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There are numerous examples of resident members in Housing Societies who buy luxurious flats either in new buildings or redeveloped ones which are adjoining ones and for their habitable convenience, merge them in to one flat or if the flats are situated on lower and immediate upper floor, merge them in to a duplex flat by construction in-house stairway connecting both the flats. While the resident members enjoying their stay thereafter never knew that Section 347-C of BMC Act, 1988 prohibits them for such merger without the authority’s prior permission.

Recently such case has been on record that Metropolitan Magistrate's Court, Vile Parle, held a Dahisar resident guilty of merging two flats without procuring the BMC permission. The accused was fined by the Court a sum of Rs.10,000/ for violation of rules. The offence of the said accused came to light through the information sought under RTI that no permission was granted by BMC for the amalgamation of flats, ruled the Metropolitan Magistrate of Vile Parle Court.

The accused admitted that he had indeed merged two flats in May 2010 before receiving the Occupation Certificate (OC). However, he agreed having paid the fine amount and rectified the changes made as he did not want his family to suffer. Section 347(c) of the BMC Act envisages that no alteration can be made to a residential building or plans which have been approved by the BMC. Once the plans are sanctioned and flats are built, any change including setting up a partition, demolishing walls, merging flats or using a residential apartment flat as a warehouse, require the permission of the Civic Chief, according to the lawyers. The text of relevant Section is appended herein:

Section 347-C: No alterations to be made in buildings for human habitation without written permission of Commissioner. "No person shall without the written permission of the BMC Commissioner or otherwise than in conformity with the terms of such permission make any alteration or cause any alteration to be made in an existing building originally constructed for or authorised to be used for human habitation for the purpose of using it or causing human It to be used as a godown warehouse, workshop, workplace, factory, stable or motor garage".

The next door neighbour of accused lodged a complaint with the BMC and also stated that the accused had built a door to connect the drawing rooms of the two flats. Further, without the BMC's prior permission, a bathroom in one of these two flats was turned into a kitchen. However, it was reported that while BMC delayed initiating action against the accused, his neighbour filed a query under the RTI Act which motivated the Corporation to issue a notice to the accused. The BMC lodged a case before the Metropolitan Magistrate when the accused failed to comply with the notice to restore the flats to its original condition.

As per Section 342 of BMC Act, 1988 (amended till date), the following “tenantable repairs”, can be carried out without obtaining permission from the ‘Building and Factory’ Department of local BMC Ward:

• Plastering, painting, pointing of your flat

• Providing guniting to the structural members or walls

• Changing floor tiles

• Repairing WC, bath or washing places

• Repairing or replacing drainage pipes, taps, manholes and other fittings

• Repairing or replacing sanitary, water plumbing or electrical fittings

• Replacing the roof with the same material

• Replacement of existing water-proofing material of the terrace. The only pre-conditions to the renovation work to be done at residences are:

• The original tenantable structure (whether rental or ownership) must be legal, i.e. it is based on the original BMC-approved Building plan.

• Though no BMC permission for the above is required, it is advisable to do so under strict supervision of a registered Architect and/or Structural Engineer.The "tenantable repairs" however shall NOT include the following:

• Replacing or removal of any structure members of load bearing walls.

• Change in horizontal or vertical existing dimensions of the structure.

• Lowering of plinth, foundations or floors.

• Addition or extension of mezzanine floor or loft.

• Flattening of roof or repairing roof with different material

• No merger of tenancies by removal or opening of any walls in between two or more tenancies.

• Changing location of bathroom/WC/kitchen sink, in a way that can cause leakage to residents below.

• Increasing the internal height of the structure.

BMC Notices

Notice issued by BMC under Section 354 is a STOP Work Notice if it feels ongoing work is unlawful. If there is unauthorised construction then BMC can issue a Show-Cause Notice under Section 351. This is NOT a Stop Work Notice – it is issued when work is completed and persons are utilizing the said premises. If the officer is not satisfied with the documents produced, then he has to give them an opportunity to revert the property back to the original legal status after which, the BMC can initiate demolition under Section 488. The party can go to the Civil Court for a stay. Notice under Section 381 is issued by BMC if there is nuisance to other members due to some work done by the resident. For any construction to be legalized; there must be documentary proof (electric bill or property assessment etc.) that the structure existed prior to 1962.

Before starting renovation work on your property, if you are in doubt, it may be safe to take ‘dated’ pictures of the property. However, if you submit a letter to the local BMC office, attaching a copy of the Architect’s proposed plan, you may be requested to forward the same to Building Proposal Department of your Local Municipal Ward for written approval.