Posted by Sangini India
Yes, this deserves an article of its own, because this needs to be written about.
When I went online to search information on what it is like for lesbian, bisexual women, and transgender (Female to Male) individuals to rent houses in Delhi, guess what I found? NOTHING. Isn’t it amazing? Like LBT individuals never go out searching for houses.
Oh! But they do!
Now one can say that how is it any different from a straight woman house-hunting? She must also face similar challenges, right? Challenges such as negotiating the freedom, bringing over friends, surveillance, night outs, expectation of being a ‘good girl’, and so on.
But what can differ are the questions and the kind of judgemental interrogation that one can come across. Sample these:
“Your documents say that you are a woman.”
“Who is that girl who visits you every other day?”
“I told you only girls allowed. Then why are these boys visiting?”
“We need your parents’ number. You know, just in case of emergency.”
“Why do you want to rent a house when your parents stay in the same city.”
In case you are out of the closet and wondering why you should be reading this, then just know that ignorance on someone’s part can cost you your rights. We are not rooting for something to go wrong when you go house hunting in the city. But what would you do or look out for, if it does?
Here are some easy tips to follow or brace yourself with if you are planning to go for house hunting in Delhi:
1. Know Your Challenges
Are you single or committed, out or not about your gender or sexuality, etc. – Having such basic things clear in your mind will give you an idea on what kind of people you’d be ready to interact with during the search. While for some there are ways to make a conservative landlord or broker situation work for them, for others it’s a definite no-can-do kind of a situation.
2. Know What You Want
Be clear on the things you cannot do away with while talking to the owner or broker. For some, freedom to have friends over can be as non-negotiable as having privacy or an independent room in a house. Many people try to sneak around with things in their rented house, but it is not advisable as it can lead to eviction from the house too.
3. Direct Interaction
Even if you are going through a broker or interacting directly with an owner of the house, always try to have a conversation or two with them. This is necessary to avoid any communication gap which might create problems later. Several brokers try to advertise more than what is on the table. So, if you know your demands, mention them to the owner one way or the other so it is clear to both parties as to what they are getting into.
4. The Legal Aspect
Some people prefer to rent accommodation by drawing out a rent agreement. This is usually done for long-term leasing of the house, but it is recommended for any situation. This gives you a written document as a proof for your rented house, which can come handy in case of an owner or a broker creating a problem for you later. While such troublesome owners or brokers are themselves a major red flag, the document can otherwise be used for legal processes (e.g. residence proof) if you are from another city.
It is not too difficult to get a rent agreement made. One can visit a court and get this done with the help of a notary. Generally, they will have the format and details of making this. You can also ask you friends for their copy or search online for formats.
At the same time, it is also important to get a rent receipt from your owner every month for documentation. While many owners would preferably want to do away with a receipt, one should always try to negotiate on getting it.
6. She Is My ‘Friend’
In case you are a couple going house hunting, it is necessary to talk amongst yourselves on how you both want to be recognised and addressed in this scenario. While many people go for the tag of a ‘friend’ to avoid any suspicion or fuss, some choose to slide in hints or even come out to the third party. It is an individual choice primarily on how you want to be acknowledged by the broker or the owner.
7. Red Flags to Remember
Some of the things to look out for while going house hunting can be an unfriendly, misogynistic, or nosy broker or owner, nosy neighbours, unsafe localities, homophobic dealers or owners, among others.
8. Know Your Rights
Few things you can keep handy while renting a house can be: drawing out rent agreement, knowing people or helplines in the city for support (legal, emergency and LBT friendly NGOs), owner or broker has no right to trespass or enter your house without your permission, understanding Section 377 and how you might or might not fall in it, among others.
While these can be helpful steps to rent a house in Delhi, individuals might always tweak these basics as per their situation. As per a non-representative poll we took on Facebook about whether it is easy to rent a house in Delhi for LBT individuals or not, the majority of people admitted that it is not easy to get a house, some people have also had mixed reactions, and a few have been lucky in being able to find dreamy rented houses in Delhi too. Also these days there are several online portals and Facebook groups that are mostly from trusted sources. It is also good to look up for your broker or dealer online for any good or bad reviews that one might find handy at the time of decision making.
Final tip: Use your common sense. Period.
Happy House Hunting!
Sangini (India) Trust is an NGO based in New Delhi, India working for women attracted to women and individuals dealing with their gender identity (F to M). Sangini provides 24/7 emergency response services to LBT individuals whose human rights are being violated. Set up in 1997, under the umbrella of The Naz Foundation (India) Trust, it is the oldest non- governmental organization in India to reach out to LBT and provide counseling and community support serviceto them.
Disclaimer: This piece was originally published on Gaylaxy Magazine and is re-published here with consent.