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PENDING PROPERTY TAX: BMC`s ultimatum to 450 tenants in five Lalbaug buildings, including two 100 – yr – old chawls:

The problem is, builder who bought these buildings is bankrupt, his firm has gone into liquidation, and the tenants are not authorised to pay the dues on his behalf.
Residents of five buildings in Lalbaug are in a fix as the BMC has asked for lakhs of rupees as outstanding property tax, threatening to cut off water supply and ultimately sell off the properties if they fail to do so within three weeks. Things have come to such a pass as Orbit Developer, who had bought the properties 20 years ago, has gone bankrupt and can’t pay the dues. Some of these buildings are century-old chawls where residents live on the pagadi system.
The buildings, which have received the notices and warrants of attachment, are Sofi Mahal, which has been asked to pay up Rs 19 lakh, Batatawala Mansion (Rs 6.6 lakh), Padmashri Mansion (Rs 4.6 lakh), Bhagyodaya (Rs 4 lakh) and Hari Niwas (Rs 4 lakh). Around 450 residents live in these buildings.
Along with the notice, a warrant of attachment is also pasted addressing the owner of the buildings, which states, “It is further to command you to declare that the said property will be sold unless the amount of taxes due with all costs of recovery is paid into municipal office within 21 days from date of issue of this warrant of attachment.”
The BMC is on a war footing this month to recover property tax from residential buildings and housing societies and have already disconnected water supply of three commercial properties in Bandra and Kurla last week.
Residents in a spot Vineeta Rane, a resident of Batatawala Mansion, said that they received the primary notice 15 days back, followed by attachment of property notice, threatening to disconnect water supply. “The property tax dues have been pending since 2010 as per BMC records. The builder is telling us to pay from our pockets or else water will be disconnected,” she said. Rane said that when residents approached the superintendent of property tax department from F (South) ward, he assured them that the BMC hasn’t issued notice to residents but to the builder. “He told us they are concerned with the dues and asked us to contact the builder and get the matter resolved or else they would go ahead and disconnect water.”
Sachin Patil from Batatawala Mansion said more than three generations have been living in the chawls in Lalbaug. There is also another glitch. “Even if we pay the property tax, it will be received in the name of Orbit Developer. We will suffer if we do anything. All accounts of Orbit are seized. We are not even authorised to pay the BMC on behalf of Orbit,” he said.
Neema Chavan, a resident of the 105-yr-old Sofi Mahal, which has been slapped with the highest outstanding dues of Rs 19 lakh said that the developer has washed his hands off the matter. “We are in a Catch-22 situation. We approached the local MLA who has assured us that he will tell BMC not to disconnect our water supply.”
Devidas Kshirsagar, assessor and collector, told Mirror, “The property tax collection will be done on a war footing in March. There will be rigorous pursuing by way of attaching properties and water disconnections. Last year in March 2018 we collected Rs1,350 crore alone. This year our overall target for the whole year is Rs 5,016.19 crore.” Kshirsagar said he could not comment on the specific cases in Lalbaug but added that water has already been disconnected from HDIL building in Bandra, Wadhwa Trade Centre in Bandra East and Kohinoor Mall in Kurla West for nonpayment of property tax dues.
Prasad Naik, former employee of Orbit Corporation Ltd, who is helping residents find a solution said, “The company has been liquidated. There is a threat of disconnecting water and over 400 families will be affected.”

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