By Legal Bureau
OLD BUILDINGS :
01. Most buildings in Mumbai City & Suburbs are over 40 years old. Some of these buildings are “ILLEGAL & UNAUTHORISED”, more so since neither the local civic body (BMC) has the buildings Sanctioned Plans and neither the building residents (Society) have the Approved Plans of their buildings.
BUILDING COLLAPSES :
02. Over the period of time, there have been consistent events of falling of such buildings, due to failure or negligence in Maintenance and/or Repairs of these buildings, more so due to lack of Money and/or gross apathy by the residents, towards their own buildings. EVEN basic Plastering & Coloring of building walls and replacing leaking & corroded sewage pipelines, are apathetically ignored, which in turn means reducing the overall life of such buildings. The National Crime Records Bureau, in a data-report states that in the last 10 years, upto year 2012, there has been 448 building collapses, in Maharashtra, killing over 425 people and injuring scores of other people.
GROSS ENCROACHMENTS :
03. Further over a period of time, some residents inbuilt urge to encroach on common spaces /balconies /niche areas /flower-bed areas etc…., lead to unauthorized alterations, which includes shifting of WC, Bathrooms & Kitchens or Amalgamating of Flats. All such unauthorized alterations /changes, in turn culminates into hairline fractures in the Columns, Beams, Pillars, Walls and Floors, leading to leakage of Water and Air, into the RCC structure, thus reducing the overall life of these buildings.
04. Many residents have a chronic and orthodox habit of using hammering action using a wooden block, while washing clothes in the bathroom, which ultimately opens up the protective water-proofing layer and the gaps between the bathroom floor tiles, leading to leakage directly in the lower floor structure, thereby causing discontent to the residents on the lower floor.
STRUCTURAL AUDIT – MANDATORY :
05. Taking into consideration all such above & other nuisance factors, the local civic body (BMC), has amended the MMC Act, by inserting section 353-B, which lawfully makes it mandatory for the building owners (Society) to conduct “Structural Audit”, for ALL those buildings which are over 30 year of age. The Age of the building is determined by default or by the “Completion Certificate” issued by BMC, at the then time when the building was completed.
STRUCTURAL AUDIT – NOTICE :
06. A single building resident (and even a non-member or a public member) may make a basic complaint application u/s 353-B, to the “Designated Officer” of the local ward office of BMC, giving as much details as possible, and “direct” the BMC “Designated Officer”, to issue notice u/s 353-B to the building Owner /Society, for conducting the “Structural Audit”, of the building.
DESPITE receipt of such written Complaint, IF the “Designated Officer”, fails to serve such Notice to the building Owner /Society, THEN the said “Designated Officer”, can be successfully prosecuted in a Court of Law, without any reference to any permission from anybody.
STRUCTURAL AUDIT – WITHIN 30 DAYS :
07. On receipt of the said BMC notice u/s 353-B, the building Owner /Society, must mandatorily conduct the “Structural Audit”, of the building, within 30 days AND mandatorily submit such “Structural Audit Report”, to the BMC office, consequent to which IT shall be the mandatory duty of Municipal Engineer to scrutinize the Structural Audit Report and ultimately enforce compliance of all repairs and restorations highlighted in the Structural Audit Report.
Further it shall be mandatory for the Municipal Authorities, to initiate other legal proceedings, against the building Owners/Society, in the absence of Approved /Sanctioned Plans, Occupancy Certificate and other documents. This ultimately serves to safeguard the residents of the said building and other public members around the building, while upholding the Law.
This fact is also evident from the various prosecutions launched against some Society residents residing in unauthorized flats in the CampaCola compound. The Hon. Supreme Court, has ultimately upheld the Law.
STRUCTURAL AUDIT – PENALTY FOR FAILURE :
08. Structural Audit can be conducted, ONLY by a BMC empanelled Structural Engineer. Failure to conduct the said Structural Audit, would result into prosecution by BMC, along with fine AND ALSO would lead to revoking of the buildings “Occupancy Certificate”, thus leading to double the water charges u/s 92 of the MMC Act, and increase in Property Tax.
STRUCTURAL AUDIT – PERIODICALLY :
09. Periodic “Structural Audit”, of the building and compliance thereon, also positively restricts the BMC (or others /owners), from declaring the building as “dilapidated” and ultimately from receiving notices of eviction from the building. Such notices would also mean revocation of buildings “Occupancy Certificate” and increase in Water Charges.
