of higher interest rate. This resulted in disruptions in the forecasts of lenders, sometimes also resulting in loss to the lender.

This clarification limits the benefit of pre-payment to loans of personal nature only which are not availed very frequently by a borrower and are generally prepaid when borrowers have genuine savings or capital inflows.

 

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11647&Mode=0

[2] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/417200/

[3] http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=107879

Analysis of Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019

RBI eases end-use ECB norms for Corporates and NBFCs

Timothy Lopes, Executive, Vinod Kothari & Company

Introduction

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has wide press release[1] dated 30. 07. 2019 revised the framework for External Commercial Borrowings based on feedback from stakeholders, and in consultation with the Government of India, by relaxing the end-use restrictions with a view to ease the norms for Corporates and NBFC’s. The changes brought about can be found in the RBI Circular[2] on External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) Policy – Rationalisation of End-use Provisions dated 30. 07. 2019

Corporate sector continue to face liquidity crunch and this move from RBI is certainly a welcome move.

ECB are commercial loans raised by eligible borrowers from the recognised lenders for the permitted end use prescribed by RBI.

The ECB framework in India is mainly governed by the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). Various provisions in respect of this type of borrowing are also included in the Foreign Exchange Management (Borrowing and Lending) Regulations, 2018[3] framed under FEMA.

The RBI has also issued directions and instructions to Authorised Persons, which are compiled and contained in the Master Direction – External Commercial Borrowings, Trade Credit, and Structured Obligations[4].

Relaxation granted in end-use restrictions

 

In the earlier framework as covered in the Master Direction – External Commercial Borrowings, Trade Credit, and Structured Obligations (Master Directions), ECB proceeds could not be utilized for working capital purposes, general corporate purposes and repayment of Rupee loans except when the ECB was availed from foreign equity holder for a minimum average maturity period (MAMP) of 5 years.

Further on-lending out of ECB proceeds for real estate activities, investment in capital market, Equity investment, working capital purposes, general corporate purposes, repayment of rupee loans was also prohibited. These restrictions were made under the end-uses (Negative list) of the Master Direction.

With a view to further liberalize the ECB Framework in view of current hardship being faced by corporate sector; RBI has decided to relax these end-use restrictions.

Accordingly the said relaxations by RBI reflect as under:

Revised ECB Framework
Particulars ECBs Availed from By Permitted End-uses MAMP
Erstwhile Provision Foreign Equity Holder Eligible Borrower ·         Working capital purposes

·         General corporate purposes or,

·         Repayment of Rupee loans

5 Years
Amended Provision Recognised Lenders* Eligible Borrower ·         Working capital purposes and,

·         General corporate purposes

10 Years
Recognised Lenders* NBFC’s ·         On-lending for:

o   Working Capital purposes and,

o   General Corporate Purpose

10 Years
Recognised Lenders* Eligible Borrowers including NBFC’s ·         Repayment of Rupee loans availed domestically for capital expenditure and,

·         On-lending for above purpose by NBFC’s

7 Years
Recognised Lenders* Eligible Borrowers including NBFC’s ·         Repayment of Rupee loans availed domestically for purposes other than capital expenditure and,

·         On-lending for above purpose by NBFC’s

10 Years
*ECBs will be permitted to be raised for above purposes from recognised lenders except foreign branches/ overseas subsidiaries of Indian Banks and subject to Para 2.2 of the Master Direction dealing with limit and leverage.

 

Relaxation for Corporate borrowers classified as SMA-2 or NPA

 

Further, Eligible Corporate Borrowers are now permitted to avail ECB for repayment of Rupee loans availed domestically for capital expenditure in manufacturing and infrastructure sector if classified as Special Mention Account (SMA-2) or Non-Performing Assets (NPA), under any one time settlement with lenders.

Permission to Lender Banks to assign loans to ECB lenders

Lender banks are also permitted to sell, through assignment, such loans to eligible ECB lenders, except foreign branches/ overseas subsidiaries of Indian banks, provided, the resultant ECB complies with all-in-cost, minimum average maturity period and other relevant norms of the ECB framework.

These permissions would reduce the burden of the lender banks who classified borrower’s account as SMA-2 or NPA.

Conclusion

Liberalization of the ECB policy by RBI acts as a step toward increased access to global markets by eligible Indian borrowers. In the current scenario of an economic slowdown, these changes come as a push upwards for the Indian economy.

Besides the above-mentioned changes in the Master Direction, all other provisions of the ECB policy remain unchanged.

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=47736

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11636&Mode=0

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11441&Mode=0

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewMasDirections.aspx?id=11510#1

Indian Securitisation Market opens big in FY 20 – A performance review and a diagnosis of the inherent problems in the market

By Abhirup Ghosh , (abhirup@vinodkothari.com)(finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Ever since the liquidity crisis crept in the financial sector, securitisation and direct assignment transactions have become the main stay fund raising methods for the financial sector entities. This is mainly because of the growing reluctance of the banks in taking direct exposure on the NBFCs, especially after the episodes of IL&FS, DHFL etc.

Resultantly, the transactions have witnessed unprecedented growth. For instance, the volume of transactions in the first quarter of the current financial year stood at a record ₹ 50,300 crores[1] which grew at 56% on y-o-y basis from ₹ 32,300 crores. Segment-wise, the securitisation transactions grew by whooping 95% to ₹ 22,000 crores as against ₹ 11,300 crores a year back. The volume of direct assignments also grew by 35% to ₹ 28,300 crores as against ₹ 21,000 crores a year back.

The chart below show the performance of the industry in the past few years:

Direct Assignments have been dominating market with the majority share. During Q1 FY 20, DAs constituted roughly 56% of the total market and PTCs filled up the rest. The chart below shows historical statistics about the share of DA and PTCs:

In terms of asset classes, non-mortgage asset classes continue to dominate the market, especially vehicle loans. The table below shows the share of the different asset classes of PTCs:

Asset class

Q1 FY 20 share Q1 FY 19 share FY 19 share
Vehicle (CV, CE, Car) 51% 57% 49%
Mortgages (Home Loan & LAP) 20% 0% 10%
Tractor 6% 0% 10%
MSME 5% 1% 4%
Micro Loans 4% 23% 16%
Lease Rentals 0% 13% 17%
Others 14% 6% 1%

Asset class wise share of PTCs

Source: ICRA

Shortcomings in the current securitisation structures

Having talked about the exemplary performance, let us now focus on the potential threats in the market. A securitisation transaction becomes fool proof only when the transaction achieves bankruptcy-remoteness, that is, when all the originator’s bankruptcy related risks are detached from the securitised assets. However, the way the current transactions are structured, the very bankruptcy-remoteness of the transactions has become questionable. Each of the problems have been discussed separately below:

Commingling risk

In most of the current structures, the servicing of the cash flows is carried out of the originator itself. The collections are made as per either of the following methods:

  1. Cash Collection – This is the most common method of repayment in case of micro finance and small ticket size loans, where the instalments are paid in cash. Either the collection agent of the lender goes to the borrower for collecting the cash repayments or the borrower deposits the cash directly into the bank account of the lender or at the registered office or branch of the lender.
  2. Encashment of post-dated cheques (PDCs) – The PDCs are taken from the borrower at the inception of the credit facility for the EMIs and as security.
  3. Transfer through RTGS/NEFT by the customer to the originator’s bank account.
  4. NACH debit mandate or standing instructions.

 

In all of the aforesaid cases, the payment flows into the current/ business account of the originator. The moment the cash flows fall in the originator’s current account, they get exposed to commingling risk. In such a case, if the originator goes into bankruptcy, there could be serious concerns regarding the recoverability of the cash flows collected by the originator but not paid to the investors. Also, because redirection of cash flows upon such an event will be extremely difficult to implement. Therefore, in case of exigencies like the bankruptcy of the originator, even an AAA-rated security can become trash overnight. This brings up a very important question on whether AAA-PTCs are truly AAA or not.

