When Anita (name changed) rented a 3 BHK house in Murugeshpalya with two other women, the owner declined to put forward a proper rental agreement, asserting that he’s renting out the property as a PG setup. As freshers in Bengaluru who urgently needed shelter, they made a verbal agreement with the owner to pay the rent by the fifth of every month. Little did they know that the next two years would be an ordeal for them.
The owner would often show up at their doorstep in an inebriated state, demanding extra money. Once, he refused to provide rent receipt to one of the women and she received only a flurry of abuses in return. Anita and her flatmates became habituated with the landlord interfering in their daily lives or asking for electricity/water bills twice a month. On many occasions, they were also victims of regional discrimination even though she hails from Karnataka. All this while, they were afraid to approach the police fearing the owner’s local political connections.
Though they left the flat after two long years, they were quite traumatised by this experience. So much so that they grew quite paranoid while renting another flat.
Trauma Of House Hunting
Anita is one among the hundreds of young, working people in Bengaluru who have harrowing experiences while renting flats in the city. When The Logical Indian approached members of a popular house-hunting group on Facebook, hundreds of disgruntled and often traumatised tenants responded. The working population of Bengaluru hailing from different parts of India, both men and women, poured in their ordeals – which ranged from extortion of money to communal bigotry.
Discrimination Over Region Or Language
Before renting their property most owners enlist conditions like ‘Only for Family’ or ‘Non-Veg Not Allowed’ in their description. “It’s better to know the owner’s preferences beforehand than to put up with endless restrictions and hassles after moving in,” says Arunima, who had been in Bengaluru for over a year.
While food choices and age of tenants is not an unusual prerequisite to put up with, it is the subtle discriminatory attitude of some owners that often affect the young tenants.
After two whole days of meticulous searching, Sagar (name changed), who hails from Kolkata, finally shortlisted a property which ticked all the boxes on his checklist. However, when he called the owner, she distinctly told him, “North Indians are not allowed.”
One of the journalists at The Logical Indian, who did not want to be named, faced regional discrimination from her neighbours due to a simple misunderstanding about garbage disposal.
Regional discrimination is still tolerable if and when compared to communal hatred. It is almost impossible for a non-Hindu individual or family to find accommodation in a predominantly Hindu locality and vice-versa. Most of the times, they are outright rejected on the face, over a call or even WhatsApp texts.
Namrata and her friend were denied permission to even visit a property when the owner got to know that her friend was a Muslim. The owner replied via a text which read, “Sorry madam we don’t give rooms to Muslims.”
Loans To Pay Security Deposit
A ten months rent as security deposit is quite exorbitant for bachelors who are about to start their careers. It is highly unlikely to find a single property in the city where the rental deposit is not ten times that of rent, to quote the least.
Incidentally, Karnataka still follows the Rent Control Act 2001, where there is no provision of capping the security deposit at an affordable limit. As a result, most owners continue to demand a whopping ten months rent as the security deposit, which has been the norm for over a decade or so. Though Section 12 of Model Tenancy Act, 2011 states that landlords can collect no more than three months rent as a deposit, the act is yet to be implemented by the state government.
Advocate K.S. Rajesh Gowda, who practises in the Karnataka High Court said, “Most landlords in Bengaluru refuse to adhere to three months rent as deposit amount since they are accustomed to getting ten months rent. The prospective tenant cannot do much in this regard except for filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the court of law demanding enforcement of a more reasonable security deposit amount.”
Owners Often Refuse To Refund The Deposit In Time
However, in a lot of cases, unscrupulous owners refuse to refund the deposit immediately after the tenant vacates. “I have put it on Fixed Deposit and cannot break the tenure,” is the usual excuse, as said by many tenants.
For instance, Abhishek had to extend his stay in a flat despite his inconvenience as the owner openly refused to refund the security deposit. “I have launched an online complaint with the police but have got no response yet. I am feeling really helpless,” said Abhishek.
“Sadly, many owners do not trust us,” says cab driver Vikram (name changed), who came to this city about a decade ago from Andhra Pradesh. Till date, he has had trysts with several house-owners, many of whom have dilly-dallied to refund the security deposit in time. “Most of the times I have to ask my local friends to intervene and settle the issue amicably,” he shares.
