One man & five widows chase Redeveloper for stolen spaces of Rs 3.3 cr… and struggle against 16-fold increase in monthly maintenance bills!
WARNING: AFTER REDEVELOPMENT, LET CERTIFIED ARCHITECTS MEASURE YOUR NEW FLAT. YOUR FLATS MAY BE MUCH SMALLER THAN AGREED! Mumbai, 29th April 2011: Read this, and take a warning, all you optimists who voluntarily wish to go in for building redevelopment. The residents of Nensey Cooperative Society, Bandra West, have been thoroughly duped by the prestigious builders who redeveloped their building – Ekta Supreme Corp. Not only were they given smaller flats than specified in the redevelopment agreement, their common spaces were sold. With the connivance of the chairman and secretary, Ekta Supreme skimmed off Balcony FSI space belonging to the individual home-owners and added it to their share i.e. the sale component of the building. Defying logic, arithmetic and laws, the sale component now exceeds the share of the original home-owners!
While most people have remained silent, five residents – businessman Shabbir Lokhandwala (Ph 80975 88152, associate member of society and nominee of the flat), his mother Huseinabai (owner of the flat) and four other members are fighting for their rights. Some of them are widows living alone in tiny apartments. After having their flats measured by an independent licensed architect, who confirmed their fears, they have launched an offensive against the builder, and are preparing to drag them to Consumer Court. (This builder-partnership Ekta Supreme Corp is famous for having built the prestigious Lake Homes complex in Powai http://www.lakehomespowai.com/ )
Shabbir Lokhandwala in 2008, while the construction work was still in progress. As per the agreement, Shabbir Lokhandwala and his mother Huseinabai, who originally had a flat measuring 647 sq ft, had purchased TDR of 150 sq ft from the builder. So, as per the agreement, he was supposed to be getting a flat that had a carpet area of 797 sq ft. Unwilling to take the builders’ assurances for it, he had his flat measured by an independent architect… and he was surprised to find that his flat was 45.6 sq. ft. short! Given the prevailing rate in the area – over Rs 60,000 per sq ft, this space is worth around Rs 28 lakhs.
When at first he informed the builders of his findings, they responded by breaking down a brick wall that separated the kitchen from its dry balcony, and told him that this was his missing carpet area. But Lokhandwala was not to be fooled. He made it clear that he understood that the carpet area that he was entitled to was not to be confused with non-FSI elements like dry-balcony and flower-beds. Lokhandwala shot off a series of complaints to the Municipal Corporation. http://tinyurl.com/Complaint2MCGM
But the issue was larger than just 45.6 sq. ft. Another space had been stolen from Lokhandwala and also his neighbours – balcony FSI. As the building was built in 1970, the original 15 flats had not taken up the 1:1 FSI of the 820 square metre plot. It had unutilized “Balcony FSI” of 10% of the carpet area, which could be enclosed into the living room or bedroom by paying MCGM a paltry penalty (like Rs 2, 000 to 5,000 approx.) to regularize it. This FSI can only be used with the respective flat, and that too only adjoining the bedroom and living room. It cannot be quietly taken from the flat owner, and utilized to construct other salable flats, as the builder has done. And so, along with the unused Balcony FSI of 80 sq ft, Lokhandwala asserted that the builders had short-changed him for a total of 126 sq. ft., worth Rs 66.30 lakhs @ Rs 60,000 per sq. ft.
BUILDERS FOUGHT BACK: RETRACT ALLEGATIONS, OR FORGO FLAT!
However, the builders had an ace up up their sleeve. Although they had not completed the building before the 22-month deadline, and many amenities and the higher floors were incomplete, they stopped making their rental payment in July 2009, forcing the society members to take possession of their flats without Occupation Certificate and without carrying out joint measurements of the flat areas as stipulated in the agreement. The chairman and secretary played along, and members were forced to sign on a readymade letter that the builders had drafted for them, abjectly capitulating before them and begging them to let them move in. As for Lokhandwala, he was forced to write a letter saying that his matter with the builder was settled; otherwise, he would not get possession of his own flat, and would have to continue living on leave-and-license at his own expense. Read the readymade letter format and the Lokhandwala retraction letters, and the letter that the builders then wrote to the managing committee. http://tinyurl.com/retraction-letters2
Actually, as the work was incomplete at the end of 22 months of the commencement date, the agreement stipulated that the builder should have started paying the society penalty of Rs 5 lakhs per month. At the end of 28 months, the building society could also have invoked the bank guarantee of Rs 1 crore, and sent the builder packing. See Point no. 20 (page 16) of this Agreement: http://tinyurl.com/Redevp-Agreement
But the chairman and secretary, who are the only ones with signing powers, did not enforce the penalty clause of this agreement. Why? Because they are hand-in-glove, alleges Lokhandwala. The work of the builders remains incomplete till date. There is no sign of many common amenities. The servant bathrooms on all floors are not yet built, and there is no sign of society office and gymnasium. Violating the terms of the agreement, the builder has sold the society’s common terrace along with the penthouse. The chairman and secretary are evasive; they avoid accepting correspondence on this matter, and they do not reply to queries. In the words of the builders, “Matters have been settled with the society.”
Currently, no building work is going on; only interior work is being done by individual flat owners in the upper floors. Having sold the free-sale flats, the builders appear to have called it quits. So Lokhandwala and the widows he represents have a tough fight ahead of them, getting the builder to make good!
PARTING SHOT: 16-TIMES INCREASE IN MONTHLY OUTGOINGS
Before redevelopment, Lokhandwala used to receive a QUARTERLY society bill of Rs 3,548. But immediately after redevelopment, he was presented with a MONTHLY bill of Rs 16,065. Read http://tinyurl.com/Steep-increase-monthly
The increase was shocking, and clearly beyond the means of many, especially the widows. The occupant of the smallest flat that now measures 385 sq.ft., received a bill of Rs 9,941. Other society members received bills ranging from Rs 11,722 to 24,101.
This shocking bill was presented for June 2010. After Lokhandwala and the widows raised their voices against this, the chairman and secretary defended the increase in writing, but stopped sending the six dissenters the monthly bills. Till date, they have not received a single demand for payment, and no general body meeting has been called till date.
Lokhandwala is not complacent. He knows that the monthly bills are like an axe waiting to fall. And in the meantime, it makes his blood boil when he hears that some members of the managing committee are dropping hints to the widows, asking them whether they wish to sell the flats that they can no longer afford to live in! And this makes him even more determined to fight. “In Islam, there isn’t a more contemptible sin than exploiting widows,” Lokhandwala says angrily.