Landlordism, Social Relations and Built-Form in Informal Private Rental Housing Markets in India

Swastik Harish, Vineetha Nalla, Nihal Ranjit, Naksha Satish  | 2023


Despite its massive market share, urban India’s private informal residential rented sector has received scant policy or academic attention. Literature tells us about the discriminatory practices and differential experiences of tenants in these markets through a lens of social relations between tenants and their landlords. Little is said about landlordism, its linkages to the built form produced or the theories of land rent. We aim to address this gap by focusing on the renting behaviour of landlords in terms of their motivation to rent out, to whom they rent out, and the kind of social relations they expect with their tenants, all moderated through a lens of the built form they produce. This inquiry into the production and supply of rental housing in private informal markets in Bengaluru and Coimbatore (two industrialised South Indian cities) reveals that landlords can be on a spectrum between intentional and opportunistic. These concepts lead to two distinct but sometimes overlapping patterns of social relations and built form: one with more involved and often indulgent relations with tenants in extensive land rent scenarios and another with more transactional relations, even tending toward exacting behaviour with tenants in density land rent scenarios. We posit the idea of a social absolute rent to identify deep-seated and resonant discriminatory practices. We further argue that an interdisciplinary research approach can better articulate the workings of the informal private rental markets in the Global South.