 

This issue can be addressed if, going forward, the originators originate only such transactions in which repayments are to happen through NACH mandates. NACH mandates are executed in favour of third party service providers which triggers direct debit from the bank account of the customers every month against the instalments due. Upon receipt of the money from the customer, the third party service providers then transfer the amount received to the originators. Since, the mandates are originally executed in the name of the third party service providers and not on the originators, the payments can easily be redirected in favour of the securitisation trusts in case the originator goes into bankruptcy. The ease of redirection of cash flows NACH mechanism provides is not available in any other ways of fund transfer, referred above.

Will the assets form part of the liquidation estate of the lessor, since under IndAS the assets continue to get reflected on Balance Sheet of the originator?

With the implementation of Ind AS in financial sector, most of the securitisation transactions are failing to fulfil the complex de-recognition criteria laid down in Ind AS 109. Resultantly, the receivables continue to stay on the books of the originator despite a legal true sale of the same. Due to this a new concern has surfaced in the industry that is, whether the assets, despite being on the books of the originator, be absolved from the liquidation estate of the originator in case the same goes into liquidation.

Under the current framework for bankruptcy of corporates in India, the confines of liquidation estate are laid in section 36 of the IBC. Section 36 (3) lays what all will be included therein. Primarily, section 36 (3) (a) is the relevant provision, saying “any assets over which the corporate debtor has ownership rights” will be included in the estate. There is a reference to the balance sheet, but the balance sheet is merely an evidence of the ownership rights. The ownership rights are a matter of contract and in case of receivables securitised, the ownership is transferred to the SPV.

The bounds of liquidation estate are fixed by the contractual rights over the asset. Contractually, the originator has transferred, by way of true sale, the receivables. The continuing balance sheet recognition has no bearing on the transfer of the receivables. Therefore, even if the originator goes into liquidation, the securitised assets will remain unaffected.

Conclusion

Despite the shortcomings in the current structures, the Indian market has opened big. After the market posted its highest volumes in the year before, several industry experts doubted whether the market will be able to out-do its previous record or for that matter even reach closer to what it has achieved. But after a brilliant start this year, it seems the dream run of the Indian securitisation industry has not ended yet.


[1] https://www.icra.in/Media/OpenMedia?Key=94261612-a1ce-467b-9e5d-4bc758367220

An analysis of the Model Tenancy Act, 2019

1.      Introduction

In India, every state has its own law on tenancy matters. The matters, which are not covered by state legislations are governed by the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 (“TPA”), which is central legislation dealing with the matters between tenants and landlords. However, it covers transaction between tenant and landowner in the form of a lease. Codified legislation dealing exclusively on rent related matters in the real estate market has been long ignored in India. Lack of an exclusive legal framework hampered the growth of rental housing segment and resulted in low investments in the rental housing sector. The draft Model Tenancy Act, 2015 was an effort made earlier to codify the law on tenancy. but majority of states never implemented the same. In Union Budget 2019, it was proposed that in order to promote rental housing, new tenancy laws will be formulated to remove the archaic laws currently in use. In furtherance to the said proposition, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MHUA) released the draft Model Tenancy Act, 2019 (“MTA”) on July 10, 2019, which aims to regulate rental housing by a market-oriented approach while balancing interests of landowner and tenant at the same time. The article points out current problems of rental housing in India along with the issue that how MTA is going to compensate for these problems. It also presents an overview of MTA and loopholes present in it.

2.      Need for rental housing

Housing is one of the basic necessities of life. The rapid pace of urbanization in India has resulted in severe shortage of housing. People go for rental housing because  low-income or people are not ready to build their own house.In spite of government’s prime consideration to affordable housing, many poor households live in congested conditions, which indicates that housing is unaffordable for a large section of population, be it ownership or rental.

The Draft National Urban Rental Housing Policy, 2015 (“the Policy”) pointed out that there is a huge housing shortage in urban areas and on the other hand, there are massive stocks of vacant houses.[1]Possible reasons ascertained for vacant houses could be  low rental yield, fear of repossession, lack of incentives etc. The Policy defines rental housing as a property occupied by someone other than the owner, for which the tenant pays a periodic mutually agreed rent to the owner.[2] The policy suggested that if these vacant houses are made available for rental housing, then some, if not most of the urban housing shortage, could be addressed.[3] Hence, the need for rental housing can be understoodunder the following heads-

  1. An alternative to eliminate the problem of housing shortage in view of ever-increasing population of India.
  2. Prevention of future growth of slums by providing affordable housing to all.
  3. Rental housing could be turned as a steady source of income for the landlords, making investment in rental market attractive.

3.      Current problems of rental housing in India

Rental housing is a subject on which States have exclusive right to legislate. It is a state subject as mentioned under item 18 in List II of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. Although, Central Government can guide the states as we have a quasi-federal structure in India, therefore, Central Government has power to make model law on rent control or tenancy.

At present, nearly every state has its own law governing matters relating to rental housing in their jurisdiction in the name of Rent Control Laws. However, these rent control laws are not adequate to satisfy the need for rental housing in true sense. Because, issues, such as lack of affordable housing, lack of investment in rental housing etc., are still present in the country.

The problems of rental housing in India, as present under different existing rent control laws, can be encapsulated as follow:

  1. Fixation of standard rent:

Existing rent control laws provide for standard rent or fair rent, which is calculated on the basis of cost of construction involved, when the premise was built and does not include present market value of the premise as a consideration to determine standard rent. This proves to be major disincentive for landlords and investors, who want to invest in rental market as it will give very low rate of return.

  1. Overstaying problem of tenants:

Existing rent control laws do not provide for any remedy for when tenants do not vacant the rent premises even after termination of the tenancy period. Therefore, landlords often fear that they might lose control on their premises and had to go long litigation process for recovering their premises.

  1. Reduced liquidity for landlords:

Freeze of availability of rental housing is evident in light of the long litigation proceedings relating to recovery of rental premises by the landlord or proceedings relating to eviction of tenants. When the proceedings are undergoing, it is difficult to rent out the premises which are lis pendens in court of law and thereby it reduces liquidity for landlords in the market.

  1. Security deposit:

From the point of view of tenants, it is unfair to give limitless amount to the landlords in the name of security deposit or pugree. Existing rent control laws do not provide for any upper cap as far as security deposit is concerned and tenants have to suffer in the hands of landlords, who demand lump sum amount as much as they want at the beginning of tenancy period. Because of this practice, poor households choose to live in slum areas as they cannot afford to give arbitrary amount of security deposit, which leads to lack of affordable housing in the Country.

  1. Landlord’s right to evict the tenant on false grounds:

It has been seen in many cases that landlords file false cases to evict tenants on the ground of non-payment of rent because most of the existing rent control laws do no mandate receipt of rent to be given by the landlord.

  1. Lease under Transfer of Property Act, 1882:

Section 105 of the aforesaid Act defines lease as “a lease of immoveable property is a transfer of a right to enjoy such property, made for a certain time, express or implied, or in perpetuity, in consideration of a price paid or promised, or of money, a share of crops, service or any other thing of value, to be rendered periodically or on specified occasions to the transferor by the transferee, who accepts the transfer on such terms. The transferor is called the lessor, the transferee is called the lessee, the price is called the premium, and the money, share, service or other thing to be so rendered is called the rent.” It is to be noted that in case of a lease agreement, terms of the same cannot be changed until the expiry of the lease period unlike tenancy agreement. In practice, landlords often opt for tenancy agreement under rent control laws where they can execute tenancy on a month-to-month basis and can alter its terms.. However, in areas with high vacancy rate of rental premises, landlords choose for lease agreement under Section 105 and thereby make the use of rent control laws fatal. In addition, TPA and rent control laws do not mandate a written agreement to be executed, which is another problem to enforce the rights of either party to the oral agreement and leads to never-ending litigation proceedings in case of disputes.

  1. Leave and License Contract:

Apart from rent control laws and lease under the TPA, people often use leave and license contract as given under the Indian Easements Act, 1882. Section 52 of the said Act defines license as- “where one person grants to another, or to a definite number of other persons, a right to do, or continue to do, in or upon the immovable property of the grantor, something which would, in the absence of such right, be unlawful, and such right does not amount to an easement or an interest in the property, the right is called a license.” Hence, the licensor gives the license to the licensee to use the property, which includes usage same as applicable to rental market without transferring a specific interest in the immovable property. Thus, to execute a landlord-tenant relationship, there exist different contracts under the different names and different procedures, the ambiguities of which can be used by the landlord or tenant to influence the law as per their needs.

