What are the 'rules' for renting a house in India?

Before renting a house in India, expats must know about certain legal and cultural differences. This can make the renting-process a tad bit easier.

For employees who want to rent a home in India, the assignment can vary from a short/long period of six months to three years. In general, it is the responsibility of the employer to arrange a place of residence. This means that the employee gets a rent-free accommodation (RFA) or, if the employee chooses, the house rent allowance (HRA) can be provided by the employer so that the expat can rent a house himself. This article is about expats who are looking for a rental property in India.

Rental agreement
The rental agreements can be quite informal. However, if you need proof of residence, it is advisable to have at least some type of non-verbal agreement with the landlord, that means an agreement on paper. You must also request a receipt for your deposit and monthly rental payments. These can include maintenance costs, applicable taxes etc. Most landlords will not easily inclined to receive the rent via a bank transfer, therefore you have to take into account the fact that the landlord can demand the rent in cash or by check. The standard rental period is twelve months.

However, since a twelve-month contract makes the lease subject to rent protection, landlords often prefer a period of eleven months. Although a twelve-month contract gives you more legal protection against possible offenses by the landlord, contracts of eleven months are more common because both parties can be more flexible. Your landlord can make a proposal about a shorter or longer stay. Also, make sure you inform the landlord at least two months in advance if you want to leave the property before the rental agreement expires.

Bizarre requirements for renting a house
Last but not least, landlords can make strange demands while letting out their property, especially when it comes to singles. Moral policing is the most common thing in the world for many housing societies in large cities such as Mumbai or Bangalore. For example, if you are looking for a rental property as a single woman, keep in mind that some landlords - as part of the rental process - can ask you for a 'character certificate'! This may be a statement from your previous landlord, that you acted as a good tenant or your employer with whom you are employed. Women can also expect probing questions about how late they come home, whether they are divorced and why they want to rent a house 'alone'. Legally this is not allowed but socially, an practice that is acceptable. 

Besides women, people from the LGBT community also have a hard time on the housing market in India. Even though homosexuality is no longer a crime in India, societal mindset will take some time to change. Apart from the assumption that homosexuals are all about parties, orgies, drugs and the like, many landlords have an irrational fear of HIV, AIDS and pedophilia. Furthermore, some landlords, especially in the Southern part of India - due to religious reasons - can also demand that you are not allowed to prepare meat and fish in the house.

Also note that a property that is advertised as 'unfurnished' usually has no oven, refrigerator, washing machine and other amenities.

Looking to rent an accomodation in India and need advise? Do not hesitate to contact Miss Legal India.

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