A Ghastly sense of déjà vu has gripped dancer-actor Lauren Gottlieb as she unsuccessfully hops from one housing society to another in Andheri to find a flat on rent. Last week, she faced rejection from the landlord of the 15th house that she checked out in the suburbs over the last two months. With this, memories of a long-drawn-out struggle to find a roof in the city three years ago have come hurtling back.
Recollecting her house-hunting woes in 2013, she says, “Three years ago, I came here as a contestant of dance reality show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, and I was pretty much homeless. I stayed at a friend’s house for the first six months and then moving in and out of my friends’ flats in Lokhandwala and other parts of Andheri. I was a top contestant on one of the biggest shows, but I wasn’t even given a home in this country. I checked out many places in Andheri, Juhu and Bandra — 37, to be precise. But I was not given a flat because I am a foreigner, an actor, and young and single.”
The 27-year-old Arizona girl, who played a prominent part in Remo D’Souza’s ABCD and its sequel, found a “decent” flat on rent in Versova after she sought help from the show’s production unit. “My landlord and broker have become friends with me because I got involved with the community here. The landlord appreciates that I did up the flat, changed the water heater and wall colours. So, they know that it doesn’t make sense to not let out flats to foreigners,” says Lauren.
Now she wants to move into a bigger, quieter place, but has been turned down by at least 15 landlords, thanks to her nationality and profession. “Here, it gets really noisy due to traffic and road construction. So, I want to move out. I have seen 12-15 houses in various localities of Bandra and Khar, but in vain. Landlords have the perception that I am an actress, so I might throw late night parties and disturb them. But I never host parties at house. The fact that I am a foreigner and a single woman is also a problem. It is shocking since Mumbai is a global metro, not a small town. But it’s the general mentality of landlords that creates trouble. That needs to change,” she adds.
Why are city landlords so strict about letting out flats to single men? If you ask Khar-based real estate agent Prakash G Rohira, even bachelors struggle to find a roof since housing societies don’t encourage single men and women to stay on rent. “There is no gender bias; unmarried men and women face same problems. They are mostly told that since they are single, the landlords are skeptical that they might return home late or throw parties and create nuisance. But the bigger reason is that landlords know that the housing society will not allow bachelors on rent. Eighty per cent of the problem is created by the society and the rest by the landlords themselves,” he adds.
Siddhanth Gupta, a broker from Bandra, echoes Rohira. “If she were married, it would have been easier for her to find an apartment because societies prefer families. Besides, it is more difficult for single foreigners, and the problem is not just restricted to Andheri or Bandra, but almost every corner of the city. More than landlords, the societies object,” he explains.