4.      Overview of MTA

MTA has been drafted with a view to balance the interests of the landowner and tenant and to provide for speedy dispute redressal by establishing adjudicatory bodies under MTA. It also tries to create an accountable and transparent environment for renting the premises and promotes sustainable ecosystem to various segments of society including migrants, professionals, workers, students and urban poor. To understand what MTA proposes for tenants and landlords, a brief overview has been presented here under the following heads-

4.1       Institutional framework – regulatory and judicial bodies-

Rent Authority-

Section 29 of MTA provides for the appointment of Rent Authority to be an officer who is

not below the rank of Deputy Collector. Rent Authority exercises same power as vested in Rent Court in the following matters-

  1. Upload details of tenancy agreement on a digital platform in the local vernacular or state language in the form prescribed and provide a unique identification number to the parties[4];
  2. Fix or revise the rent on an application by the landowner or tenant[5];
  3. Investigate the case and pass an order in case of deposit of rent by the tenant with the rent authority, if the landowner does not accept the rent[6];
  4. Allow the tenant, if requested, to vacate the premises if it becomes uninhabitable in absence of repairs by the landlord.[7]
  5. Conduct an inquiry and allow compensation or levy penalty in case of an application made to it by the landlord or tenant if any person cuts-off or withholds any essential supply or service in the premises occupied by the tenant or the landowner.[8]

Rent Court and Rent Tribunal-

Section 32 and 33 provides for the constitution of Rent Court and Rent Tribunal respectively. Section 34 gives exclusive jurisdiction to Rent Court and Rent Authority to hear and decide the applications relating to disputes between landowner and tenant and matters connected with and ancillary thereto. For speedy disposal of cases, Rent Court or Rent Tribunal has to dispose the case within 60 days from the date of receipt of the application or appeal and shall record the reasons in writing in case of disposal of case exceeds 60 days period.[9]Appeal from the orders of the Rent Court lies to the Rent Tribunal.[10] In addition, order of Rent Court or Rent Tribunal shall be executable by as a decree of a civil court.[11]Following reliefs can be given by the Rent Court[12]:

  1. Delivery of possession of the premises to the party in whose favor the decision is made;
  2. Attachment of bank account of the losing party for the satisfaction of the amount to be paid;
  3. Appoint any advocate or any other competent person including officers of the Rent Court or local administration or local body for the execution of the order.

4.2       Scope of coverage-

MTA applies to any premises, which is, let separately for residence or commercial or educational use except industrial use.[13] However, MTA does not provide what constitutes residence/commercial/educational/industrial use. Besides, MTA does not apply to the following premises[14]

  1. Hotel, lodging house, dharamshala or inn etc.;[15]
  2. Premises owned or promoted by-
    1. The Central/ State/ UT Government, or
    2. Local Authority, or
    3. Government undertaking or enterprise, or
    4. Statutory body, or
    5. Cantonment board;
  3. Premises owned by a company, university or organization given on rent to its employees as part of service contract;
  4. Premises owned by owned by religious or charitable institutions as may be specified by notification;
  5. Premises owned by owned by any trust registered under the Public Trust Act of the State;
  6. Premises owned by owned by Wakfs registered under the Wakf Act, 1995;
  7. Any other building specifically exempted in public interest through notification.

However, if the owner of any of the premises mentioned under in (b) to (g) wishes a tenancy agreement to be regulated under MTA, then he can inform the same to the Rent Authority.

4.3       Protection of landlord-

As stated above the prime object of the MTA is to eliminate the fear among landlords regarding repossession of their premises and increase the growth of investment in rental sector of the market. Keeping this view, MTA proposes to give protection to landlord in following manner-

  1. Subletting of rented premises cannot be effected without prior consent of landlord in
  2. writing along with disclosure of all details of sub-letting to landlord by the tenant. .[16]
  3. Landlord is allowed to make deduction from security deposit amount for any liability of the tenant.[17]
  4. Landlord is allowed to deduct the amount from the security deposit or can ask the amount payable from the tenant, in case the tenant refuses to carry out scheduled or agreed repairs in the premises.[18]
  5. Landlord can file an application to the Rent Authority against the tenant in case of cut-off or withhold of any essential supply or service in the premises by the tenant.[19]
  6. Landlord can evict the tenant on an application made to the Rent Court on any of the grounds mentioned under Section 21. These grounds are-
  7. Failure of agreement on rent payable;
  8. Failure of tenant to pay the arrears of rent in full and other charges payable unless the payment of the same within 1 month of notice being served on the tenant;
  9. Tenant has parted with the possession of whole or any part of the premises without obtaining the written consent of the landlord;
  10. Tenant has continued misuse of the premises even after receipt of notice from the landowner to stop such misuse;
  11. The premises are required by the landlord for carrying out any repairs, additions, alterations etc., which cannot be carried out without the premises being vacated unless re-entry of tenant has been pre-agreed between the parties;
  12. The premises or any part thereof are required by the landlord for carrying out any repairs, additions, alterations etc. for change of its use as a consequence of change of land use by the competent authority;
  13. Tenant has given written notice to vacate the premises and in consequence of that notice, the landlord has contracted to sell the accommodation or has taken any other step, as a result of which his interests would seriously suffer if he is not put in possession of that accommodation.
  14. In case of overstay of the tenant beyond tenancy period, the landlord is entitled to get compensation of double of the monthly rent for 2 months and 4 times of the monthly rent.[20]
  15. Landlord can make any construction or improvement to the rented premises after permission of the Rent Court obtained in this behalf.[21]
  16. Landlord is allowed to fix or revise the rent payable by the tenant, provided the same should be agreed by the tenant in the tenancy agreement.[22]

4.4       Protection of tenant-

MTA has not only given protection to landlords but balances the interests of the tenants as well. With this view, MTA proposes to give protection to landlord in the following manner-

  1. In the event of death of the tenant, his/her successors will have the same rights and obligations as agreed in tenancy agreement for the remaining period of the tenancy.[23]
  2. Rent cannot be increased during the tenancy period, unless the amount of increase or method for increase is expressly set out in the Tenancy Agreement.[24]
  3. Tenant is entitled to get refund of the security deposit amount at the time of vacating the premises after deduction of amount of liability, if any.[25]
  4. Tenant is entitled to get a written acknowledgment rent receipt by the landlord.[26]
  5. Where the landlord refuses to accept the rent, tenant may deposit it with the Rent Authority.[27]
  6. Tenant is allowed to deduct the amount from periodic rent, in case the landlord refuses to carry out the scheduled or agreed repairs in the premises.[28]
  7. Where the premises becomes uninhabitable and landlord refuses for repairs, thenthetenant has the right to vacate the premises after giving 15 days notice in writing to the landlord or with the permission of the Rent Authority, in case the.[29]
  8. Tenant can file an application to the Rent Authority against the landlord in case of cut-off or withhold of any essential supply or service in the premises by the landlord.[30]
  9. Tenant is entitled to get refund of such an advance amount and interest, in case of default, after deduction of rent and other charges in case of eviction proceedings initiated by the landlord under Section 21.[31]
  10. Tenant may give up possession of the premises on giving a one-month prior notice or notice as required under the tenancy agreement to the landlord.[32]

5.      How will the MTA help rental housing issue?

MTA recommends eradicating the existing rental housing problems by incorporating needful provisions. MTA has recognized the problems in existing rent control laws in its preamble as lack of growth of rental housing segment and lack of the landlords renting out their vacant premises. For better understanding of these needful provisions in MTA, a comparison of key provisions of existing rent control laws and MTA has been produced in Annexure A. In conclusion, the table suggests that MTA provides for market-oriented approach by leaving the fixation of rent amount on parties[33], who may fix or revise it considering current market value of the premises and thereby increasing the possibilities of high rate of return to the investors in the rental housing market. On the other hand, to remove the fear of the landlords of losing possession of the premises has been taken care by MTA by giving a remedy in form of compensation to the landlord[34].