STRUCTURAL AUDIT – CHECKING :
10. “Structural Audit”, of the building means EVERYTHING connected to the conduct of a Building, which includes strength of the buildings Columns, Beams, Pillars, Iron Bars & Plaster, Sewage discharge systems, Water pipeline systems, Electrical cabin and wiring system, Lifts, Podiums ….
a) Structural Audit parameters will vary for Residential buildings, Commercial buildings and Industrial buildings.
b) Some “quack” type Structural Auditors, perform a superficial check and issue a manipulated Structural Audit Report, to the Society, with the connivance of the apathetic Society office bearers.
STRUCTURAL AUDIT – RESTORE TO NORMALCY :
11. A Structurally unfit building shall be prone to sudden collapse without any warning, at the first instance of an earthquake, which in turn means risking the Life and Property of the buildings residents and other people in the vicinity.
a) At present times, there are several technological techniques available, along with highly experienced technical professionals, where old buildings can be easily refurbished /restored, to complete normalcy, thus peacefully extending the life of old buildings by further 20-40 years.
b) This helps in gross monetary savings, while still retaining the emotions and sentiments attached to the building and its co-residents.
ILLEGAL ALTERATIONS – BUILDING COLLAPSES :
12. Around July-2007, a 25 year old building named as “Laxmi Chhaya” (at Borivali West), just simply collapsed in the early morning hours, just because some greedy shop-owner/s had reduced the girth of the buildings Column & Pillars. This resulted in loss of Life and Property of the buildings residents and other people in the vicinity. Today due to courtesy of Human Apathy, everything is back to normal and the losses of human lives are apathetically and conveniently forgotten by all concerned. No lessons learned.
WHAT SHOULD BE CONDUCTED DURING STRUCTURAL AUDIT :
13. A “prudent” Structural Engineer would reflect the following in his Structural Audit Report, highlighting the relevant violations under the Municipal Laws, while keeping upfront the Approved Plans of the Building:
a) Any changes and contraventions of the Approved Plans /Availability of Sanctioned Plans. Whether Building has been built in conformity to the Sanctioned Building Plans,
b)Availability of approved & sanctioned building Plans, IOD, CC, OC,
c)Changes made to the buildings Columns, Beams, Pillars,
d) Changes made in place of WC, Bathroom, Kitchen, installation of loft water-tanks,
e) Extension .OR. Covering of Balcony,
f) Removal of Internal walls between rooms,
g) Internally Amalgamating (joining) of two flats, by removing partition walls /doors,
h) Installing over-protruding Grills, Sheds, Chajjas,
i) Conversions of basements .OR. Stilt /podium parking for any other usage (e.g. Offices, Shops …. )
j Existence of unauthorized Lofts & Mezzanine Floors in the building,
k) Any other encroachment of Common areas, Refuge areas and Society premises,
l) Installation of illegal Mobile Towers and Hoardings, and adverse effect of same on the building,
m) Whether the building has appropriate Drainage /Sewage lines connected to the Mains,
n) Existence of Open-Well, Bore-Well and other clandestinely built sub-ground level storage water tanks,
- o) Common Electrical Wiring system,
p) Changes in Internal /External Drainage /Sewage lines,
q) Ground and Overhead Water Tanks, Water Meters and supply pipelines,
r) Water logging around periphery of the Building and reverse incline level of ground,
s) Detailed report on the repairs and restorations, that is required in the Building, in terms of the Approved Plans of the building.
Note: Structural Engineer /Auditor have to clearly outline each Alterations with graphic images and photographs and the repairs /rectifications /restorations that needs to be done in the Building.
STRUCTURAL AUDIT TECHNIQUES :
14. The Structural Engineer, mandatorily must be a NEUTRAL authority, more so since any manipulations or fabricated or untrue Structural Audit Report, would mean, criminal prosecution against the Structural Engineer. An experienced & competent Structural Engineer would conduct several tests to determine the extent of corrosion, distress and loss of strength in concrete & steel. Some of the tests means:
a) Concrete Core Cutting & Compression testing for columns, beams and slabs for Strength Assessment of concrete.
b) Half Cell Potential test for determining the probability of corrosion in the embedded steel.
c) Carbonation test for carbonation depth measurement for Steel.
d) Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity Test (UPV) for Strength Assessment of concrete.
e) Integrity tests for pile foundations.
and various testing techniques.
Note: The above are highly technical tests AND must be conducted by an experienced Structural Engineer and NOT by junior assistants /trainees.
FIRE EQUIPMENTS :
15. The Structural Auditor has to inspect the Fire Fighting Systems (as applicable) with the relevant approved vendor and prepare recommendatory reports, highlighting the repairs and restorations required, for due compliance of the building Owner /Society.
Failure to install the mandatory Fire Fighting Systems, and to keep maintaining them in working condition is mandatory, failing which the Fire Department is within its jurisdiction to disconnect Electricity and Water connections, besides revoking the FIRE NOC for Occupancy Certificate granted to the building.
