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15 years on, tenants have a shot at getting homes back

15 years on, tenants have a shot at getting homes back

After initially losing the plot, the tenants of a building in IC Colony in Borivali finally have a shot at getting back the homes they vacated more than 15 years ago apparently for “repairs”.

Small Causes Court Judge KV More last week granted six tenants of Xavier Building a relief by restraining their landlord Michael Rodrigues (son of the original landlord) from carrying out any further development on the premises, obtaining a completion certificate from the BMC or selling any flat in the newly-constructed building, till the current suit is finally decided.

“While considering the application for temporary injunction (relief), it is the duty of the court to consider prevailing circumstances. The court should have empathy while considering the prayer of litigants to protect their valuable legal right,” the judge observed.

The judge further observed it appeared that the landlord himself ‘considered/declared’ that the tenants had surrendered their tenancy rights. “I agree with the arguments of…plaintiffs (tenants) that defendant (landlord) failed to maintain the building, therefore it became inhabitable and the plaintiffs had no choice but to leave the building…” he said while granting interim reliefs.

However, the landlord claimed that the residents did not vacate the premises to facilitate repairs but surrendered their tenancy way before the building was demolished. Commenting on the court order, the landlord’s advocate, Nigel Quraishy, said that an appeal had already been filed. “The Small Causes Court order follows a HC order, which categorically states development should not be stopped. So, the current order is contrary to the HC order,” Quraishy told Mumbai Mirror.

PT Bangera, 77, and five others had in 2013 approached the Small Causes Court with the plea that they be declared lawful tenants of Xaviers Building, despite vacating their flats in early 2000s. In their suit argued by counsel Nusrat Shah, the residents claimed that the building was in a dilapidated condition and, therefore, they vacated the premises only for it to be repaired. They also claimed that they diligently paid rent to the current landlord’s father. The tenants further contended that the landlord failed to maintain the building despite several requests.

The tenants said that the landlord asked them to move out for safety reasons and for letting him to carry out repairs and that was why they left.

Several years later, the vacant building was served a notice for demolition and the landlord began to develop a new building.

The residents then filed a suit and asked for certain reliefs. These reliefs were denied by the Small Causes Court and the appellate court earlier. It was the Bombay High Court that sent the matter back to the Small Causes Court in April 2018, asking them to reconsider securing the tenants’ interests. The High Court had also observed that prima facie the residents appeared to be tenants of the landlord.

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