Housing prejudice: Discrimination rampant in resale and rental flats in Mumbai

  • Naresh Kamath, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 03, 2015 22:43 IST

Though many builders are now opting to make their new buildings expressly inclusive to attract buyers, widespread discrimination is still the norm for resale and rental flats.

Six months ago, businessman Yunus Khan had zeroed in on a resale flat in a plush building at Bandra. The deal was all but done when Khan paid the owner a token amount. All that remained was an interview with the building’s managing committee members. Khan appeared for the interview and felt it went off well. He was therefore shocked when told that the managing committee was not satisfied with his answers. When he pursued the matter, he was told by both the broker and the owner that he had been rejected as members of the managing committee were not comfortable with giving the flat to a Muslim.

“My entire plan went haywire. And the fact that I was rejected because I was a Muslim made me feel like a second-grade citizen of this country,” he added.

Similarly, actor Bareena Khan, originally from Uttarakand, says she had no choice but to rent a flat at Yari Road after all her efforts to land one at Lokhandwala failed because she is a Muslim. “I was told to my face that I could not get a flat at Lokhandwala – where all of my Hindu friends live – because of my religion. I was miserable,” he said.

Brokers and industry experts say that when it comes to resale and rental flats in Mumbai, discrimination remains rampant and may even be on the rise. This is down pressure from residents, especially managing committee members, who, unlike builders, have no incentive to make their buildings and societies more inclusive to attract buyers.

Asked why ‘outsiders’ were not allowed in his society, the managing committee member of a Jain-only society in Parel, who did not wish to be named, said, “They will cook non-vegetarian food, the stench of which is unbearable to us. Also, we have paid a premium to live with other Jains.”

Such discrimination has forced many to seek accommodation in Thane, Navi Mumbai and elsewhere in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, making these areas more diverse and cosmopolitan than Mumbai itself.

According to Manohar Shroff, secretary of the Maharashtra Chambers of Housing Industry, Navi Mumbai), there is little housing discrimination in Navi Mumbai. “We give apartments to all, irrespective of religion or eating habits,” said Shroff.

‘Managing committee members can be sued’
Vinod Sampat, a lawyer who specialises in real estate cases, says the law allows people like Yunus Khan and Bareena to file a police complaint against managing committee members. He said, “Section 399 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with wrongful restraint. If the buyer and seller have come to an agreement, the managing committee is technically powerless and must accept the deal. It can only reject a prospective buyer or tenant if he or she has a criminal record or is proven to be involved in immoral activities. There are no other legal grounds for rejection."

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