“I found the perfect house on the first go, and my landlord is amazing!” said no one ever.
At least I haven’t in my lifetime of living in rented houses in multiple cities. I’ve had my water supply cut for days because my mother had asked the apartment residents to not waste water; my plants were poisoned in the dead of the night because they had grown too long and were visible from the landlady’s second-floor balcony; I’ve even being asked to vacate the house overnight because the landlady was convinced we were going to take over her house. Needless to say, as a young professional who often changes cities, all I now ask for is a non-interfering houseowner, and have even agreed to pay more for places where they didn’t stay in the same building.
But getting a terrible houseowner is a compromise most young people have to make. If your house is great, chances are, your landlord sucks. If your landlord is amazing, chances are, they exist only in your head. But if you think yours is the worst, wait till you hear some of the horrible things some people have had to experience, which are straight out of a tragicomedy film. Read on.
“My drunk landlord, assisted by two cops and a local goon, shoved me in the back of a car and started slapping me.”
In 2014, I was living in my first rented flat as an intern in Magarpatta, a gated community in the Indian city of Pune in Maharashtra. I had paid Rs 12,000 ($150) – the equivalent of two months’ rent – towards the security deposit. My plan was to stay for just 15 days of the final month in our rental agreement, so I requested the landlord to settle it against my security deposit. His only response at the time was that he would see. One day, out of the blue, he asked me to come downstairs. There, I saw three people with him: two cops and his goon, all super drunk. They shoved me in the backseat of a car and started slapping me. They even tore my shirt. They then drove to a second location where they harassed me for around two hours, while the car was parked under a bridge, and they continued to drink.
Later, they drove to an ATM and demanded that I pay for their alcohol as well as the equivalent of two months’ rent as “penalty” – a total of Rs 15,000 ($188), as far as I remember. I didn’t have that much cash, so I withdrew Rs 3,000 ($38), which is all I had in my bank at the moment, and gave it to them. I don’t think money was their motive, anyway, They wanted to harass me for the fun of it. On the way back, they stopped at the local police station and asked if I wanted to file a complaint, as a way of mocking me, obviously. I went into the station with some hope. Needless to say, it was futile. The cops, including the officer-in-charge, made fun of me and showed me a bag of weed, saying they would have me falsely arrested for drug possession. – Siddharth Mehta, 29, management consultant
“We were asked for a list of people who would likely visit in the year, and told that no changes could be made to that list.”
In 2019, my friend and I were looking to rent an apartment in the Mumbai suburb of Bandra. Flat-hunting in Mumbai is infamously gruelling. In eight years, I must have seen around 150 houses. I have met my share of owners who refused to rent to us because my flatmate and good friend is a Muslim. Moreover, as bachelors, our options were further limited, as landlords in India generally prefer renting to families.
While I understand the reluctance to rent to single people, the terms and conditions of one particular landlord seemed insane. Visitors would need to be identified well in advance and we were told that they wouldn’t be allowed to visit beyond a certain hour. It didn’t stop there. We were asked for a list of people who would likely visit in the course of the year, and told that there could be no changes to that list. Deliveries couldn’t be scheduled for after 10PM. I kept looking at the broker and was like, “What the fuck?” For a house with a rent that high to have restrictions that were similar to a dorm was ridiculous. Of course, we didn’t move in. – A 28-year-old marketing and events consultant, who preferred to stay anonymous
“I jolted awake to a feeling of being watched by someone.”
When I moved to Mumbai as a 28-year-old, I was renting an apartment in the suburban district of Andheri East. Back then, I was working with a news platform and had late-night shifts from 5PM till around 2AM the following morning. I used to have an early lunch and take an hour’s nap before leaving for work.