6.      What do the state governments have to do?

As mentioned above, housing is a state subject and States have exclusive right to legislate upon it. MTA proposes only a model on how the issues relating to rental housing as existed under current laws relating to tenancy can be eliminated. It is completely on the states to adopt or not adopt MTA in their state. For better functioning of the rental housing in the state and to resolve the issues as point out above, state should adopt MTA. Moreover, States are free to make amendments in the proposed provisions in MTA while incorporating the same in their states.[35]

7.      What incentives will the state governments have for enacting the MTA?

MTA only proposes a model and States are under no obligation to enact MTA in their respective jurisdictions. Therefore, what the states will get for enacting MTA is equally an important question to consider. Section 46 of MTA provides that if any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions MTA, the State/UT Government may, by order, not inconsistent with the provisions MTA, remove the difficulty. Hence, any State enacting MTA is empowered to remove difficulty or amend the provision in their jurisdiction, if there arises any difficulty in implementation of the MTA.

Moreover, housing is one of the basic needs of life and raising the standard of living of its people is one of the primary duties of State as enshrined under the Article 47 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, States shall make every endeavor to resolve the issue of affordable housing in the best manner possible and MTA serves this objective well.

8.      Drawbacks of the MTA

Despite all the good attempts made in the provisions of MTA to remove the current problems relating to rental housing, MTA shortfalls on following grounds:

  1. Moreover, the term ‘Landlord’ covers ‘Lessor’ and the term ‘Tenant’ covers ‘Lessee’ in its definitions, but the MTA nowhere provides that it will override the provisions relating to Lease under the Transfer of Property Act, 1882. Therefore, usage of the term lessor/lessee would create conflict in practice since application of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 is not clarified under the MTA .
  2. Lodging house and hotels are kept outside the scope of MTA. Therefore, application of the MTA to premises providing paying guest facilities is not clear.
  3. MTA provides for prospective application and gives no redress to tenancies, which are already in existence, prior to the commencement of MTA. Hence, position regarding existing tenancies is left untouched.
  4. Successor-in-interest has not been included in the definition of the term ‘tenant’ under Section 2 (m) of the MTA. However, Section 6 provides for successors of the tenant to come into the shoes of tenant in case of his/her death. This provision creates anomaly that after death of tenant, his/her successor-in-interest may deny acceptance of tenancy agreement on the ground that he/she is not covered within the definition of the term ‘tenant’.
  5. The term ‘rent’ is not defined under the Act, because of which, the form of rent payable is not clear, i.e. whether it has to be necessarily in cash or kind or crops or services rendered.
  6. The MTA does not address the situation in case of failure to execute tenancy agreement, failure to obtain consent of landowner for subletting, failure to refund security deposit at the time of taking over vacant possession of the premises by the landlord, failure to observe obligations imposed on parties. Although specific establishment of adjudicatory bodies has been provided under the MTA but the same results in increase of litigation matters before judicial bodies established under the MTA.
  7. MTA is open to be adopted by the States and does not necessarily impose application of its provisions to State.
  8. MTAdoes not talk about weak bargaining power of tenants and allows parties to agree on rent amount, which may cause prejudice to weaker sections of the society.
  9. MTA does not talk about over-riding effect of MTA on existing laws on tenancy, lease under the TPA, license under the Indian Easements Act, 1882 to uphold the objectives of the MTA.

9.      Conclusion

MTA is a welcoming step in rental matters relating to any premises. Establishment of the adjudicating authorities is going to lessen the burden on lower courts in the country in the matters relating to tenancy. However, application of the MTA would be interesting to see as to how many states actually implement MTA because it is only a model and not mandatory for states to adopt it.

 

 

Annexure-A

Comparison of Existing Rent Control Laws and MTA:

The author has tried to analyze some of the major existing rent control laws[36]in comparison with the MTA. The same has reproduced in a table form below:

Point of difference Existing Laws MTA Comments
Purpose of the Act 1.      Control of rent and protection of tenant from payment of rent more than the standard rent, and

2.      Protection of tenants from eviction,

 

It provides not only for protection of tenants but also provides for protection of landowners. Most of the existing rent control laws are tenant-centric; whereas MTA balances the interests of landowner and tenant.
Exemption  Premises belonging to the Government are exempted but no specific provision is present regarding exemption of religious or charitable premises and premises owned by a university except Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999.[37] MTA exempts any premises owned by the Government, religious or charitable institutions, and premises owned by a company, university or organization given on rent to its employees as part of service contract.[38] MTA applies to all kind of government occupied premises and publicly used premises unlike existing rent control laws.

 

Definition of ‘Landlord’ If the premises were let to a tenant then landlord means a person who-

1.      is receiving, or is entitled to receive the rent of any premises, or

2.      trustee, guardian or receiver, who is receiving or is entitled to receive rent, on behalf of, or for the benefit of, any other person who cannot enter into a contract (such as minor, person with unsound mind etc.).

 

If the premises were let to a tenant then landlord (Landowner/Lessor) means a person who[39]

1.      is receiving, or is entitled to receivethe rent of any premises,and

2.      includes successor-in-interest,

3.      trustee, guardian or receiver, who is receiving or is entitled to receive rent, on behalf of, or for the benefit of, any other person who cannot enter into a contract (such as minor, person with unsound mind etc.).

MTA covers Lessor within the term ‘Landlord’ and includes successor-in-interest unlike existing rent control laws.

 

Definition of ‘Premises’ Premises mean any building or part of a building rented out, and includes-

1.      Gardens, garages or outhouses, any furnituresupplied by the landlord,

2.      any fittings affixedto such building.

However, premises do not include hotel, lodging house.

 

 

Premises mean any building or part of a itrented out for the purpose of residence or commercial or educational use, (except for industrial use) and includes[40]

1.      the garden, garage or closed parking area, grounds and out-houses, appertaining to such building or part of the building,

2.      any fitting to such building or part of the building for the more beneficial enjoyment thereof,

However, premises do not include hotel, lodging house, dharamshala or inn etc.[41]

State RCAs do not explicitly exclude industrial use, unlike MTA and do not specifically recognize a particular purpose of use of building to be cover within the term ‘premises’.
Definition of ‘Tenant’ Some of the rent control laws do not provide definition of term ‘tenant’. And others include tenant as a person-

1.      who is paying the rent, or

2.      deemed tenant, or

3.      sub-tenant,

4.      member of tenant’s family in case of death of tenant.

Tenant/Lesseemeans a person[42]

1.      by whom the rent is payable, or

2.      on whose behalf the rent is payable, and

3.      includes a sub-tenant,and

4.      any person continuing in possession after the termination of his tenancy whether before or after the commencement of this Act.

However, tenant does not include any person against whom any order or decree for eviction has made.

MTA does not include successor-in-interest within the definition of tenant.
Standard rent Standard rent means a rent fixed by the Controller under rent control laws. No provision is made. MTA does not provide for the definition of the term ‘rent’.
Tenancy agreement It was not necessary and tenancy can be affected even without entering into tenancy agreement. It means a written agreement executed by the landowner and the tenant.[43] Moreover, it is mandatorycondition for a tenancy to come into effect.[44] MTA making the tenancy agreement mandatory unlike existing rent control laws.
Sub-letting No provision regarding prior written consent of landlord for sub-letting by tenant. Prior written consent of the landowner is madecompulsory.[45] More stringent provision.
Fixation of rent Rent fixed (standard rent) based on the value of land andcost of construction when built. The rent is the amount agreed between the landowner and the tenant as per the terms of the tenancy agreement.[46] Standard rent or fair rent concept has removed in MTA.
Increase in rent It is unilateral by the landlord with the approval of the controller. Revision of rent between the landowner and the tenant shall be as per the terms set out in the Tenancy Agreementor on a prior 3 months notice to the tenant.[47] Mutually agreed increase in rent is provided under MTA unlike rent control laws.
Temporary recovery of possession The landlord is entitled to get possession of the building, if bona fide, it is required by him to carry out repairs, alterations or additions, which cannot be carried out without the building being vacated, after which the building will again be offered to the tenant.

