The state government on Thursday declared plans to permanently protect tenants’ rights in Mumbai.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that the state government would modify norms for enacting provisions that would keep tenants from getting evicted from a property, if it was going for redevelopment. “We will change laws to ensure that the tenancy rights is protected in such cases,” Fadnavis said, adding, “The plan was to bring a legislation in this regard in the ongoing monsoon session. We will use the ordinance route if that does not work.”
The chief minister made the announcement in reply to a calling attention motion raised by legislators from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Atul Bhatkalkar, who represents Mumbai’s Kandivali Assembly seat, tabled the motion, arguing that some rogue landlords and developers were working in cahoots with civic officials to get tenants evicted from properties.
Many of the tenanted buildings in Mumbai are old and in derelict condition. Bhatkalkar said, “The existing laws do not provide for recognition of tenancy rights once a building is razed. There is a disturbing trend where landlords and developers, in connivance with civic officials, have got such buildings tagged as dangerous, so that eviction notices are served on tenants. As the laws do not protects such tenants, they end up being harassed.”
Pointing out that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had already enacted guidelines recognising tenants’ rights, Fadnavis admitted that rogue landlords and developers often took advantage of the fact that these were not a part of any law. “Law does not have specific provisions recognising a tenant’s rights once a building tagged as extremely dangerous is pulled down,” Bhatkalkar said, adding, “There is also nothing that binds the developers or the landlords of such buildings to commence the redevelopment work within a stipulated time after eviction of tenants.”
Fadnavis said that the laws would be modified to protect the tenants’ rights even after demolition of such buildings. Tenanted buildings are governed by the Maharashtra Rent Control Act. The Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act provides for circumstances when an eviction notice can be served and basic amenities discontinued for a building that is unfit for rehabilitation.
The move will benefit thousands of people in Mumbai. Official figures reveal that a total of 2,177 buildings have been tagged ‘dilapidated’ in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s pre-monsoon survey. These include 712 buildings found unfit to live in and 750 others that need major repairs.
Fadnavis’s announcement comes a month after he had stayed a move for withdrawal of curbs on increase in rent in large-sized tenanted apartments. Like last month, the BJP with an eye on the BMC elections in 2017, publicised Fadnavis’s latest move to score political points over opponents.
The chief minister also announced that the government was working on a new policy for deemed conveyance – transferring the title of the plot on a society’s name. Fadnavis said that there were several grey areas in the existing policy – unveiled during the Congress, NCP regime – which had rendered it ineffective. “We have already held three meetings with the Chief Secretary (Swadhin Kshatriya) for a new policy. The plan is to roll it out in the next session of the state legislature,” Fadnavis said.
During the discussion on the motion, Shiv Sena legislators also alleged cases where developers forge structural audit reports to show a sound building as dangerous. The chief minister said that directives would be issued to the BMC to act in such cases.
BJP’s Ashish Shelar demanded that protection be granted to tenants in cases where a building needed to be vacated for major repairs. Fadnavis said that the modified law would have provisions in this regard.