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How this Facebook based startup fights illegal discrimination between tenants and landlords in India? 

New Delhi (India), March 9: It was 2014 when a law student was sitting outside her flat with all her baggage and books, crying and having no idea where to go at midnight. She had left her flat, her first rental experience in a new city, her flatmates had turned sour, and there were multiple issues with the landlord and the society.

Every broker she called showed her low-quality flats or asked for advance brokerage, which she paid until she broke or attended society interviews where she was looked down upon and turned away. She knew that such interviews were illegal, and yet, she did not have an option otherwise.

Teaming up with her friend, Chirag Pandya, an MBA in Marketing, Finance & Human Resources, she  decided to open a Facebook group in Ahmedabad called ‘Flat and Flatmates Ahmedabad’ with only 10 members but a vision to “build a community, help each other find flats and flatmates, filter good  brokers and properties, help people avoid scams and scandals, raise awareness in societies and  tenants regarding their rights and responsibilities, emergency accommodation and SOS Community.”

Gradually, they expanded Flat and Flatmates to 115 cities worldwide and more than 25 lakh members.

Every day, they take more than 100 calls, solve fights between landlords, tenants, societies, and real estate agents, pay guest accommodation managers, inspect the authenticity of paying guest facility providers,  review and blacklist properties and help weed out the latest cyber financial crimes.

One of the key reasons new members feel disappointment while finding a property on rent, says co-founder Adv. Priya Sogani is because they assume that it is going to be an instant solution. Small steps like checking your spam folder, leaving polite messages on requirement posts, and checking the group for new posts every 2 hours for a few months are a must to get the best property in budget.

I explain this to all those who personally message me to get a flat on rent. Often, after some time, I  receive a message from them telling me that they found a flat from the group, and this is the reason that keeps us motivated to continue the work.

However, running this social enterprise is not easy. There is a lack of active volunteers for offline work.  We are living in a digital world flooded with suggestions and comments. The current members show wonderful support in solving a tenant’s problems outside courtrooms through mediation. But there are always more cases to solve, outnumbering the volunteers.

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