After staying in a leave and license accommodation for many years, an enthusiast dreaming to have his own house, eventually bought a flat in Borivli by taking a home loan. Since shifting was a priority to save the dual cost of the lease rental and the loan repayment on his new purchase, he readily signed a letter stating that he was being given the keys to his flat by the builder pending the completion of the building “for carrying out furniture work”
Initially, the tanker water provided by the builder was quite sufficient for the few families residing in the building. However, there was soon an influx of buyers shifting into their newly purchased flats under similar circumstances, and the water supply began to fall short of their requirements. When repeated requests to the builder for getting the occupation certificate (OC) fell on deaf ears, the flat buyers got together, organised a signature campaign and sent a formal letter to the builder asking for immediate action. Imagine their shock when all of them received identical letters in reply from the builder's solicitors, informing them that since the keys had been provided only for making furniture, they had no right to reside in the building or make any demands whatsoever
Several months of allegations and counter allegations followed, after which the residents discovered that the builder had constructed more flats than he had been permitted in a previous project, which was why their OC was being held up. Ultimately, the additional FSI was adjusted against a new project by the same builder and after waiting for more than four years, the building finally received the OC.
However, not all such stories have happy endings. There are numerous instances where flat buyers are languishing without the OC for over a decade, receiving a limited supply of water from the Municipal Corporation on “Humanitarian grounds” (and paying twice the normal charge for this privilege). Illegal constructions have been a standard fixture in the Mumbai & Thane residential property market for quite some time now. These are buildings where you can get a flat at a price that is substantially lower than the prevailing rate for the area, which makes them an ttractive proposition for first time buyers who are desperately trying to find a house that fits within their budget.
The Occupants of such buildings always respond with a standard question. Why did the Municipal authorities allow such structures to come up in the first place? Agreed, they should have been more cautious or judicious in their choice of a project, but wasn't it the job of the Municipal authorities to take preventive action instead of waking up after the buildings have been completed?
Adv. R. P. Rathod emphasize that while these structures have proliferated in a pattern similar to that of the unauthorized slums, there is a basic difference, you can put up a slum over a single weekend, but a building takes several months. So why doesn't the Municipal authorities have a system for monitoring construction activity and putting an immediate stop where permissions have not been granted? He also feels that the large number of clearances required while putting up a building further compounds the problem. With the numerous offices concerned spread across the city, unless if a builder has a separate department in his office and makes the effort to comply with the requirements, it is just not possible to get clearances in time and the project gets delayed.
Adv. R. P. Rathod further states that Illegal work is the work that is carried on the plot where the construction cannot be done or alternatively the plans cannot be approved. Normally, building work commences with the regular one FSI construction. During the course of construction, the developer or builder purchases the TDR and submits its revised plan to the Municipal Corporation for its approval. The approval takes a while and during this period the construction activity cannot stop. This is the time-gap wherein some of the construction is added and the plans are yet to be approved for additional floors by the Corporation.
The provisions within the Municipal rules state that if the construction is within its rules and regulations and permissible FSI, the construction has to be approved. This means that with the help of TDR purchase, a few floors can be added. So a technical delay in getting approvals for such plans cannot be considered as illegal construction. There are provisions in the BMC rules to allow such work by imposing a double fine, he says.
However, not all builders pay the fine and not all situations are as easy to resolve either the problem is that not every pending OC case is a high-profile one with blatant violation of FSI norms or over-construction of floors by two to three times the permitted number. It could be just one item like pending agricultural land tax, which is holding up the OC. In most such cases, the person who owned the land did not pay the tax and now the fine levied is 40 times the original amount, he says.
While there is no easy solution for people who have already purchased flats in such projects, Adv. R. P. Rathod cautions new flat buyers against being lured by just the price of a project. Stressing that it is important to verify the builder’s track record and reputation he advise Mumbaikars & Thanekars to only go in for projects by reputed construction companies. The extra amount paid per square foot is well worth it in terms of the peace of mind in the years that follow. If flat buyers are not vigilant, their dream home could end up being a nightmare concludes Adv. R. P. Rathod.