Migrated but kept flat? Parsis must give ’em up

MUMBAI: Is it fair to keep low rent, charity apartments in prime localities of the city locked while the tenants have migrated to the US or Canada? The Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP), the city’s biggest private landlord which controls over 5,500 flats meant for the ParsiI-rani community, does not think so. It has been issuing eviction notices for the last few months to families who have migrated abroad but have retained their flats.

Notices have been pasted on the doors of these apartments in Parsi residential colonies and baugs across the city. Some of the prominent Parsi enclaves are Cusrow Baug at Colaba (in pic) , Rustom Baug at Byculla, Navroz Baug and Jer Baug at Parel, and Ness Baug at Nana Chowk. In these five baugs itself, the BPP identified 54 flats and have slapped eviction notices on 41 of them. “We are in the process of filing cases against them,” said BPP trustee Kersi Randeria.

In other baugs and residential colonies across the city, the Punchayat, which looks after the affairs of the community in Mumbai, identified 200 flats of which 82 occupants have received eviction notices.

Soon after these notices were slapped, three tenants surrendered their flats, while two others settled to vacate in lieu of monetary compensation. In another three to four flats, the occupants are negotiating with the BPP for a payment to vacate the premises. After the crackdown, three families returned to their apartments. “For the first time we have sent out a message. And the results are beginning to show,” Randeria told TOI.

The BPP has claimed that many of these flats have been locked since decades, but the families still hold on to them. Many of these tenants have brazenly kept their flats locked since decades.

Since the past few years this issue has plagued the BPP on how to tackle such errant tenants, who are protected under the Rent Control Act. Trustees said these families use these community flats as ‘holiday homes’. “They visit Mumbai once a year or once in a couple of years and keep the flat locked. This is not fair for young Parsi couples who are waiting for a panchayat flat,” said Randeria.

Currently, the BPP is focussing its attention on families who live in USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These are families who have shifted permanently but still hold on to their flats in Mumbai. The ones residing in the Gulf are not being targeted because these families invariably come back to the city.

Activist Zoru Bhathena said it is “legally foolish” to issue such a warning notice to the tenant. “Moment the tenant gets such a notice he will start using the flat. By law, non-use of a flat has to be proved for six months prior to filing the suit and not six months prior to the notice,” he said. “If after receiving such a notice, the tenant starts using the flat, the landlord loses his right to evict (unless there is a subsequent period of six months where flat is not used, which is a fresh cause of action.”

BPP controlled flats are much sought after. There is a waiting list of 695 families. Priority is generally given married couples without a house and poor families. However, there have been allegations of favouritism and nepotism from time to time.

Published on Times of India