Tenants hold on to creaky old bldg as they have nowhere to go | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Tenants hold on to creaky old bldg as they have nowhere to go

BySabah Virani
Jan 04, 2024 07:54 AM IST

The 64-year-old building which has six houses of 270 square feet each, was given a first notice by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on November 23, which stated that their structure is in a “ruinous and dilapidated condition”. As it posed a possible danger, the owner was ordered to demolish it by a registered contractor

MUMBAI: Two families residing in Castelino Building, a ground plus one storey structure in the Vile Parle gaothan, decided to continue to live in their dark quarters after power and water connections were cut off on Wednesday afternoon. The building will be demolished soon but the tenants have nowhere to go. There are two other tenants who do not live here.

Mumbai, India - Jan. 3, 2024: Residents of the Castelino Building, under imminent fear of their building being demolished on Thursday at Vile Parle n Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, January 3, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Mumbai, India - Jan. 3, 2024: Residents of the Castelino Building, under imminent fear of their building being demolished on Thursday at Vile Parle n Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, January 3, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)

They have all pooled their energies and moved a writ petition in Bombay high court on Wednesday, with a plea for a stay on the demolition. It will be heard on Thursday.

The 64-year-old building which has six houses of 270 square feet each, was given a first notice by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on November 23, which stated that their structure is in a “ruinous and dilapidated condition”. As it posed a possible danger, the owner was ordered to demolish it by a registered contractor.

A second notice followed on December 30, warning them that demolition would start on January 4, with a request to vacate.

The first point in the notice – “the occupied shall be vacated immediately making alternate accommodation arrangement for the existing occupants shall be solely the owner’s responsibility” – was overlooked by the owner, leaving the tenants in the lurch.

“The new owner, Romell Real Estate Pvt Ltd, who is a builder and bought the building from the previous landlord in 2021, has refused to acknowledge us as tenants,” said Lily D’Souza, whose sister lives in a room on the ground floor.

The family of four living in a room on the first floor agreed. “We sent him the cheques for the rent in April of 2023. A few months later, the cheques were returned to us saying we were not recognised as tenants,” said Agnelo Lobo, who lives in the flat with his wife and two sisters.

The families’ only ray of hope now is the hearing in HC on Thursday.

Joseph Oliveira, the third tenant who is also party in the petition, explained, “The previous landlord signed a deed of conveyance with the new owner in March 2021, without informing us and continued to take rent from us till December 2021. We became aware of this only when the new owner put up a board at our building about the purchase in March 2022.”

The new owner then met the tenants to discuss sale or redevelopment plans, but things progressed at a snail’s pace and nothing was written. In mid-July 2023, they received a notice from the BMC asking the owners to conduct a structural audit of the building and marked it as dilapidated (grade C1), said D’Souza.

The residents suspect the audit itself may be bogus, as nothing of the sort was done in the 60-odd years they lived in the building. A structural audit needs to be conducted after 30 years, they pointed out. They alleged the builder wished to raze this structure as he has bought other spaces around it that he wishes to develop.

The residents’ plan for Thursday is clear: they will split up in numbers; a few will stay their ground at the gaothan, while the others will attend the court hearing.

When he was told about the course of events, assistant commissioner of the ward, Manish Valanju, said, “The building is a C1 categorized building and the guidelines mandate it should be razed. Alternate accommodation is not BMC’s responsibility. The owner should look into it.”

Jude Romell, the present owner from Romell Estate Pvt Ltd, said, “The matter is sub-judice so I do not want to comment on the matter. We will see what happens.”

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