Bait-and-Switch: What to Do When Your New Apartment Is Not What You Expected
Moving into a new apartment can be an exciting experience, especially in a fast-paced city like Mumbai or Delhi. However, sometimes the actual apartment does not match what was advertised or promised by the landlord or real estate agent. This "bait-and-switch" tactic is an unfortunate reality that many renters in India encounter. As frustrating as it is, there are steps you can take to address the situation.
Carefully Review the Rental Agreement
Before signing a rental agreement and handing over your security deposit, be sure to carefully review all the details. Make sure the size of the apartment, number of rooms, amenities like air conditioning or water heater, and any other features match what was discussed and advertised. If certain amenities were promised verbally but are not included in the written agreement, be wary. Only sign the agreement if you are satisfied with what is in writing.
Thoroughly Inspect the Property
Do not rely solely on photos or a brief tour. Take the time to thoroughly inspect every room, check fixtures and appliances, assess cleanliness, and look for signs of pests or damage that may have been concealed. Bring a checklist of must-have features and document any inconsistencies with photos. Pay close attention to potentially problematic areas like the kitchen plumbing, bathroom tiles, or balcony structure.
Address Issues Immediately
If you notice discrepancies between the actual apartment and what was promised, immediately bring them to the attention of the landlord or rental agent, preferably in writing. Politely but firmly request they remedy the situation by providing the agreed upon amenities and condition. If repairs are required, set a reasonable timeline. Under Indian law, landlords are required to keep rental units in livable condition.
Review the Rental Contract
Check if your rental agreement contains a clause about changes to the apartment and what recourse you have. There may be a penalty system or conditions under which you can exit the contract. Threatening legal action is usually not the best first step, but reviewing your rights helps you negotiate from an informed position. Consult a local tenants' rights organization if you need assistance.
Consider Involving Local Authorities
If the landlord refuses to bring the apartment in line with what was agreed upon, consider involving local authorities like the police. Especially if the property is missing basic amenities like electricity or water supply that make it unlivable, police intervention along with references to the contract can persuade the landlord to fix the problems. approaches like filing a complaint with the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum may also be an option.
Explore Rent Abatement
If the landlord will not upgrade the apartment as promised, negotiate for partial rent abatement, meaning a reduction in rent to compensate for the missing or substandard amenities. For example, if the air conditioning or parking spot is not provided, agree to deduct a corresponding percentage from future rent payments. Get any such agreements for rent or maintenance repairs in writing.
Weigh the Inconvenience of Moving
Bait-and-switch situations are extremely frustrating, but moving may not always be the best recourse, especially if the apartment is at least livable. The landlord may be willing to offer concessions like 1-2 months of free rent to make up for the discrepancy. Consider the costs of breaking the lease, forfeiting the security deposit, hunting for a new rental, and undertaking another move. Negotiate with the landlord before making the decision to move out.
Leave an Honest Review
Once you have either gotten the issues resolved or moved out, leave a factual review on rental platforms warning others about the misleading tactics used for this property. Also report fake or misleading listings to reputable sites to help prevent the issue. Consider contacting local journalists or housing advocates if systemic fraud seems to be occurring.
Renting an apartment in India involves many complex laws and practices. Yet by being an informed and assertive tenant, you can minimize the chances of falling prey to bait-and-switch schemes. Pay attention during the rental process, thoroughly inspect properties, know your rights, negotiate firmly, and utilize all formal and social channels to exert pressure. With persistence and preparation, you can get the satisfactory apartment you were promised.