In a big relief to residents of decrepit buildings in the suburbs, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced on Thursday that the tenants of structures, which have been given evacuation notices, will soon have legal right on the redeveloped property. The announcement in the state Assembly by Fadnavis, in response to a calling attention motion, is expected to impact thousands of people living in 712 buildings categorised by the civic body as extremely dangerous.
The chief minister, who also heads the urban development department (UDD), said the state would try to amend the BMC Act 1888 to ensure tenants get legal right over redeveloped houses. “While tenants’ rights are protected through existing policy, it does not have its basis in the law. The policy gets misused by builders and often tenants may be eligible owners on paper, but do not get possession of their new homes after vacating a dangerous building,” said Fadnavis. “We will amend the law to protect the rights of the tenants, in this session itself or issue an ordinance with the permission of both the Houses.”
The amendment will give tenants statutory right over ownership of the redeveloped homes. It will also give a fixed timeframe to the landlord to complete redevelopment of the property.
“If the redevelopment project is not completed within a fixed time frame, association of tenants will be given the right to redevelop the property,” said a senior official from UDD. The amendment will also lay down a fixed time frame for undertaking repairs in such dilapidated buildings.
Every year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) undertakes a survey of dilapidated buildings in the city and they are then categorised as per their structural stability. Buildings that are most dangerous are declared unfit for living and are evacuated after notices being issued under the BMC Act. This is not applicable to 16,000 cessed buildings in the island city, which come under the purview of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA).
“Majority of the tenants are unwilling to leave the buildings as there is no guarantee of them getting their houses back. Many families languish in transit camps even after the buildings are redeveloped, and builders sell the new flats in these properties,” said BJP legislator Atul Bhatkhalkar, who had raised the calling attention motion.
Many other legislators from the ruling as well as opposition parties also pointed to various loopholes in the existing policy, including that of giving fake structural audits to buildings that can be repaired, so that they can be redeveloped through a landlord-builders-officials nexus.
Addressing the issue, Fadnavis said if it was proven that structural audits were fake, the BMC would be asked to take action against such consultants.