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India - Renting Property
The first thing to do is ensure that you’re staying in India legally and have the right visa for the purpose of your stay. You can find out more in the Visas section of this country guide.
Your visa is likely to be for a specific time period, which will impact how long your rental agreement will be.
Secondly, check the pages of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to see which areas of India you should avoid. There are a number and range of political and religious tensions in the country and ongoing of terrorist attacks have killed many people, including migrants.
Where To Live In India
Have you thought about the area you want to settle in and why? For many people, moving to an upmarket city district popular with expats and near the office is an easy decision. For Norwegian expat Eli, the assistance of an employer made the process straightforward. “We got a lot of help from my husband's job. They were really helpful and assisted us with all practical issues, like renting an apartment,” she told ExpatFocus.
Other people want to experience genuine Indian life or be near a particular religious or cultural site. Canadian expats Deborah and Jon moved with their 11 year old son Myles to Bangalore with the aim of experiencing the local lifestyle. As they told ExpatFocus: “Occasionally we meet another expat in our neighbourhood but most of the expats live on the other side of town in a series of gated communities and shopping malls. We chose to live closer to central Bangalore – and close to our friend – because our agenda included experiencing the local lifestyle. Otherwise it seemed like a pointless exercise coming here.”
For those wanting a city location, it can take time to get used to the streets being clogged with traffic, the crowds of busy people everywhere, and the incongruity of the very rich on streets where destitute children are begging or selling items. On the upside, it’s easier to find modern, comfortable homes in the cities, close to international schools and private medical facilities, with plenty of beautiful places to shop and eat.
Rural locations have restricted access to services and accommodation is likely to be more basic. However, a quieter way of life and cheaper rent may be a draw for you.
In many countries, having clean, piped water and a private bathroom are essentials that you would not even think to include on your accommodation wish-list. However, if you’re arriving in India on a tight budget, you’ll soon see that for some people, these essentials are actually luxuries.
Somewhere between 63 million and 75 million people in India do not have access to clean drinking water, according to various recent estimates. In addition, the World Bank states that about a fifth of India’s communicable diseases are spread by inadequate sewage systems.
Some urban accommodation blocks for India’s poor offer mattresses on the floor in rooms shared by dozens of strangers. One or two squat toilets in the floor of the basement will be used by the residents of the whole building. Many villages in the countryside don’t have piped water or toilets, so people wander out into the fields to answer the call of nature. In towns and cities, the filth on many pavements gives you a clear idea why shoes are taken off at the door of every home.
As an expat, it is unlikely you will ever see these desperate conditions. You’ll be presented with the choice of a squat toilet, or a Western-style sitting down toilet, in a private bathroom. Traditional Indian homes don’t use toilet paper, but a jug of water which is used by the left hand only. Modern adaptations offer a shower-head mechanism to allow a more hygienic wash. If you want to buy toilet paper though, you can easily find it in the local store.
Piped water is a normal feature of expat homes but remember to ask about accessing hot water. You will normally find it available, but you don’t want to move in just to discover that it isn’t there. Many people in India buy buckets of hot water, but this isn’t something that is quaint or fun, especially for those who have never had a choice.
You cannot rely on the cleanliness of any of the piped water unless you have boiled it. Drink only bottled water, which you should also use for brushing your teeth.
Cooking And Kitchen Facilities
Indian cooking does not require an oven, so few homes have one and you may have difficulty locating rented accommodation with an oven already provided. If you decide to buy one and have it fitted, only do so with the landlord’s permission. They may insist on the services of a particular electrician, but you can assume the installation bill is yours. Therefore, get all costs agreed in writing beforehand, and agree what will happen when you leave. You may need to pay for disconnection and related tidy up, or the landlord may be happy to keep the oven in place for the next tenant.
The 2016 India’s Citizen Environment (ICE) 360° survey found that only 30 percent of Indian households own a fridge. That percentage goes up to 60 percent for the richest 20 percent of households, for whom the price of a fridge is no barrier to ownership.
These figures can be explained by the status of women in India. More than seven in 10 Indian women do not work outside the home. Their bargaining power in male dominated homes is limited. In wealthy households, daily shopping for fresh goods falls on the low paid domestic maids.
However, there is also an issue about electricity supply, upon which fridges have a continual reliance. Some households do not have electricity at all, even in urban areas, and many have an erratic supply. Power cuts are part of daily life for many people. This is something worth asking about when you view your accommodation.
Expat Prices In India
For those coming from countries where the price label tells you what should be paid, Indian haggling can be a daunting process that applies to everything from the price of the rickshaw to work in the morning to the catering for a large party in the evening. Savvy locals know the price is nearly always negotiable, and landlords know that expats can usually afford to pay a higher price.
When Dave and Jenny moved from New York to Delhi in November 2007, they found a real estate agent through Craigslist. They explained to ExpatFocus what happened next:
“He found a terrific place in Hauz Khas Market at a ridiculous price, but then he negotiated the rent down on our behalf. It took us a few months before we realised that the landlord and the broker had clearly established the target price ahead of time. But we were quite happy, so we chalked it up to our naivety.”
Internet sites have blossomed across India since then, not least because IT and technology skills have been enthusiastically acquired by millions of Indian people keen to do business online. As a result, you have some time to acquire knowledge about the advertised rates in the areas you would consider. However, how far these can be negotiated will depend on your skills or those of the real estate agent you employ.
Don’t forget that apartment blocks will have a lot of additional costs. Security, maintenance and grounds maintenance are all paid for by the tenant and not the landlord, as are utility costs. You should obtain a schedule of these costs before you agree to a tenancy, as later complaints about what you were or were not told will be confidently dismissed.
State Laws Affecting Tenancies
Everyone renting a property in India should insist on a written contract signed by both parties.
There are a variety of national and state laws applicable to the property rental industry. They provide protection to landlords and tenants regarding length of lease, fair rental fees, and the eviction process. If you seek court redress, your contract will be considered alongside applicable laws to come to a decision.
Verbal promises would be included as part of a law case, but it is hard to prove what someone said if it is disputed by the other party. If there is an important agreement in the negotiation stage, make sure it is written down and included as part of the contract.
Finding Accommodation Through Expat Recommendations
Finding your first home in India can be a daunting affair. Why not seek help from other expats who have been through this process? You can start a new thread on the ExpatFocus forum for expats in India. Alternatively, if you use Facebook, join the ExpatFocus Expats In India Facebook Group and ask hundreds of other group members for their recommendations.
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