 

Rent Court may on an application made to it, make the order that the landlord is entitled to get possession of the premises or any part thereof on account of any repairs or rebuilding or additions or alterations or demolition, which cannot be carried out without the premises being vacated, provided that such re-possession has to be mutually agreed to between the landowner and the tenant and the new tenancy agreement has to submitted with the Rent Authority.[48] More requirements that are stringent have been put on the parties under MTA.
Deposit of rent Many of state rent control lawsdo not provide for deposit of rent lawfully payable to the landlord in respect of the building, before the authority as may be prescribed. Explicit provision provided for deposit of rent with the Rent Authority where the landowner does not accept the rent or refuses to give a receipt or if landowner does not accept the rent.[49] Transparency and accountability enabled provision.
Overstay of tenant No deterrent provision, therefore landlords fear to give their houses on rent, which in turn reduces the supply of renting houses in the market. It provides for compensation i.e. four times the rent, to the landlord.[50] MTA provides Remedy in favour of landlord.
Rent Receipt on payment of rent No provision. Every tenant is entitled to get a written receiptfrom the landowner for the amount paid to him.[51] Tenant friendly provision to eliminate abuse against tenants.
Security deposits No explicit provision existed for security deposits/ pugree in addition to rent. MTA provides for 2 months’ rent in residential property, 1-month rent in non-residential property as security deposit.[52] MTA provides elimination of abuse against tenants.
Inheritance of tenancy Order of inheritance has provided in most of the state RCAs. No order of successors has given in MTA.[53] MTA introduces more wide import in case of inheritance of tenancy.
Structural alteration to the rent premises Rent control laws provide for structural alteration without consent of tenant and increase rent. MTA provides for structural alteration to rent premises only if the same is provided in the  agreementwith the tenant and increase the rent.[54] Tenant friendly provision to eliminate abuse against tenants.
Adjudicatory Authority Controller or Civil Courts Rent Authority, Rent Court, Rent Tribunal[55] Specific adjudicatory bodies introduced in MTA for speedy disposal of rent related matters.

 

 

 

[1]Draft National Urban Rental Housing Policy, 2015, p 10.

[2]Id. At p 5.

[3]Id.

[4] Section 4 (4), MTA, 2019.

[5] Section 10, MTA, 2019.

[6] Section 14 (2), MTA, 2019.

[7] Section 15 (5), MTA, 2019.

[8] Section 20, MTA, 2019.

[9] Section 35 (2), MTA, 2019.

[10] Section 37, MTA, 2019.

[11] Section 36 (7), MTA, 2019.

[12] Section 38 (1), MTA, 2019.

[13] Section 2 (e), MTA, 2019.

[14] Section 3, MTA, 2019.

[15]Id.

[16] Section 7, MTA, 2019.

[17] Section 11 (2), MTA, 2019.

[18] Section 15 (3), MTA, 2019.

[19] Section 20, MTA, 2019.

[20] Section 22, MTA, 2019.

[21] Section 25, MTA, 2019.

[22] Section 8 & 9, MTA, 2019.

[23] Section 6, MTA, 2019.

[24] Section 9 (4), MTA, 2019.

[25] Section 11 (2), MTA, 2019.

[26] Section 13 (2), MTA, 2019.

[27] Section 14, MTA, 2019.

[28] Section 15 (4), MTA, 2019.

[29] Section 15 (5), MTA, 2019.

[30] Section 20, MTA, 2019.

[31] Section 23, MTA, 2019.

[32] Section 28, MTA, 2019.

[33] Section 8, MTA, 2019.

[34] Section 22, MTA, 2019.

[35] Section 46, MTA, 2019.

[36]Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999; Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958; Andhra Pradesh Buildings (Lease, Rent and Eviction) Control (Amendment) Act, 1960; The West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1997.

[37] Section 3, Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999.

[38] Section 3, MTA, 2019.

[39] Section 2(b), MTA, 2019.

[40] Section 2(e), MTA, 2019.

[41]Id.

[42] Section 2(m), MTA, 2019.

[43] Section 2(a), MTA, 2019.

[44] Section 4, MTA, 2019.

[45] Section 7 (1), MTA, 2019.

[46] Section 8, MTA, 2019.

[47] Section 9, MTA, 2019.

[48] Section 9 (6), MTA, 2019.

[49] Section 14 (1), MTA, 2019.

[50] Section 22, MTA, 2019.

[51] Section 13 (2), MTA, 2019.

[52] Section 11, MTA, 2019.

[53] Section 6, MTA, 2019.

[54] Section 9 (6), MTA, 2019.

[55] Chapter VI & VII, MTA, 2019.

Lease Accounting under IFRS 16- A leap towards transparency!

Megha Mittal

mittal@vinodkothari.com

Our mission is to develop IFRS Standards that bring transparency, accountability and efficiency to financial markets around the world”, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) is indeed on a way towards fulfilling its mission. The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) have been worldwide acknowledged and appreciated as a benchmark of transparency, trust and growth. In another specimen of its attempt to increase transparency in financial markets around the world, the IASB, back in 2016, introduced the IFRS 16, to be applicable w.e.f. annual reporting period beginning on or after 01.01.2019.

Introduced with the objective of introducing a single lessee accounting model, the IFRS-16, aims at ensuring faithful representation of lease transactions and pioneers the concept of “Right-to-Use” Assets.

In this article, we intend to delve deeper into what IFRS-16 brings to the table, its objective and most importantly its impact.

Understanding the Concept

In the present financial set-up of our economy and business environment, “Lease” is an indispensable element. With the advantages it carries and the flexibility it has provided to financing, the concept of lease has penetrated to every strata of being. However, from an accounting perspective, the nexus of “lease” with “assets” makes it essential to understand the procedure of incorporating the lease transactions in the books of both the lessor (legal owner of the asset) and the lessee (user of the asset); and, IFRS-16 is the answer.

While it does not modify the accounting treatment in the books of the lessors from that laid down in IAS 17, IFRS-16 introduces a single lessee accounting model and requires a lessee to recognise assets and liabilities for all leases with a term of more than 12 months, unless the underlying asset is of low value. A lessee is required to recognise a right-of-use asset representing its right to use the underlying leased asset and a lease liability representing its obligation to make lease payments.

To understand better, let us now take an illustration:

Illustration 1:

A is the legal owner of a car. B, a small businessman, intends to take the car on lease for a period of 3 years. Here, A becomes the Lessor, and B, steps into the shoes of a Lessee. Now that B has the right to use the car, he must identify this car as a right-to-use asset, more colloquially knows as RTU Asset.

Hence, the Lessee records the car along with other non-financial assets like property, plant and building, and the lease liabilities along with other liabilities. It is pertinent to note that the RTU asset must however, be recorded at its present value, arrived at by discounting at its Internal Rate of Return (IRR). As a result, the lessee also recognises depreciation of the RTU Asset and interest on the lease liability in its Statement of Profit and Loss.

Rationale behind IFRS-16:

By what can be called the “5 Rule Check”, IAS 17, distinguishes leases into two broad classesviz. Operational and Financial Leases. While the leased assets wererecorded in the books of the lessor, in case of both operational and financial leases; as per IAS 17, an operational lease in the books of a lessee was treated as an “off-balance sheet” item. Regards the objective with which the new standard was introduced, IASB Chairman, Mr. Hans Hoogervorst, said that “These new accounting requirements bring lease accounting into the 21st century, ending the guesswork involved when calculating a company’s often-substantial lease obligation. The new standard will provide much-needed transparency on companies’ lease assets and liabilities, meaning that off balance sheet lease financing is no longer lurking in the shadows. It will also improve comparability between companies that lease and those that borrow to buy.

Hence, it is clearly a step towards IASB’s vision of transparency, accountability and efficiency.

Impact:

Put simply, IFRS 16 eliminates the distinction between operational and financial lease in the books of a lessee. We shall now analyse its impact in the real field and compare the outcome with the expectations.

Overall Impact:

On the surface, the accounting treatment will have a knock-off effect on financial elements; for instance, Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation & Amortization (EBITDA) and Profit After Tax (PAT).

