Does the law permit discrimination against single tenants?

Housing complexes disallowing home owners from renting their properties to single individuals, is a common issue in most metropolitan cities. We look at the common reasons cited for this practice and what home owners can do

Sumit Dewan, aged 24, who came to Mumbai for his training after completing his graduation in architecture, spent two months searching for a rental house, in vain. Everyone refused him a flat, as he was a bachelor.

“I do not smoke or drink. I have no criminal record. How can they judge my character, on the basis that I am single? Brokers used to ask me for higher rent, for flats which were available. Finance was also a big concern, as I was at the beginning of my career,” Dewan lamented.

Apurv Mehra, a software engineer who shifted to Bengaluru, faced a similar problem. Most of the paying guest accommodations that he saw, had a set of rules and regulations for him to follow because he was single. “I was told that I could not bring any female colleagues to the house. Loud music and drinking was also prohibited in the house,” he recalls.

This situation is quite common throughout the country, where many housing societies have included clauses in their rule book that prevents owners from renting out their premises to single tenants, or are silently following this norm.


Common reasons for refusal of rental accommodation to singles

A committee member of a housing society in Mira Road, in Mumbai, that barred bachelors explains that “We took this decision, as we had a bad experience with three bachelors who used drink, party late into the night and pick fights with the security guards.”

Avnish Yadav, deputy general manager, residential services, Colliers International India, is of the view that this practice is more a result of society norms, where people feel that bachelors will create more nuisance. According to him, “The only drawback while renting to bachelors is the longevity of the lease, as the lease period or stay will be shorter, compared to that of families. Also, letting out a property to bachelors may also cost more, in terms of money and time involved to renovate the apartment for tenants.”

See also: Singles are regularly denied apartments on rent

Farshid Cooper, managing director of Spenta Corporation, feels that “If a family is living in the flat, they are likely to take better care of the flat. Moreover, there won’t be any complaints from the society and neighbours.”


Families versus singles as tenants: Is there any difference?

Punit Agarwal, MD and CEO of Nirvana Realty, maintains that landlords should have an open mind towards bachelors, as well as families. “I don’t see any harm in giving your house on rent to a bachelor, who has a positive record in terms of his behavior, education and job profile,” he says.

Sharing his view, Rajesh Wadhwani, who resides in Bandra in Mumbai, says “We have many single foreigners and professionals staying in our building. Leaving aside a few instances, we had no issues with them. Nuisance can be created by families also. When so many couples in live-in relationships are given flats, why should only singles be targeted?”

Swati Bhandakar, a flat owner in Pune, fought with her society to rent out her apartment to bachelors. “If I have got the police verification and all legal documents, nobody can stop me from renting out my flat on the basis of caste, creed or sex. Why should members of societies indulge in moral policing? How are rules made, based on the behaviour of a select few?” asks Bhandakar, who has been renting out her flat for the past four years and has found bachelors to be very cordial. Also, renting to bachelors is profitable, as they are ready to pay on the higher side by splitting the cost among themselves, she points out.

Raj Vishwkarma, a broker, who has come across many such cases, shares that he feels humiliated, when people from respectable backgrounds are treated badly. “Where will these people go? There are only a few hostels and these are not enough for the job aspirants who come to cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai,” he elaborates. While problems do arise at times, these can be taken care of with proper clauses in rental agreements, he adds.


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What does the law say about discriminating against single tenants

Vinod Sampat, an advocate and property expert, explains that “The society does not have the ownership of the property. As a result, they have no say on the type of tenant that can be allowed to stay in the society. It is the sole discretion of the owner to rent out his property, under the appropriate terms and conditions prescribed by law. However, he should not rent out his premises for commercial or illegal activities and so on.”

Ramesh Prabhu, president of the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association (MSWA) adds that Article 14 and Article 15 of the Constitution of India, provide for equality before the law and prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, sex, place of birth or any of them. “Every member of the society has the right to give his flat on leave and license basis and the society cannot restrict bachelors or spinsters. The requirement of obtaining the prior permission from the society to give the flat on leave and license basis, has been removed from the new model bye-laws. Members only need to inform the society about the flat being given on rent, by submitting a copy of the duly registered leave and license agreement and a copy of the tenants’ information submitted to the nearest police station,” he elaborates.

Depending upon the state and the law in force, the residents’ welfare association may levy non-occupancy charges. The Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act does have not have provisions for ‘prohibited and restricted’ areas in the society premises. If instances of violation are a regular feature, then, a suo-moto application may be forwarded to the registrar of CHS for de-registration of the society, citing ‘illegal and invalid’ activities and violation of the rule of law.


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