Mumbai: Residents and trustees fight as 108-year-old building crumbles

Sep 08, 2017, 19:43 IST | Hemal Ashar

This Jaiphal Terrace problem needs a solution
This Jaiphal Terrace problem needs a solution

Jaiphal Terrace, a ground plus two storey 108 year-old building comprising two wings, tucked away at the mouth of Forjett Street, behind Sethna Agiary, has received three MHADA notices citing that it is dangerous. It's 19 tenants claim that they are ready for redevelopment as the building has become precarious because it is so old, but the trustees of the M B Seith Agiary Trust, custodians of the structure, magnificent even in its faded glory, "insist on repairs and not on redevelopment," say frustrated tenants.

Delna Peer and Shahnaz Jehani make their point
Delna Peer and Shahnaz Jehani make their point

Says Nasha Jassawalla, president, Jaiphal Terrace Tenants Association, "The dilly-dallying has gone on for more than eight years. We have had so many meetings with trustee Burjor Mehta. The three-man trustee board simply does not want to budge."

Jassawalla adds, "We found a Parsi redeveloper, with an excellent track record, after the trustee's chosen redeveloper backed out of the project, and we, the tenants were challenged by trustees to find one. Even then, the trustees say, repairs not redevelopment."

Money matters
According to the tenants, the MHADA notice cites, "repairs to the building will cost approximately Rs 1 crore, 15 lakh. MHADA will pay Rs 80 lakh as cess and the rest, Rs 35 lakh have to be borne by the tenants/trustees. The tenants say, "Who repairs a 108 year-old building? We will have to spend repeatedly on repairs. These are also 'blind repairs' suggested by MHADA, which means they address the 'visual' damage to the building. The real damage is internal and once repairs are started, the cost may go up to three times that amount. We, as tenants, see no merit in going down that path."

Raining in the home
Say Delna Peer and Shahnaz Jehani both tenants, "it was practically raining 'inside' some homes in the building; some tenants had placed buckets all over their home as water comes inside." Shahnaz adds, "Tenants have paid heavily for waterproofing on the terrace.

Face off
Tenants claim that the trustees ask them, "There are at least 5,000 buildings, which have been repaired by MHADA in the city. What makes you any different? Our answer: Show us how many are satisfied with those repairs and how long have they lasted?"

All on props
Tenants point to leakage, walls with cracks in them, and props, paid for by tenants, are being used as building supports. The tenants sign off, "The MHADA in a notice said trustees, tenants and the redeveloper meet at their office to talk. On June 21 this year in fact, tenants and trustees were invited by MHADA for a meeting for clarity on repairs or redevelopment. Some lines of the MHADA notice ominously read: 'the building is in very much dilapidated condition...' The last line of the notice read: Please also note that, you will be solely held responsible for any untoward accident, incident, mishap in the building during the period.' The trustees did not come for the meeting," said residents.

Tenants think fruits of redevelopment are their birthright: Trust
Says Burjor Mehta, trustee, M B Seith Agiary Trust, "Most of the occupants of, 'Jaiphal Terrace' are using an area from 1,600 to 2.200 sq ft of space for an approximate rent of R100, they have never responded positively to various attempts made by the Trust to unite them in repairs. The Trust has (over nearly 20 years) tried to focus their joint efforts towards repairs, to no avail. Eminent architects in such MHADA matters have addressed them (at our request) without success. A lack of cohesiveness and internal bickering, has led to this."

Mehta added, "After the MHADA notice to repair, several years ago, the Trust again tried to reason with the tenants to join the repairs. This time tenants asked us to consider redevelopment. The Trust did look into it, and this, at the time, was not feasible (due to regulatory restraints)."

"Tenants feel it is their birthright to have the fruits of such redevelopment despite this. They insisted that they had to be so accommodated, and moved the Charity Commissioner to demand such actions, along with some frivolous allegations. Their plea was rejected and their plaint had to be withdrawn. These events have resulted in several years again being wasted."

Referring to the cost of repairs, Mehta says, "The Trust has offered to pay the difference between the statutory limit of MHADA and the estimate prepared by the MHADA architect. The urgent request to MHADA (for repairs), along with the specific choice of architect was made by the tenants. It is absurd then to keep demanding redevelopment to fend off inevitable repair."

Mehta stated, that their attitude and demands were "Essentially an end result of indifference and greed. The Trust cannot be forced to redevelop just to please tenants," he finished.

Beyond repair?
A structural audit report of the building by an Andheri-based consultancy in August 2015 shows the extent of the damage.

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