Single moms find it hard to get houses

House owners often cast doubts on their character and are worried about ex-husbands creating problems in the future

Single mothers face social discrimination and even physical abuse while hunting for houses. Owners often doubt their ability to pay rent too.

Single mothers in Bengaluru face a tough time finding a place to stay. Many house owners are unwilling to rent out their house to divorced women with children, mostly because they are worried about ex-husbands creating problems in the future or because of the absence of a male in the family. 

Prerna (name changed), a resident of Rajajinagar and a mother to a 10-year-old girl, called up 25 owners and visited 12 houses in the past four-and-a-half months before she found a place.

“I finally found an owner who did not ask me for any kind of personal details. He just said, ‘that is your personal life and I won’t interfere in it.’ Even though the rent is out of my budget, I took up the place,” she says.

Some house owners don’t say no outrightly; they degrade you by doubting your identity and character, says Prerna.

“Even if a woman has a successful career and is financially independent, she still needs a husband as a form of validation. A woman staying separately from the husband is not accepted in society,” Prerna rues.

Sharmila Chanu, social worker and a single mother to a teenage daughter, recalls her horrific experience. “After living with my brother and his family for a long time, I decided to look for a house of my own. I didn’t anticipate the trouble awaiting me. I tried finding a house online as well as through brokers. The moment I walked into the broker’s place, he looked behind my shoulders for my husband. When he realised I didn’t have a husband, he asked, ‘Where is your brother; a man we can speak to?’ I was not even an entity.” 

The conversation between the two turned into a profile interview, instead of her requirements for a house and her budget. 

“A single mother looking for a house doesn’t mean she is open to being dissected socially,” she says. 

Sharmila looked for 27 houses in four months. But her problems were far from over. 

“Finally, I took up a house only where the landlord didn’t ask me anything. I didn’t do a background check on the house owner since I was desperate to find a place. But after I had stayed in the house for some time, I felt that someone enters my house in my absence and goes through my belongings. I had no proof of this until one day, when I got back from a work trip, and found all my undergarments on the bed, along with an electricity bill belonging to the owner.”

Sharmila confronted him and left the house within a day. It was after that she found out that the owner had served a jail term of 15 years and was released only five months ago. 

Talking about the extreme emotional trauma such women go through, as well as the physical danger they expose themselves to, she urges people to help them. Even self-proclaimed women empowerment groups on social media were of no use; she would only get messages wishing her ‘power and love’.

Reality check reveals landlords’ biases
Metrolife reporters called up 10 house owners, posing as single mothers. Five of them initially said they didn’t have a problem. However, on being informed that friends would be coming over sometimes, they outrightly said they can’t allow men to come in. One of them, after saying that he will check with his family whether divorced women could be allowed to stay, sent a ‘no’ through a text message. Some owners were concerned whether a single mother would have the capacity to pay the rent on time.

Owners asked absurd questions
Brokers and house owners ask questions like whether the woman was planning to marry again, how many boyfriends she had, did she party often, her hometown and so on. Fearing discrimination, most single mothers take up whatever house comes their way, compromising on the quality of their life.

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Single moms find it hard to get houses

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