Houses hard to find for live-in couples 

Houses hard to find for live-in couples 

The law allows unmarried relationships, but society isn't so open to them

Reuters file photo for representation

Can a woman marry an underage boy? No, but she can live with him under the same roof, the Supreme Court has just ruled. 

In a Kerala case, a girl’s father had obtained her custody after telling the High Court she had eloped with an ‘underage’ boy.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2005, and yet, live-in relationships continue to come under the scanner from time to time.

Alison has been living with her partner for three years but she had to lie to the owner of their house that they were married. 

“Even though the law says couples can live together, society doesn’t care. They say that it’s ‘against the culture’ and we shouldn’t do such things,” explains Alison.

She had spoken to owners of about 15 apartments before she decided to lie.

“We even tried telling them that we are engaged and are going to get married soon, but that didn’t seem convincing enough. We wanted to stay in a gated community as it is safer there, but unmarried couples living together is a complete no-no to them,” she adds.

Alison is not alone. Jerry also lied to the landlord about his relationship status.

He says, “Most owners aren’t too happy when bachelors come to rent the place. They think that girls will be visiting very often. When I wanted my girlfriend to visit whenever she could, the owner made a big issue of it. I had to eventually tell him we are married but due to Bengaluru traffic and her workplace being far away, she lives in a PG accommodation and visits me during the weekends.”

So when the law is clear, why does the problem persist?

Pradeep Singh, advocate in the High Court of Karnataka, explains, “What the Supreme Court has said in the Kerala case had already been sketched out in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2005. Any two people who have lived together, either related through marriage or any other relationship in the nature of marriage, are considered to be in a domestic relationship. The live-in relationship has already been sanctioned by law. A man and woman can live under one roof even if they aren’t married.”

The Supreme Court has also ruled that unmarried couples living together are going to be presumed married, and that would determine property inheritance.

“The Domestic Violence Act or the Supreme Court don’t lay down a particular number of years. The intention of the couple is enough to prove the live-in relationship,” explains Singh. 

In case of a dispute, phone conversations, messages or quotes from friends and family can be taken into account.

And regards children born out of wedlock, custody is given to the parent most likely to provide the best for the child.

“The woman can also claim maintenance from the partner in case of a breakup. This will be in terms of monetary benefit. If she cannot afford to pay rent, for example, she is entitled to claim it,” says Singh. And what’s in it for men? “The police authority cannot barge in and file an FIR or case against live-in relationships as they are done with free will and consent. And if the couple have been living together for a time, she cannot cite that and file a molestation or rape case,” he explains. But, he cautions, the circumstances are always taken into account.

Kerala case

A father filed a missing person report after his 19-year-old daughter eloped and married a boy who had yet to turn 21. Since the girl was of marriageable age and the boy wasn’t, the Kerala High Court entrusted the custody of the girl to the father. The boy then approached the Supreme Court contending that since the girl is a major, she has the right to live with whoever she wants to, and the High Court could not have entrusted the girl to her father.

Law allows it

According to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, two adults are free to live together and be in a relationship even if they are not married.