EARTHQUAKE RESISTENCE :
16. Presently Earthquake resistance buildings are built & designed as per Indian Standard Codes, means “Earthquake Code IS 1893-2002” .
a) Under the parameters of “Indian Standard Codes”, the island city of Mumbai is located in Earthquake (Seismic ) Zone III.
b) Some very old buildings, which are not built for Earthquake resistance, can still be retrofitted appropriately to make it literally earthquake resistant, subject to the building being structurally fit. This preemptive /precautionary measure will help in avoiding sudden collapse of buildings, during Earthquake/s, and giving enough time to clear the building, thus helping in saving Life & Property.
FAILURE TO CONDUCT REPAIRS :
17. IF the building Owners /Society, consistently fails to carry out all the repairs and restorations highlighted in the Structural Audit Report, THEN the BMC is empowered to conduct the repairs and restorations, on its own and recover the cost of such “repairs and restorations” from the building Owner /Society. Failure to carry out relevant repairs by the Society, would also lead to revoking of “Occupancy Certificate”, of the building, thus leading to double the water charges u/s 92 of the BMC Act. The BMC is empowered to file prosecution u/s 488 of the MMC Act and levy Penalty, for failure to comply with the repairs, mandated in the Structural Audit Report. Criminal proceedings under Indian Penal Code, can also be filed on the Mg. Committee members, for their deliberate failures and endangering the Life and Property of the building residents.
TABLING OF STRUCTURAL AUDIT REPORT :
18. After the Structural Audit of the Society building is duly concluded, the Society Mg. Committee has to distribute a Copy of the same to each member at the cost of the Society and then duly call a Special General Body meeting, to deliberate on the Structural Audit Report and the costs for repairs and restoration highlighted by the Structural Engineer. The said Repairs and Restoration has to be mandatorily complied and the General Body of the Society has NO OPTION to avoid the same. The General Body CANNOT pass any resolution to avoid the said Repairs and Restoration, under the Structural Audit Report. The repairs & restorations to the building (as applicable) has to be started WITH or WITHOUT the approval of the General Body. Hence the “Tabling of the Structural Audit Report”, before the General Body thou necessary, has no relevance under the BMC Act. IT has to be mandatorily complied with (repairs) even if the General Body, does not sanction repairs, due to any reasons, whatsoever.
Note: IF the building owner /society does not complete the repairs /restorations, as per the directions in the Structural Audit Report within 6 month of submission of Audit Report, THEN they are also liable to be punished under section 471 & 352(B) of the MMC Act.
NON-AVAILABILITY OF BUILDING PLANS & OC :
19. In the event, IF the building’s Sanctioned /Approved Plans and/or Occupancy Certificate (OC) are not available, THEN the building owner (Society) has to conduct the necessary documentations and arrange /make the buildings plans etc….
The buildings Occupancy Certificate, can be procured, using various compliance parameters, BUT ONLY after repairing & restoring all illegal alterations /amalgamations.
PREEMPTIVE MEASURES :
20. Even in newer buildings, the building owners (Society) should themselves consider to conduct “Structural Audit” of their buildings, every Five years, as precautionary measures against encroachments of common spaces /balconies /niche areas /flower-bed areas and unauthorized alterations in WC, Bathrooms & Kitchens or Amalgamating two Flats.
Such preemptive Structural Audit would help in timely repairing or reversing back any such unauthorized alterations /changes, and avoid hairline fractures in the Columns, Beams, Pillars, Walls and Floors.
The compliance of above, will mean preserving & increasing the overall life of the buildings. This also serves to save Life, Property & Money of the building residents.
21. In Mumbai, a conspiracy is emerging with the connivance of the Society Mg. Committee members and the local builders lobby, to deliberately avoid repairing and restoration of structurally sound old buildings and then consequently having the building declared as “dilapidated or risky” at the hands of the local civic body, for the sole objective of Redevelopment of their buildings, for clandestinely generated monetary benefits.
a) When such conspiracy is appropriately proved, using various parameters and documentations, the Structural Auditor along with the Mg. Committee members can be successfully prosecuted in a Criminal Court, under the Indian Penal Code.
22. In the larger interest of the public, the State Govt., would do well to consider making mandatory, the preemptive Structural Audit of every old /new building, every Five years, in order to detect illegal encroachments of common spaces /balconies /niche areas /flower-bed areas and unauthorized alterations in WC, Bathrooms & Kitchens or Amalgamating of Flats. This will help in good governance and drastically reduce legal proceedings by the local civic body (BMC), which in turn means lesser leakages and maintaining harmony between Flat Owners.