In 2018, Nancy S, 35, a software engineer in Bengaluru, decided to lease a house in Horamavu. She deposited Rs 36.6 lakh with Manohar Nenavat, who she met through an online marketplace. Two years later in October 2020, Nancy wanted to leave her leased house and buy her own flat but she found that it was becoming increasingly harder to contact Manohar who was avoiding her calls.
On October 6, on a hunch, Nancy drove to Manohar's house in Banaswadi in the city only to find it locked and the household items in the house moved out. What Nancy did not know at the time was that she was not alone. There were more than 30 people like Nancy facing issues with their rent and the common link between them was Manohar and his wife Sheetal Nenavat, who worked as property managers in Bengaluru.
When Nancy shared her story and urged others to come forward with theirs, she found a number of Bengaluru residents living in properties managed by Manohar who were facing serious trouble. She filed a complaint at the Banaswadi police station and an FIR was registered in the case on October 7 under sections 406 (breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code. The police have since arrested Ranjan Devamuni, an associate of Manohar and Sheetal, but the couple remain at large.
"Ranjan, who used to work with Manohar and Sheetal, has been arrested. The couple are absconding since October 6 and we are trying to track them. More than 30 people have come forward with complaints about them," says Jayaraj, the police inspector at Banaswadi police station.
A list compiled by aggrieved tenants show that there are as many as 39 people who are allegedly owed a range of amounts between Rs 8 lakh and Rs 36.6 lakh for leasing properties across Bengaluru which were managed by Sheetal and Manohar.
Another complainant, Sanjay, 33, a software engineer in Bengaluru too alleges he was cheated by Manohar.
At the start of October, Sanjay was surprised to find that the owner of his house was asking him for his monthly rent when in fact he had already paid it to Manohar when he bought the lease to the house.
"The issues with my rent have been going on for a while with the owner telling me that there were delays in receiving the rent payment even though I have paid promptly," says Sanjay.
Sanjay too had met Manohar through an online marketplace and had paid rent amount to Manohar, which was not paid to the property owner.
How Manohar and Sheetal worked
Manohar and Sheetal Nenavat, a Bengaluru-based couple have been managing properties for at least five years now. When interested tenants followed up advertisements placed on online marketplaces like Quickr, Magicbricks and OLX, they would connect with Ranjan who would then introduce Manohar and Sheetal as property owners. Many tenants paid the couple believing they are the owners of the property when in fact they weren't and they only had an understanding with the owners.
In some cases, tenants figured out that the property was actually owned by other people and Manohar and Sheetal were simply property managers. Some of these tenants raised questions but they were assured that the owner knew about the working relationship and even produced letters of consent from the owner to a few tenants. "Few of us even paid money to Manohar and Sheetal in the presence of the property owners. It was not as if all owners did not have an idea that their property was being used this way," says Sanjay speaking to TNM.
Little is known about Manohar and Sheetal but tenants said that Manohar hails from Andhra Pradesh and Sheetal is from Belagavi. They were settled in Bengaluru for over 8 years and have two children. They sub-leased properties and projected themselves as real estate managers and property owners to unsuspecting customers. They had a wide network of tenants living in properties managed by them across Bengaluru. This network was built over the last five years.
Now, with Manohar and Sheetal absconding, tenants are facing eviction from their house since their property owners are demanding rent. Nancy has now formed a coalition of the tenants cheated by the couple and they are planning to file more cases against them for their actions.