All you wanted to know about Mumbai's bungalows

In the concluding part of our bungalow series,a housing expert Ameet V Mehta answers some flat vs bungalow questions and clears the air on living in bungalows

This paper ran a two-part series on bungalows in Mumbai and how residents are still clinging on tenaciously to old, family bungalows for various reasons.

West View 15, owned by Gemma Fernandes, Gerard Fernandez and Ingrid Pinto in Bandra. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
West View 15, owned by Gemma Fernandes, Gerard Fernandez and Ingrid Pinto in Bandra. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

From resisting the lure of the big bucks wielding builder and redevelopment riches to dealing with threats, some residents feel high maintenance and other problems pale in comparison to the positives of living in bungalows.

Here, real estate expert and legal consultant Ameet V Mehta, takes on questions about bungalows, a fast vanishing feature in a city dominated by buildings.

The interview:

Q. Bungalows are slowly but surely vanishing off the map in Mumbai, residents who cling on to old, family bungalows are now a novelty...
A. Yes. Most of the residences are medium-sized bungalows, which are now getting dotted by high-rise buildings. As the city does not have much land available, several old bungalows are giving way to high-rise residential projects.

Ameet V Mehta
Ameet V Mehta

Builders and developers are buying such properties and are re-constructing high-rise buildings on them. The per cost in this city has multiplied and it has become very challenging to keep a large pie of land in Mumbai.

Property tax has increased and bungalow owners want to encash Floor Space Index (FSI) available on their land. So they prefer to let the bungalow schemes go away and convert them into building type structures.

Q. Do bungalow owners follow rules like flat owners in buildings in co-operative Societies?
A. Yes, they have to if they are in a co-operative housing society. Eg: Juhu Scheme comprises 14 Co-op Societies of which major are plot or bungalow owners. In such a scenario, they have to follow the Co-operative Society rules. Then, there are bungalow owners who have self-regulating bungalows, which do not form part of any society.

Schubert Vaz's bungalow in Borivali. Pic/Ronak SavlaSchubert Vaz's bungalow in Borivali. Pic/Ronak Savla

Q. When bungalow owners are made offers by builders for redevelopment should they take them up or resist the offer?
A. It is advisable to take such offers since they can encash FSI. The norms of FSI laid out for urban areas are inflexible.

However, many semi-urban and rural areas are not bound by regulations with regard to mandatory parking and open space provision, rules pertaining to structural safety or construction regulations such as FSI. The norms within which you can construct your own bungalow will not be the same for different areas.

One of the old bungalows at Matharpacady. Pic/Shadab Khan
One of the old bungalows at Matharpacady. Pic/Shadab Khan

This mainly depends on which corporation limits the plot falls in, or if it falls under gram panchayat jurisdiction. Estimating the construction cost also plays a very important role before you take a decision on redevelopment.

The actual construction cost would mainly comprise plot rate, stamp duty amount on the plot purchased to be paid to the government, cost of the legal clearances that are obtained from different authorities, labour cost, fees to the consultant, if appointed, cost of raw material and building materials like cement, steel, bricks, tiles etc.

The material cost may differ as per the quality. Electricity and water charges, sanitary work, waterproofing, roofing, stonework, doors, windows, painting and finishing costs are the common costs involved with the construction process. Location is also considered while calculating the redevelopment cost.

Estimating the cost in advance will give you a rough idea about how much you will require for building a tall structure or in order to retain the bungalow. These are not the only factors to remember but they are certainly the key aspects which have to be carefully measured before taking a decision on demolishing a bungalow for redevelopment.

It is a wise piece of advice that you appoint any consultant or any professional who will appropriately assist with this entire process, commonly called as a feasibility report. Considering the complexities involved, it often makes sense to take an offer to construct and convert a bungalow into a building rather than construct and retain a new bungalow.

Q. What are the challenges of maintaining a bungalow in the city, compared to a flat?
A. Considering that the living space of a flat is small and each resident is supposed to keep their section clean, maintenance is easier. Since a bungalow is big compared to a flat, maintenance can be a strain. It is also expensive. An average flat may require not more than one hour to clean on a daily basis, but a bungalow may require at least four hours to clean on average. It is also much more expensive to maintain a bungalow as compared to a flat.

Q. Building society garages cannot be used for any activity like holding classes, tailoring shops etc. Can bungalow garages be used for other activities?
A. You should take an opinion of local municipal authorities to verify that the activity that you are intending to start requires municipal permission. If yes, it is better to take permission.

Q. Sometimes, bungalow owners live in one part or floor of their home, they let out the other floor or part to some tenant... is this legal?
A. Yes. Mostly such people who stay in a part of your home are called as paying guest. You can also give a part of your house on lease subject to legal and statutory compliances.

Q. Should one buy an old bungalow? What should one look out for when buying a bungalow in Mumbai?
A. Here is a list of some of the things that you should look when buying an existing bungalow:

>> Check for the structure of the bungalow. Normally, though, structures are strong.

>> Check for old plaster because it may just disintegrate into dust (airborne dust).

>> Old bungalows are not child friendly at times, (i.e. lead-based paint, asbestos flooring, steep stairs...).

>> Modern furniture does not fit through antique doorways.

>> Painting walls and trimming takes thrice as long as it does in a newer house because of all the holes/nicks/gouges you have to patch. In old bungalows, plants can grow within your old walls. No doors are standard size. Check for plumbing and electrical lines as well.

Q. Is it better to leave a home in South Mumbai to opt for a bungalow in the suburbs?
A. It is all about economics. Affordability and cost of living would play an important role in your decision.

Q. In the end, do you think bungalows will survive the next generation?
A. Eventually No! Living in a social and slightly dense surroundings plays an important role. It would sometimes be very frustrating to not have neighbours and live like a nuclear family without neighbours or have improper neighbours without social connect. Then, of course are economics and fissures in the family too play a role.

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