Let us understand this effect with the help of an illustration:

Illustration 2:

A Ltd., an aviation company, has taken on lease, aircrafts worth Rs. 1000 crore, having residual value (RV) 20%, for 36 months, @ 12% p.a., having revenue of Rs. 15,000 crore

On the basis of the above information, we get the following:

  • Lease Rental p.a. : Rs. 342.86 crores
  • Right to Use Asset (RTU) : Rs. 860.22 crores
  • Depreciation on RTU Asset (on SLM Basis) : Rs. 286.74 crores
  • Annual Interest @ 12% p.a. : Rs. 89.59 crores

Now let us compare the impact of the accounting treatment under IAS 17 vs. IFRS 16:

Note: Unlike IFRS-16, under IAS 17, the entire operating lease transaction remains to be an off-balance sheet transaction. Under IFRS 16, the RTU less depreciation is recorded under the assets side vis-à-vis. Lease payables under the liabilities head.

Hence, as evident from the above illustration, sum towards rentals (fixed cost) under IAS 17, have now been substituted with Interest obligation under IFRS 16, and as such the EBIDTA is higher in the initial years. Further, recording the asset at RTU value also gives way for depreciation, and hence, as a result of depreciation along with interest, the PBT reduces in the initial years. From a bird’s eye view, both the assets and liabilities of the lessees adopting IFRS 16 will increase.

Re-negotiation of Loan Covenants:

Further, now that the lease assets are to be recorded, it will typically result in companies appearing to be more debt leveraged; however, since leases are most likely on the operating transaction side vis-à-vis loan transactions, this is not the true picture. This pseudo-presence of huge liabilities is also likely to take a toll on the lessee’s credit rating. Hence, formal communication with the lenders will become a matter of concern, and a sound two-way communication and transparency with the lenders will be the key to managing the transition from IAS 17 to IFRS 16, smooth and efficient.

Industry-wise Impact:

With the first quarter of F.Y. 2019-20 embarking the first quarter of implementation of IFRS 16, the author makes a humble attempt to study the impact, on the basis of financial results declared by several industry-majors.

BPM Industry-

According to a study by Cushman & Wakefield in June 2019, the Indian markets show a strong presence in office space leasing. It has also been observed that the IT-BPM sector, has a higher share in office lease activities, as compared to its contemporaries. Hence, it is evident that the “leasing” is an essential element in the BPM industry.

As the Mumbai-based BPM giant, WNS Global announced its first quarter results; we observe that while the operating profit increased as a result of IFRS 16, the profit for the quarter has decreased. This increase in the operating margins comes to picture as fixed costs reduce with interests of lease payments replace the rentals; the counter result of which is the increase in finance costs due to which the ultimate profit dips.

It is said that the three objectives of any business is Survival, Profit and then Growth. However, as may be seen from above, application of IFRS 16 has led to fall in the profit. It is apprehended that the fall in profit may hold back companies, in the BPM sector from continuing office-space leasing.

Aviation Industry-

Ever imagined that the airplanes we fly in, are most likely not even present on the company’s balance sheet? This non-appearance in the balance sheets was the outcome of accounting standards laid down under IAS 17. However, with IFRS 16 in the picture, the new financial year will be different from previous fiscals, especially for the aviation industry, as they now have to record all lease transactions in their books.

Adopting IAS 116, the Indian counterpart of IFRS 16, the airline industries now have to capitalise operating leases as RTU assets. While recording lease transactions and its by-products like interest, depreciation, the impact will majorly depend on factors like

  • Proportion of operating lease in the overall asset pool;
  • Duration of leases.

With leasing forming an indispensable element of airline companies, even though accounting should not be the key driver in commercial negotiations, market behaviour might change towards shorter lease tenures to minimize lease liabilities.

Owing to the fall in profits in the initial years, it is expected that there might be fall in operating leases, and sale & lease-back arrangements, which will prompt the airlines to purchase more aircrafts. Mr. Wui Jin Woon, Head of Aviation, Asia Pacific, Natixis CIB, also said that “Airline with sufficient access to liquidity may be more incline to purchase now that there is no difference from an accounting perspective between operating and finance leases.

However, adopting IAS 116, the Indian counterpart of IFRS 16, the airline industry major, IndiGo stated that while there might be changes in the future reported profits, which may necessitate a change in current P/E based valuation methodology, it will not impact IndiGo’s cash profits, cash flows and growth strategy.

Hence, while there is broad consensus on how the standard will affect various financial metrics, there is considerably less agreement on how it might influence operating decisions and market sentiments.

Communication Industry:

Most Communications companies enter into lease agreements both as lessors and lessees, as such, leases in the industry are prevalent. The new standard is likely therefore to have a material impact for Communications companies.

Arrangements which may contain leases could include – customer contracts for using identified network or infrastructure equipment, equipment provided to customers through which the operator delivers communication services such as set top boxes and modems, and data centre services etc.

As a consequence of IFRS 16, the potential business impact could include renegotiation of network development and network sharing agreements. Further, companies already having large asset bases, may be prey to the impairment risk with the addition of further assets in the balance sheet.

Automobile Industry

(a) Corporate Car Leasing

Corporate Car Leasing is a very innovative employee benefit scheme that has cropped up off late. Under this scheme, big corporates provide its employees, car taken on operational lease, which the end of tenure is sold to the employee at a nominal value.Hence, while the car is essentially for the benefit of the employees, the company is the actual lessee. As this set up was in the nature of an operating lease, the lessee, as per IAS 17, was not required to record the car in its balance sheet.

However, will the roll in of IFRS 16, the corporates will be required to record these cars at their RTU as assets and a corresponding lease liability in their books; as a result of which, the balance sheet of the corporate shall increase manifold.

(b) Fleet Management

In the Fleet Management market, leasing, especially operating lease has proven to be a smart move to optimise its costs and maintain adequate ratios, as until now, it was not required to be recognized in the balance sheet of the lessee.

Murray Price, managing director of EQSTRA Fleet Management said, “These include the impact on the company’s financial report, key ratios, disclosures, the cost of implementation, the ability to access desired information, the impact of covenants and debt renegotiations and leasing strategies.

This magnification of balance sheet, by virtue of change in accounting policies is anticipated to be detrimental to this industry. It is expected that this will hold back corporates from entering into such arrangements.

Change in the Lessors’ Approach:

Like every action has a reaction, even though IFRS 16 does not essentially alter or modify accounting methodologies adopted by the lessors,  the lessors may be impacted in their business models due to change in lessees’ behaviour. From the foregoing, a common thread that can be observed is that lessees having better liquidity, will now tend to incline towards purchasing the assets rather than leasing, as such, lessors may be required to revaluate the current portfolio of leases and prospective targets to identify lessees that may seek to alter their strategies as a result of IFRS-16.

Global Scenario:

Moving ahead from the industry wise acceptance, we shall now see how the new standard has been welcomed at the global level.While India has come up with IAS 116, drawn on the same lines and principles as IFRS 16, the United stated shall continue to follow ASC 842, dealing with the same subject.

Further, barring variances in implementation due to local regulatory requirements, IFRS 16 has been relatively consistently adopted in most of the Asia-Pacific markets. In Hong Kong, for example, most companies have a December financial year-end and submit financial statements to in around August in the following year. IFRS 16 impacts may become more apparent when listed companies release interim results in July 2019.

In Australia, most year-ends are in June, so some companies will not technically need to grapple with IFRS 16 until the second half of 2019.Similar patterns are evident in Singapore, Malaysia, India and the Philippines, where common accounting periods and reporting practices mean many companies won’t have to address IFRS 16 until later in the year.

The equivalent standards in Thailand and Indonesia are not effective until January 2020. In China, the Ministry of Finance only released the local version of the standard in December 2018, giving non-listed companies up to 2021 to adopt.

Conclusion:

Given the gravitas and indispensable presence of leases and the fact that it resides on such a large scale ground, to judge with certainty, the impact of IFRS 16 certainly requires more time. The dust around the same has not settled yet, hence one can say the picture is not yet vivid; however, it surely sets up the pace for what might unveil in days to come.

Unregulated Deposit Banning Bill passed by Lok Sabha,2019

 

The Unregulated Deposit Banning Bill, 2019[1] was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 24th July, 2019 and has since been passed.

The Bill enacts into law the provisions promulgated by a Presidential Ordinance[2] from 21st February 2019.