Six months into moving in, I had a bizarre experience. I was asleep in my room, when I jolted awake to the feeling of being watched by someone. The landlord, who was in his late 70s or early 80s, was standing in the bedroom staring at me, with a bunch of letters in his hand. It was like seeing a ghost! I asked him what he was doing there. He calmly responded saying that he thought of dropping off my mail, since he thought there would be no one in the house at the time. “Am I disturbing you?” he asked, taken aback by the visible shock on my face. I asked him to leave, but he just stood there. Although, I don’t think he had any bad intentions.
I later checked with his daughter, who he used to manage the house with, and found out that he did not have a key to the main door, as the only one they had was handed over to me. He used to enter the house through the store room that we were told was locked from both sides. I connected the dots and figured out why things were moved from their original places and appliances were mysteriously repaired. It was him all along, entering the house when I was away and going about his business as if he still lived there. A week after the incident, I used whatever time and money I had to find a new place and move out, even though it meant forfeiting a big chunk of the security deposit for not giving prior notice. – Debarati Chakraborty, mid-30s, independent journalist
“The landlord said that if boys would visit, the rent would increase”
In 2017, as a college student in the Indian capital of Delhi, I was looking for flats in the North Campus area of Delhi University. This was a bit of an ordeal, given the high rents and low availability of places. I was new to Delhi and took the help of a broker to find a place. Every house had its own set of restrictions that included not allowing boys inside, no entry post 9.30PM, not having parties, and so on. In one such place, I was asked to take care of and be at the disposal of the elderly landlady who lived alone there, in exchange for a lower rent. Of course, I didn’t take up the offer and kept looking.
The broker took me to another place where the owner asked if boys would visit. I had male friends and also a new boyfriend at the time, and so, I said yes. The initial rent was Rs 12,000 ($150). But the landlord said that if boys would visit, the rent would increase to Rs 14,000 ($176). I was shocked, as I was literally having to pay for my freedom as an adult. But it was my best bet at the time, so I agreed to go beyond my budget and moved in. I have since rented other places in different Indian cities, and have discovered that the rent tends to be higher in places that have fewer restrictions and where there is less interference from the landlord. – Parul Kavia, 26, corporate social responsibility lead
“We moved into a place that looked like the haunted house in ‘The Conjuring.’”
As students of Syracuse University in New York, my four friends and I were looking for a house in August of last year, one that would be close to the university. The place we chose looked great in the ad photographs. We spoke to the realty company that was managing the house, but weren’t given a tour of the place before finalising the deal. It was a two-storey house with an attic and looked quite spacious. When we saw the actual house, we were absolutely shocked! It was old and looked similar to the house from the 2013 horror film The Conjuring. Turns out, the image used in the ad had been photoshopped!
There was no front door, there was a hole that ran from the living room to the basement that was covered with duct tape on the surface and painted over, the roof used to leak when it snowed, the lights had a mind of their own, which we half-jokingly attributed to paranormal activity. The landlord promised to fix everything by the end of month, but repairs stretched on for two months. I also had to buy equipment to fix things around the house and make it livable. We were paying $450 including utilities that cost up to $150 per month that was standard for the area. Despite the many problems with the house, we couldn’t move out for a year because of budget constraints. – A master’s student, who preferred to be anonymous because he’s now filed a legal complaint against the realtor for cheating and wouldn’t want this anecdote to affect the outcome of the trial
“There was cat shit even in the kitchen cabinets.”
I rented an apartment from a man who had adopted several cats. He had decided to move in with his daughter because he was getting old. The first thing that hit me when I went to check out the place was the horrible smell that seemed to specifically emanate from the dirty litter box, but that had also permeated the entire house. I thought it would go away once he moved out with his stuff. I also needed the house urgently and it seemed to be the only decent one near my office. When I moved in, I realised the cats had pooped all over the place, which likely hadn't been cleaned in months. The couch was full of stains (it was covered when I'd gone to inspect the place), so I guessed the cats would've taken a dump on it several times. I even found a spot under the bed where there was a LOT of hardened shit. There was cat shit even in the kitchen cabinets. I moved out immediately, and still find it nauseating to visit friends who have cats. – Damini L, 27, marketing manager