How this non-binary person navigates renting in Delhi

For Mirza, the learning over the years has been to pick a good landlord. Photo: Mint
For Mirza, the learning over the years has been to pick a good landlord. Photo: Mint


  • Queer individuals have to overcompensate for their identities to be taken seriously.

Mabel Mirza, 34, has been living in rented houses for nearly a decade in Delhi. He currently occupies a 1-bhk apartment in Chittaranjan Park, more commonly known as CR Park, a locality in the South East part of the city. “I rented my first apartment in Patel Nagar, moved to East of Kailash from there and then to C R Park," he said.

Mirza identifies as a non-binary person—someone who does not confirm to either binary gender of man or woman—and uses he/them pronouns. He says that house hunting for queer individuals is no cakewalk in Delhi. “Queer folks have to overcompensate for their identities by inflating their academic or professional credentials to be taken seriously by landlords and brokers," said Mirza, who is a marketing professional in a tea company.

Is there any difference in rent for queer people? Mirza said he has personally not faced this. “I can say it has been easy for me because I’m not visibly queer and can pass off as a straight person. Transgender people who do not look like what their assigned gender may be are the ones most exploited by landlords. Their house hunting options are limited at the outset and even when they are taken for a listing, the landlord hikes the rent right in front of them knowing they are desperate for a house," he said.

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For Mirza, the learning over the years has been to pick a good landlord. “If a landlord asks too many questions about my gender identity or sexuality, it’s a red flag that they are going to create problems in the future and hence, I don’t take the house. I lay down boundaries at the outset to avoid conflicts later and at times when I have been questioned on visitors, I sternly tell them that it’s my space and they can’t define who can visit me," he said.

Mirza has been living in his current house for two years and pays 22,000 as rent. He has moved houses over the years to upgrade to better living standards with increase in income, and the latest move to his current apartment was an outcome of his desire to live alone.

As for buying a house in Delhi, Mirza said he prefers renting. “I don’t think that you need to own something to enjoy it. Investment in real estate is not a value proposition for me, as it ties you down to a huge loan."

Mabel Mirza, 34, marketing professional.
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Mabel Mirza, 34, marketing professional.

Rent factors

Housing localities in South Delhi, including Greater Kailash, Green Park, Safdarjung Enclave, Panchsheel Park etc. have the highest rent. Locations in West and North parts of the city, like Uttam Nagar, Patel Nagar, Shahdara, Rohini, have lower rents. Apart from the neighbourhood and size of the house, factors such as how old the building is, floor on which house is situated, proximity to the metro and green spaces influence the rent. “Houses on upper floors have less rent, while a park facing apartment will attract a slightly higher rent," said Mirza.

Residential colonies in Delhi mainly consist of independent houses, barring suburbs like Dwarka and Mayur Vihar that have gated societies. Mirza reiterated that it is important to ensure that landlords don’t intrude. One way to do this is define terms in the rent agreement as to when the landlord can visit.

Cost of renting

Security deposit in Delhi is typically 1-2 months’ worth of rent, which is among the lowest of all metro cities, and up to 5% of the amount is deducted (towards payment of pending power and water bills) while the remaining money is returned on vacating the house if there are no damages. Mirza has deposited 2 months’ rent as deposit in his current apartment. As a general practice, maintenance costs towards daily wear and tear are mostly borne by the tenant, said Mirza. But, tenants should not pick up the bills for damages caused by faulty fittings or poor construction. “I’ve experienced leaking roofs because the landlord did not waterproof the terrace to save money. I refuse to pay for fixing such damages and even deduct money from the rent if the landlord does not pay up," he said.

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Brokers in Delhi charge one month’s rent as fee but Mirza says he pays depending on the extent of services the brokers provide. “Brokerage involves the broker to negotiate rent and security amount on your behalf, check on property when repairs are done, etc. Brokers in Delhi just show you the house, so I negotiate on the fee," he said.

There are two methods to get a rent agreement - on a stamp paper of minimum value of 50 or 100 through a notary, which costs less than 2,500, or it can be registered in the sub-registrar’s office, which costs much higher.

“Any agreement of more than 12 months needs to be mandatorily registered for it to be a valid rent agreement," said Anshul Gupta, Managing Partner, ANG Partners Advocates & Solicitors. To avoid mandatory registration and ensuing high costs, the general practice is to get an agreement of 11 months that can be done through a notary.

Mirza said registered agreement costs between 10,000 and 15,000 due to high stamp duty in Delhi. “The stamp duty in Delhi for a lease of up to five years is 2% of the average annual rent. Fixed fee of 1,100/- is levied for registration," said Abhishek Mathur, Partner, Luthra & Luthra Law Offices India.

Benefit of getting a court-registered agreement is that it is accepted by public offices, such as the passport office, as proof of address. Also, it is admissible in a court of law and can be used in recovery suits in case of a dispute, said Gupta. “One more advantage is that a registered agreement will bring the Lessee under the Model Tenancy Act, 2021 and a lot of benefits can be availed by him or her," he added. Delhi’s rental laws have not yet been amended in line with the Model Tenancy Act.

As for claiming HRA, notarised stamp paper is also accepted as a proof of tenancy.

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