From our preliminary comparison, it appears that the Bill is largely the same as the text of the Ordinance.

However, a very significant, though very vague, amendment is the insertion of section 41 in the Bill which provides as under: “The provisions of this Act shall not apply to deposits taken in the ordinary course of business”

Of course, one will keep wondering as to what does this provision imply? What exactly is deposit taking in ordinance course of business? Is it to exclude deposits or loans taken for business purposes? Notably, almost all the so-called deposits that were taken during the Chit funds scam in West Bengal were apparently for some business purpose, though they were effectively nothing but money-for-money transactions. While the intent of this exception may be quell fears expressed across the country by small businesses that even taking of loans for business purposes will be barred, the provision does not jell with the meaning of excluded deposits which gives very specific carve-outs.

Also, one may potentially argue that deposit-taking itself may be a business. Or, deposits sourced may be used for money-lending business, which is also a deposit taken in ordinary course of business.

Basically, the insertion of this provision in section 41 may completely rob the statute of its intent and impact, even though it has an understandable purpose.

Please see our write ups on the Ordinance

 


[1] http://164.100.47.4/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/PassedLoksabha/182C_2019_LS_Eng.pdf
[2]https://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/bill_files/Banning%20of%20Unregulated%20Deposit%20Schemes%20Ordinance%2C%202019.pdf

Introspection of RBI’s new requirement for greater inspection

-Finserv Division

finserv@vinodkothari.com

 

The Union Budget 2019 had many odd talking points, especially for the banking and financial sector. From proposed recapitalization of public sector banks, relief in levy of Securities Transaction Tax (STT), proposing changes in factoring laws to increased supervision of NBFCs among others, this year’s budget created mixed emotions. One of the major changes that took everyone by surprise was granting exceptional power to the Reserve Bank of India for regulating and supervising non-banking financial companies (NBFC). One can say much of it is inspired by the ILFS saga.

In this article, we intend to pick up one such insertion in the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 which, we think, has escaped critic’s eye, that is section 45NAA. This, according to the author, is likely to have an overarching impact not only on the NBFCs but also on their non-financial group companies if any.

Insertion of section 45NAA

While much have been said about the other insertions in the RBI Act, that is, RBI’s right to remove directors or supersede the Board of the NBFC or initiative resolution of the NBFCs, one section which has been devoid of the much deserved attention is section 45NAA.

The section allows the RBI to inspect or audit of the books of all the group companies of an NBFC, including the non-financial entities in the group.

The text of the law has been provided below:

“45NAA. (1) The Bank may, at any time, direct a non-banking financial company to annex to its financial statements or furnish separately, within such time and at such intervals as may be specified by the Bank, such statements and information relating to the business or affairs of any group company of the non-banking financial company as the Bank may consider necessary or expedient to obtain for the purposes of this Act.

(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Companies Act, 2013, the Bank may, at any time, cause an inspection or audit to be made of any group company of a non-banking financial company and its books of account.”

In other words, the RBI will be able to assess and inspect the books of non-financial institutions like manufacturing or service companies, even though its jurisdiction implicitly lies within the domain of financial institutions.

Despite being a recent addition to the NBFC sector, extended auditing power by the RBI is a prevalent norm in banking. The following is an excerpt of Section 29A from the Banking Regulation Act[1], 1949, which provides the power to the RBI on similar lines:

“(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Companies Act, 1956(1 of 1956), the Reserve Bank may, at any time, cause an inspection to be made of any associate enterprise of a banking company and its books of account jointly by one or more of its officers or employees or other persons along with the Board or authority regulating such associate enterprise.”

However, there is a slight difference between the aforesaid provisions. On one hand, section 45NAA pertaining to NBFCs refer to the books of accounts of ‘group companies’ whereas, section 29A pertaining to banks refer to ‘associate enterprises’. To gauge the similarities between the sections, one has to look into the definition of the terms. The following is an excerpt from Section 45NAA-

(a) “group company” shall mean an arrangement involving two or more entities related to each other through any of the following relationships, namely:––

(i) subsidiary— parent (as may be notified by the Bank in accordance with Accounting Standards);

(ii) joint venture (as may be notified by the Bank in accordance with Accounting Standards);

(iii) associate (as may be notified by the Bank in accordance with Accounting Standards);

(iv) promoter-promotee (under the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992 or the rules or regulations made thereunder for listed companies);

(v) related party;

(vi) common brand name (that is usage of a registered brand name of an entity by another entity for business purposes); and

(vii) investment in equity shares of twenty per cent. and above in the entity;

(b) “Accounting Standards” means the Accounting Standards notified by the Central Government under section 133, read with section 469 of the Companies Act, 2013 and subsection (1) of section 210A of the Companies Act, 1956.”

Further, the relevant extract of section 29A of the Banking Regulations Act, relating to associate enterprises, is reproduced herein below-

“associate enterprise” in relation to a banking company includes an enterprise which–

(i) is a holding company or a subsidiary company of the banking company; or

(ii) is a joint venture of the banking company; or

(iii) is a subsidiary company or a joint venture of the holding company of the banking company; or

(iv) controls the composition of the Board of Directors or other body governing the banking company; or

(v) exercises, in the opinion of the Reserve Bank, significant influence on the banking company in taking financial or policy decisions; or

(vi) is able to obtain economic benefits from the activities of the banking company.

Despite some similarities in the two definitions, scope of “group companies” appear to be wider given the inclusion of related parties (defined under Ind AS-24[2]) and entities using a common brand or registered name. The meaning of the term “related party” has been obtained from Ind AS 24 and the same has numerous connotations including subsidiary, associates or entities upon which the reported entity has significant power of influence.

Undoubtedly, this is based on the learnings from the large number of scams that surfaced lately, especially the ones involving financial sector entities, but the amount of the power that has been bestowed upon the RBI is enormous. The intention is to allow RBI free access to all areas if it suspects anything foul happening in an NBFC.

Conclusion

A greater scrutinizing power bestowed to the RBI through section 45NAA has both positive, and, otherwise connotations. The power can be extended to inspect into corporate malpractices like accounting frauds, restrictive investment practices and undisclosed related party transactions through subsidiaries and associates that the RBI has reason to suspect. On the other hand, it also gives RBI discretionary powers to intervene and effect changes in private, non-financial companies on trivial grounds of misconduct, which is not always desirable. Control and corruption are opposite sides of the same coin. The coin has been flipped. Only time will show, on which side it lands.

[1] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/Publications/PDFs/BANKI15122014.pdf

[2] http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/Ind_AS24.pdf

Private virtual currencies out: India may soon see regulated virtual currency

-Kanakprabha Jethani | executive

kanak@vinodkothari.com

Background

A high-level Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) (‘Committee’) was constituted under the chairmanship of Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) to study the issues related to Virtual Currencies (VCs) and propose specific action to be taken in this matter. The Committee came up with its recommendations[1] recently. These recommendations include, among other things, ban on private VCs, examination of technologies underlying VCs and their impact on financial system, viability of issue of  ‘Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)’ as  legal tender in India, and potential of digital currency in the near future.

The following write-up deals with an all-round study of the recommendations of the committee and their probable impacts on the financial systems and the economy as a whole.

Major recommendations of the Committee.

The report of the Committee focuses on Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) or blockchain technology and their use to facilitate transactions in VCs and their relation to financial system. Following are the major recommendations of the Committee.

  • DEA should identify uses of DLT and various regulators should focus on developing appropriate regulations regarding use of DLT in their respective areas.
  • All private cryptocurrencies should be banned in India.
  • Introduction of an official digital currency to be known as Central bank digital currency (CBDC) which shall be acceptable as legal tender in India.
  • Blockchain based systems may be considered by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) for building low-cost KYC systems.
  • DLT may be used for collection of stamp duty in the existing e-stamping system.

Why were these recommendations needed?

  • DLT uses independent computers (called ‘nodes’), linked together through hash function, to record, share and synchronise transactions in their respective distributed ledgers. The detailed structure of DLTs and their functions and uses can be referred to in our other articles.[2]

Among its various benefits such as data security, privacy, permanent data retention, this system addresses one major issue linked to digital currency which is the problem of double-spend i.e. a digital currency can be spent more than once as digital data can be easily reproduced. In DLT, authenticity of a transaction can be verified by the user and only validated transactions form a block under this mechanism.

