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The booming business of PGs in Chandigarh tricity

Paying guest accommodation in the tricity has turned into an unscrupulous money-making exercise as the administration looks the other way.

punjab Updated: Aug 30, 2018 11:47 IST
Aakriti Sharma
Aakriti Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
PGs,business of PGs,Chandigarh
(Illustration by Biswajit Debnath/HT)

It’s a cramped room with space for barely two beds. But it has four thin slats passing off as beds with four boxes underneath. The attached bathroom is tiny, the space is tight, and so are the facilities. No, this is not a dormitory of a boarding school, but a paying guest accommodation.

Welcome to the biggest business in the tricity. With hordes of young professionals and students descending on the sister cities of Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula with their two universities and 36-odd colleges, an increasing number of people are getting into the business of selling living space.

Big bucks

Mangal Ram, a resident of Sector 35-C, says he has three such accommodations for boys — two in 35-C and one in 20-D. In all, he lodges 70 boys in various rooms according to their paying capacity.

“There are four-seater (read beds), three-seater and two-seater rooms. The price starts from Rs 6,000 for a four-seater room with food and without AC and Rs 7,500 for a two-seater AC room with food,” says Mangal Ram. On average, he earns Rs 4.5 lakh a month.

With the 2013 amendment in the Chandigarh building bylaws allowing even 7.5 marla houses to keep PGs— earlier only 10 marlas and above could do it— this business is booming. Several houses in Mohali are running the PG business in houses as small as 5 to 2 marlas.

Even though registration of a paying guest accommodation with the estate office is mandatory, it is seldom done. As of last year, the Chandigarh estate office had only 20 PGs registered with it.

Manoj Khatri, the assistant estate officer, called it an ‘unofficial number’.

“We don’t have any centralised database. There are more than 70,000 properties in Chandigarh, we can’t keep track of all of them. We learn about unregistered PG accommodations only when we receive a complaint and required action is taken against accused.”

Not an easy stay

It seems no one is complaining to the estate office even though there is a lot to complain about. Four girls or boys in a room and 11 girls on one floor sharing a bathroom do not make for likeable living conditions.

Harsimrat Gill, an IELTS student and a PG in Sector 35-D, says even though she has been here for only two months, her bed and cupboard are so small that the rent of Rs 4,500 seems unreasonable.

“Especially when I have to share the bathroom with 11 girls.”

Shivani Mehra, who has been here for a year, says, “I don’t get enough privacy. With just two bathrooms for 12 girls, it is difficult to manage when everyone is going to work or college.” The PGs also face adjustment problems.

Sakshi Anand, 22, a graduate from Chandigarh University, who rented a PG accommodation in Phase 4, says , “My roommates are ill mannered, they don’t even ask before using my things. There are hygiene issues as well.”

Girls versus boys

Then, there is rent differential between rooms for boys and girls with the latter paying almost a 1,000 more. A PG for girls in Sector 22, for instance, charges Rs 8,500 per bed and provides AC rooms and internet. The same accommodation for men in the sector comes at Rs 7,500.

Girls also have to abide by a curfew. Nitish Kumar, owner of a PG accommodation in Sector 22, is quite candid about it.

“We are responsible for their safety, we don’t keep girls who stay out after 10.30pm.” Interestingly, there is no such restriction on boys.

Services on offer

Most PG accommodations come with food and ones that don’t offer meals, will have you rent a kitchen as well or opt for a tiffin service.

Harjinder Kaur, who runs a PG service in Sector 22, provides meals as part of the package.

“We have kept a cook and a maid for the girls. Every girl gets three meals and two cups of tea a day,” says Pawanpreet Singh, who runs a PG in Phase 4, Mohali.

CCTV surveillance also makes for a good selling pitch to anxious parents. Nitish Kumar, who runs a PG in Sector 22, says he has installed CCTV so that no outsider can enter the premises. “Parents find it very reassuring.”

Registered PG

Chiranjeev Singh Sandhu, who runs a PG accommodation in Phase 6 of Mohali, is one of the few registered PGs in the tricity. Sandhu says he has been running the PG for the past 12 years as per the guidelines. However, he refuses to tell you the number of boarders he keeps in a room, saying it is his “business matter”.

The PG experience varies from one place to another. There are those who swear by their “aunty”, and the home away from home. Others resent being overcharged. A woman paying guest in Mohali complained that she is charged Rs13 per unit for electricity though the commercial rate is Rs 9 per unit.

Neighbours in pain

Locals say the PG culture is a huge drain on resources. Swaran Singh Mann, a resident of Phase 11, Mohali, blames the number of haphazardly parked vehicles in his lane on the “PG menace”.

“Youngsters living in PGs behave like dons. They park their cars haphazardly, create ruckus every now and then and pick up fights with anyone who confronts them. PG owners do not check the activities of their tenants because they are only concerned with money.”

‘Most forgettable six months of my life’

It was in August 2017 that I got a job in Mohali. When I started hunting for accommodation online, I was surprised to find a number of websites providing PG accommodation in and around Chandigarh. Based on the photos, I zeroed down on two places. One of them refused to take me in because of my office timings. The other, a one-kanal house in Mohali, with its impressive exteriors and welcoming owners seemed just right.

I chose the most spacious room in the house only to be told I would be sharing it with three other girls. Having always had a room to myself, even in my hostel in Delhi, this was quite a shock but I swallowed it.

The trouble began when next day, the three girls started fighting with girls in the other room with whom we were sharing our bathroom. It was six in the morning, but seemed like a battle hour to me. Abuses in Punjabi and English were punctuated with banging on the door. It wasn’t long before I realised it was a daily ritual.

The owners had kept a cook to provide us meals thrice a day, but due to my office ours, I would end up having just one meal a day. And it wasn’t great considering we were fed cauliflower and potatoes every second day.

I tried hard for six months, but I failed to get used to the narrow bed, which couldn’t even accommodate my laptop, cramped cupboard, morning battles, dirty bathroom, and soiled plates. Owners would come only to collect the rent. There were days when there was no water, food or electricity. All of us would then get together and confront the owners, but they would tell us to leave if we had a problem.

Finally after six long months, I managed to find a colleague who was also looking for a place. We decided to rent a flat. Today I live in a flat with just one person and lots of space. And no, I will never be a paying guest again.

Requirements for PG registration

-Owner of the house or members of family must be residing in the house (with documentary evidence)

- Provide one paying guest with 50 sq ft space and toilet. One water closet (WC) okay for five persons

-Details of help on premises for the paying guest

-Undertaking to maintain peace, harmony and discipline in the area

-Number of kitchens as per the approved building plan

-An undertaking to maintain good standards of hygiene

-Number and date of occupation certificate

-An undertaking that there is no notice/court proceeding on account of building violations/misuse/non-payment

Take the registration form from the estate office, fill it and submit it with the required documents. An inspector is sent to the site for inspection after which the PG is registered.

Once the estate office gives permission, the applicant must maintain a rolling register to keep a record of the PGs, their permanent address, photo and identity proofs etc. A copy of the PG’s photo and I-card also needs to be provided to the local police.

Why they don’t register

Once a house is registered as PG, the power and water charges are levied at commercial rates. Also, many sign a tenant agreement with their PG to avoid this registration.

If a person running the PG business does not register it, his property can be resumed after issuing a show-cause notice.

First Published: Aug 30, 2018 11:47 IST