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Neha Kumari, 29, recently rented a 3-BHK apartment in HSR-Layout locality in Bengaluru. She pays 45,000 rent for the apartment which she shares with her sister. This is the fifth time Kumari, a tech entrepreneur, has shifted her residence in the last six years in Bengaluru. That is because she either wished to be closer to her workplace, which changed whenever she switched jobs, or wanted better amenities.

“When I was in Koramangala, my office was far away and I would waste a lot of time in traffic jams. So, I moved to Kadubeesanahalli, which was closer to my office. After I left that job and started my own venture, I moved to HSR Layout because it has shopping complexes, gyms and other facilities compared to Kadubeesanahalli, which predominantly has residential complexes," she said.

For her current apartment, she has deposited five months’ worth of rent as security deposit with the landlord.

Security deposit in Bengaluru is among the highest of all metros. “Typically, landlords here try to get 8-10 months’ rent as deposit. I was lucky with this house because I had to deposit just five months’ rent," she said.

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Though this is the general practice, there is room for negotiation. Kumari suggests that one can even try to get the deposit split in two tranches. “You can insist on paying half the amount at the start and the remaining half 3-4 months later. Landlords are flexible to such arrangements," she said.

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Landlords typically demand higher deposits when they let out their own houses, Kumari says. “I’ve observed that for properties that are bought for the sole purpose of renting, landlords don’t care as much about a higher deposit. But, if they are letting out the house they have occupied, they want a higher deposit as the house will be furnished and they are more concerned about its upkeep," she said.

On being asked whether being a woman tenant posed her problems in finding a house, Kumari said it has instead been a blessing. “Landlords are more willing to let out to women as the assumption is they will keep the house clean and there will be less noise and commotion compared to men."

Kumari added that she is planning to buy a house in the next two years. “My preference is that the area I live in should have easy accessibility to all basic amenities as Bengaluru has a bad traffic situation."

Rent factors

Bengaluru’s main suburbs include a mix of independent houses, bungalows and apartments in gated societies, while the localities on peripheries dominantly feature high-rise apartments.

Apart from the size of the house, factors that influence rents in Bengaluru include the age of the building, its location—whether the house is located in a gated society— and the availability of recreational amenities such as swimming pools and sports centre there.

“Rent of apartments in gated societies is typically higher compared to independent houses because the former provides security and amenities inside the complex. But, this may not always be the case if the building is quite old. For instance, the apartment building I live in is very old. Newly-constructed houses have better flooring, modern interiors and furnishing, and accordingly the rent goes up," said Kumari.

Proximity to the metro station is not a major factor that influences rent in Bengaluru because its reach is currently very limited.

Rental agreement

Kumari prefers to use brokers for renting houses. “Online platforms have a limited repository of listings compared to brokers. I find going through a broker more convenient and they have even helped me negotiate a better deal in some cases," she said.

However, not everyone is as lucky as Kumari when it comes to finding good brokers. Take the case of Udita Pal, founder of a fintech startup, whose broker abruptly informed her of a hike in rent just three months after she moved in. Pal refused to comply as the rent agreement specified that rent will be revised after 11 months when the agreement is renewed. “My broker didn’t let me communicate directly with the landlord," she said. Pal vacated the flat after the agreement ended, but had to forgo a chunk of the deposit following the feud with the landlord.

Note that rental agreements are mostly valid for a 11-month period and can be extended with new agreements that often include a hike in rent.

Landlords generally don’t mention the deposit and terms around its refund in the rent agreement as these amounts are informally agreed upon.

The Model Tenancy Act (MTA), which was passed in July 2021, has addressed some of these issues. It has capped security deposit at two months' rent and landlords are mandated to give a notice of three months to tenants before raising the rent. However, the Act is subject to state laws and Karnataka is yet to amend its tenancy laws in line with the MTA.

Till then, tenants will have legal remedies available only if landlords flout any terms in the rental agreement, as per Dheeraj Kumar, head- legal and risk management.

“The obligation of the landlord to refund the security deposit strictly comes out of the rent agreement executed between the landlord and tenant only, and should be duly stamped (as per Indian Stamp Act, 1899) and signed by both the parties. Any default arising out of the breach of agreement can be enforced and remedied through civil courts," he said.

Pal pointed out that tenants should be careful about scams by brokers . “About 1-2 months before the agreement is bound to expire, brokers call up the tenant quoting a much higher rent for the next term. They will pretend to negotiate on your behalf so that they can again charge one month rent as commission," she said.

It is better to communicate directly with the landlord to avoid such commissions.

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