“But make sure you never vacate a property without the refunded deposit in your hand,” he advised.
Not So Easy For Single Women
While the amount might not be a headache for a family, most fresher employees or students find it impossible to afford it. In addition, most owners outrightly refuse to rent out the property to ‘bachelors’, citing issues of ‘nuisance’ and ‘immorality’.
The plight is worse for unmarried women who are subjected to a long list of restrictions while renting a house. From disapproval of male friends to curfew times to moral policing, single working women find little difference between school hostels and rental flats.
Reasons For Rejection Are Often Bizarre
Payel (name changed) and her two female friends underwent a harrowing round of inquiry from a potential owner, which included very personal questions. “When she learnt we work in Indian companies, she changed her mind about renting the flat to us. She said we have no job security and would definitely default on her rent,” Payel recalls her bizarre experience.
Much like Payel, Samir was denied a flat on the very day he was about to move in. The landlord simply cited ‘personal reasons’ for his refusal, leaving Samir literally on the streets.
Tenants Refrain From Retaliation
Most bachelor tenants, especially those from other states, do not feel comfortable to approach the local police in case of any dispute with the landlord. “The owner voiced false complaints about me in the native language in front of the police. I was at a loss of words,” shares an engineer, who shared his grievances upon the condition of anonymity.
Advocate Gowda advises the tenant to file a suit in the civil court in case of any dispute with the landlord. “Irrespective of the tenant’s native state, he or she is perfectly eligible to file a civil suit in the court of law against any breach of the agreement or untoward behaviour of the owner,” he says.
Owners Too Are Sufferers
The story, however, will remain incomplete if the other facet is overlooked. Many lessors complain of unruly tenants who regularly create nuisance and ruckus, and often refuse to vacate the property despite repeated appeals and warnings. “In that case, the owner has every right to legally intervene and evict the tenant since the latter had breached a few crucial clauses of the rental agreement,” said Advocate Gowda.
For the owners, he also emphasises the importance of security deposit as a safekeeping, since many dishonest tenants tend to vacate a property at midnight or in the owner’s absence without paying rent for months on end.
Bottom line, legal intervention and even police action can be initiated in case of gross violation of the rental agreement by either of the parties.
Checklist For A Rental Agreement
“One needs to be very mindful while preparing a rental agreement,” advises Advocate Gowda. Before entering into an agreement, the tenant and the owner must have a clear discussion about rent, deposit and all other terms and conditions. The tenant should adequately negotiate the rent and deposit amounts because once it is documented in the agreement, there is no more scope for discussion.
- A rental agreement lasts for a duration of 11 months, following which the lessor and the tenant can mutually agree to renew the agreement for a further stay or the tenant can vacate the property. After 11 months, the rent can be lawfully increased by up to 10%.
- The agreement should clearly mention names of the tenant(s) and owner, the mutually agreed upon rent and deposit amount, bank account details of the owner, water and electricity bill (if inclusive) as well as other maintenance costs if any.
- The terms and conditions in the rental agreement should cater to the interests of either party, ensuring equal rights and privileges to both the parties. The tenant must abide by conditions like no damage to property, no disturbance, no subletting the property without the owner’s consent and no illegal activities in the premises. At the same time, the owner must respect the tenant’s privacy and consent to clauses like prior notice to tenants before visiting the property. In case the owner violates this clause and enters the premises in the tenant’s absence and without his/her knowledge, this can be counted as trespassing.
- At the time of vacating, the tenant is liable to pay painting and renovation charges for the property. “Generally, the owner expects to deduct one month’s rent from the deposit as painting charges. However, if the rent is high, say above ₹ 20,000 or ₹ 25,000, the tenant should assess the probable painting charges before occupying the property and accordingly decide the deduction amount entered in the agreement,” informs Advocate Gowda.
- The agreement must be mutually agreed upon and signed by both parties and has to be recorded in a stamp paper. Ideally, both the parties should each keep one copy of the agreement.