Sporting a fresh court of paint, a group of 70-year-old cessed buildings at Dadar and Churchgate are enjoying a new lease on life. Even as incentive floor space index (FSI) lures landlords and tenants to embrace reconstruction schemes enmasse, some fiercely proud property owners are sparing no costs to hang on to their inheritance.
“I love my building and am proud of it,” says RR Bharucha, landlord of four-storey Ahunavar building on Jame Jamshed Road at Parsi Colony. “I also live here, so why would I be miserly about spending for its maintenance?”
Refurbished a year ago, the building is made up of stone and is coloured grey. Ornately styled box windows with wooden beams made from Burma teak support the grilled balconies that house green plants.
Bharucha, who spends thousands of rupees every three years, does not ask his five tenants to contribute towards the structure’s upkeep. Nor has he collected monthly rent of Rs250 in the past 30 years. “The sum is a pittance,” he says. “Besides, I can afford it. That is not the case with some of my tenants.”
Just across the street, dentist Sanjay Gandhi, who is landlord of Vipin Villa, wishes he were that lucky. Only three of his seven tenants contributed monetarily when he carried out structural repairs and water-proofed the building’s terrace two years ago.
“The Rent Act is responsible for all the mess today,” said Gandhi, who collects a rent of Rs350 per month. “Who likes to demolish their inheritance? The state should understand this and allow landlords to charge rent that will keep pace with rising inflation and taxes.”
Freny Motiwalla, 67, owner of Palia Mansion, a three-storey building surrounded by a big open space on all four sides at Parsi colony, agrees with Gandhi.
“My tenants do contribute, but they ask a lot of questions even if it is for a small issue like hiring a watchman,” she says. “We can afford to maintain the building now, but we may not be able to do so in the future.” Motiwalla adds, “We may eventually have to think of redevelopment,” as she proudly shows a picture of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar shot with her family during an advertisement shoot in the neighbourhood.
Across the road near Ruia College at Matunga, residents of Kamala Kunj – which still houses the family of well-known vocalist Hariharan – count themselves lucky. The five tenants who pay Rs175 every month as rent support their landlord, Ambrish Munim, in his efforts to maintain the building and the grounds. Besides, the three-storey building is listed as a Grade II heritage structure.
“Buildings constructed in the old days were sturdier than the present ones,” say residents opposed to redevelopment. Incidentally, the case seems desperate at Swastik Chambers, a three-storey building at Churchgate. Despite shelling out monthly maintenance for repairs such as revamping water pipes for Rs2,500, overhauling lifts and electrical connections, the tenants find little support from their landlord.