Get flat buyers out of illegal occupation (fire) trap, say activists

Updated: Jan 02, 2019, 16:35 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

According to them, such buildings are not only risky to reside in, but also have a chance of ill-fighting fire-related incidents as they may lack necessary equipment and restrict fire engines because of construction-related work

Get flat buyers out of illegal occupation (fire) trap, say activists
Such buildings are not only risky to reside in, but also have a chance of ill-fighting fire-related incidents as they may lack necessary equipment and restrict fire engines because of construction related work. Representational Image

Moving into an under-construction building without an occupation certificate (OC) or an NOC from the fire brigade? You might just be walking into a firetrap, and then some. Following recent fires in high-rise residential buildings, activists have compelled MahaRERA to and BMC to discontinue the policy of allowing unauthorized occupation of these buildings.

According to them, such buildings are not only risky to reside in, but also have a chance of ill-fighting fire-related incidents as they may lack necessary equipment and restrict fire engines because of construction related work.

With BMC allowing unauthorized occupation by levying a mere Rs 50 per sq m penalty, a majority of under-construction buildings in the city have allowed illegal occupation. Watchdog Foundation, a city-based NGO had recently complained about one such building in Bhandup violating the OC and NOC norms.

Advocate Godfrey Pimenta, who is also the founder-trustee of the NGO, said, "We've already complained to the Chief Minister's Office and decided to officially lodge our protest against such practices by developers. Allowing this is not only risky, but also against the rules."

"Moreover this is a new trend being seen across the city, where developers who fail to keep their promise on the date of project completion under MahaRERA, allow flat buyers who put pressure on them to occupy the incomplete structure. The developers term them as 'unauthorised' occupants, and pay a penalty of mere Rs 50 [per sq m] towards the cost of each flat. The penalty amount is an eyewash attempt by the BMC," said Nicolas Almeida, another activist from the NGO.

Pimenta added, "We are of the belief that fire fighting equipment and underground water tanks in such under-construction buildings will not even be operational. In case of any untoward event, it would be difficult for the rescue operation to commence or even the fire engines to reach the site. We'll be taking up this issue at the highest level and ensure that this is stopped immediately, so that there is no loss of property and life."

Pimenta will also be discussing the issue with MahaRERA chief Gautam Chatterjee to appraise him about the ground situation stating, "Under RERA, if the developer is delaying possession of the property, the flat purchaser, upon making his complaint with MahaRERA is entitled for an interest on delayed possession at the rate of 10 per cent till the time of handing over of possession. The whole exercise of penalising the developer/builder for delayed completion turns futile, when the developer, through his nexus with BMC, pays a penalty of a mere Rs 50 per sq m by addressing the flat buyer as 'unauthorised occupants,' which is not only bad in taste but exposes a nexus between BMC and the developer."

'Highly risky and objectionable'
Vinod Sampat,
Advocate
'This is a seriously wrong practice and only endangers the life of innocent flat buyers. It exposes the nexus between the builder and the BMC officials. The idea here is to support the developer in his wrongdoing. It is common knowledge that the costliest cars are invariably seen near the [BMC's] building proposal office, as the developers and architect keep meeting building proposal officials. We all know that corruption is rampant here'

P D Kargupikar,
Former Mumbai Fire Chief
'It is highly risky and objectionable to allow such practices. BMC should not allow this. The National Building Code 2016, clearly states that fire-fighting measures should be in place and in working condition even in under construction buildings. Due safety measures need to be place or else the onus will continue to be on the developer'

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