  • Many companies have been using Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) as a medium to raise money by issuing digital tokens in exchange of fiat money or a widely accepted cryptocurrency. This way of raising money has been bothering regulators as it has no regulatory backing and such system can collapse any time. The regulators also fail to reckon whether ICO can be even considered as a security or how it should be taxed.
  • Some countries allow use of VCs as a mode of payment but no country in the world accepts VCs as legal tender. In India, however, no such permissions are granted to VCs. Despite the non-acceptability of VCs in India, investors have been actively investing in VCs like bitcoin, which is a sign of danger for the economy as it is draining the financial systems of fiat money. Further, they pose a risk over the financial system as they are highly volatile, with no sovereign backing and no regulators to oversee. It has been witnessed in the recent years that there have been detrimental implications on the economy due to volatility of VCs such as bitcoins. the same has been dealt with in detail in our report[3] on Bitcoins. They are also suspected to have been facilitating criminal activities by providing anonymity to the transactions as well as to the persons involved.
  • The future is of digitisation. An economy with everything running on physical basis will not survive in the competitive world. A universally accepted system for digital payments would require digitisation of currency as well.

What is the regulatory philosophy in the world?

As a mode of payment: Countries like Switzerland, Thailand, Japan and Canada permit VCs as a mode of payment while New York requires persons using VCs to take prior registration with a specified authority. Russia allows only barter exchange through use of virtual currency which means that such exchange can only take place when routed through barter exchanges of Russia. China prohibits use of VCs as a mode of payment.

For investment purposes: Russia, Switzerland, Thailand, New York and Canada permit investment in VCs and have in place frameworks to regulate such investments. Further, countries like Russia, Thailand, japan, New York and Canada have also allowed setting up of crypto exchanges and have a framework for regulating the setting up and operations such exchange and subsequent trading of VCs on them. On the other hand, China altogether prohibits investments and trading in VCs and the law of Switzerland is silent as to allowing setting up of crypto exchanges.

Further, China has imposed a strict ban on any activity in cryptocurrencies and has also taken measures to prohibit crypto mining activities in its jurisdiction. No country in the world has allowed acceptance of virtual currency as legal tender. It is noteworthy that though Japan and Thailand allow transactions in VCs, such transactions are restricted to approved cryptocurrencies only.

Tunisia and Ecuador have issued their own blockchain based currency called eDinar and SISTEMA de Dinero Electronico respectively. Venezuela has also launched an oil-based cryptocurrency.

Issue of official digital currency

Sensing the keen inclination of financial systems towards technological innovation and witnessing declining use of physical currency in various countries, the Committee is of the view that a sovereign backed digital currency is required to be issued which will be treated at par with any other legal tender of the country.

Various legislations of the country need to be reviewed in this direction. This would include amendments to the definition of “Coin” as per Coinage Act for clarifying whether digital currency issued by RBI shall be included in the said definition. Further, on issue of such currency, it must be approved to be a “bank note” as per section 25 of RBI Act through notification in Gazette of India.

Various regulators would also be required to amend their respective regulations to align them in the direction of allowing use of such digital currency as an accepted form of currency.

Key features of CBDC are expected to be as follows:

  • The access to CBDC will be subject to time constraints as decided in the framework regulating the same.
  • CBDC will be designed to provide anonymity in the transaction. However, the extent of anonymity will depend on the decisions of the issuing authority.
  • Two models are under consideration for defining transfer mechanism for CBDC. One is account-based model which will be centralised and other one is value-based model which will be decentralised model. Hybrid variants may also be considered in this regard.
  • Contemplations as to have interest-bearing or non-interest-bearing CBDC are going on. An interest-bearing CBDC would allow value addition whereas non-interest bearing CBDC will operate as cash.

Why should DLT be used in financial systems?

  • Intermediation: Usually, in payment systems, there are layers of intermediation that add to cost of transaction. Through DLT, the transaction will be executed directly between the nodes with no intermediary which would then reduce the transaction costs. Further, in cross-border transactions through intermediaries, authorisations require a lot of time and result in slow down of transaction. This can also be done away through DLT.
  • KYC: Keeping KYC records and maintaining the same requires huge amounts of data to be stored and updated regularly. Various entities undergoing the same KYC processes, collecting the same proofs of identity from the same person for different transactions result in duplication of work. Through a blockchain based KYC record, the same record can be made available to various entities at once, while also ensuring privacy of data as no centralised entity will be involved. Loan appraisal: A blockchain technology can largely reduce the burden of due-diligence of loan applicant as the data of customers’ earlier loan transactions is readily available and their credit standing can be determined through that.
  • Trading: In trading, blockchain based systems can result in real-time settlement of transactions rather than T+2 settlement system as prevailing under the existing stock exchange mechanism. Since all the transactions are properly recorded, it provides an easier way of post-trade regulatory reporting.
  • Land registries and property titles: A robust land registry system can be established through use of blockchain mechanism which will have the complete history of ownership records and other rights relating to the property which would facilitate transfer of property as well as rights related to it.
  • E-stamping: A blockchain based system would ease out the process of updation of records across various authorities involved and would eliminate the need of having a central agency for keeping records of transaction.
  • Financial service providers: They can be benefited by the concept of ‘localisation of data’ due to which their data is protected from cyber-attacks and theft. Our article[4] studies implementation of blockchain technology in financial sector.

What will be the challenges?

  1. For implementation of DLT: Though a wide range of benefits can be reaped out of implementation of DLT in various aspects of financial systems, it has still not been implemented because there are a few hindrances that remain and are expected to continue even further. Some of the challenges that are slowing the pace of transition towards this technology are as follows:
  • Lack of technological equipment to handle volumes of transactions on blockchains and to ensure data security at the same time.
  • Absence of centralised infrastructure or central entity to regulate implementation of DLT in the financial system. Also, the existing regulators lack the expertise to oversee proper implementation.
  • First, a comprehensive regulatory framework needs to be in place that ensures governance in implementation. The framework will need to address concerns like jurisdiction in case of cross border ledgers, point of finality of transactions etc.
  1. For common digital currency: Decisions regarding validation function, settlement, transfer, value-addition etc. are of crucial importance and would require extensive study. Factors that might be hampering issue of such currency are as follows:
    • Having in place a safe and secure blockchain network and robust technology to handle the same will require significant investments.
    • High volumes of transactions may not be supported and might result in delays in processing.
    • In case an interest bearing CBDC is issued, it would pose great threat over the commercial banking system as the investors will be more inclined towards investing in CBDCs instead of bank deposits.
    • This is also likely to increase competition in the market and lower the profitability of commercial banks. Commercial banks may rely on overseas wholesale funding which might result in downturn of such banks in overseas market.
  2. For banning of private cryptocurrencies: A circular issued by the RBI has already banned its regulated entities from dealing in VCs. Many other countries have also banned dealing in VCs. Despite such restrictions, entities continue to deal in VCs because their speculative motives drive the dealing in VCs to a great extent.

Conclusion

The recommendations of the Committee intend to ensure safety of financial systems and simultaneously urge the growth of the system through innovation and technological advances. Rising above the glorious scenes of these recommendations, one realises that achieving this is a far-fetched reality. One needs to accept the fact that India still lacks in technology and systems sufficient to support innovations like blockchain. Various reports have already shown that operation of blockchains consumes huge volumes of energy, which can be the biggest issue for the energy-scarce India. India needs to work in order to strengthen its core before flapping its wings towards such sophisticated innovation.

[1] https://dea.gov.in/sites/default/files/Approved%20and%20Signed%20Report%20and%20Bill%20of%20IMC%20on%20VCs%2028%20Feb%202019.pdf

[2] http://vinodkothari.com/2019/06/blockchain-technology-its-applications-in-financial-sector/

http://vinodkothari.com/2019/06/an-introduction-to-smart-contracts-guest-post/

[3] http://vinodkothari.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Bitcoints-India-Report.pdf

[4] http://vinodkothari.com/2019/07/blockchain-based-lending-a-peer-to-peer-approach/