What would be the total number of residential high-rise buildings in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) limits, built during the last five years? If the data provided by the BBMP is anything to go by, 97 is the exact number of buildings built in the Capital city between 2009 and 2014, which have been issued official Occupancy Certificates by BBMP.
What is more puzzling is the reply given by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in the Assembly session last month, confirming that no cases of residential apartments failing to obtain Occupancy Certificates have come to the notice of the government.
However, if you are the one who is following the real estate development in the last few years, you would know that this number, 97, is a joke. Numerous residential as well commercial complexes within the city stretching for about 741 km, have mushroomed in the last five years. So, if the official number of buildings that have BBMP’s Occupancy Certificates is only 97, what about all other buildings that were built between 2009 to 2014? The figure released by BBMP raises some serious doubts over the actual story behind Occupancy Certificates, its relevancy and dilution due to vague laws.
What is Occupancy Certificate?
According to the building bye-laws of BBMP, every builder should complete the construction or reconstruction of a building for which the licence was obtained. The construction should complete before the expiry of five years from the date of issue of licence.
Within one month after the completion of the construction the builder should intimate the Commissioner in writing about the completion. It should be accompanied by a certificate in certified by a registered architect / engineer / supervisor. Along with this, the application for permission to occupy the building should be submitted.
“The authority shall intimate the applicant within thirty days of receipt of the intimation whether the application for Occupancy Certificate (OC) is accepted or rejected. In case, the application is accepted, the Occupancy Certificate shall be issued in the form given in Schedule IX provided the building is in accordance with the sanctioned plan,” says the byelaw.
In addition, OC should be given after the physical inspection of the building by an official who has to verify if the building has been constructed as per the sanctioned plan and has met the requirement of building byelaws. This includes inspections by the Fire Service Department wherever necessary.
In Bengaluru, BBMP and BDA issue Occupancy Certificates.
Fake OCs issued by BBMP officials?
BBMP ruling party leader N R Ramesh, the corporator of Yediyur ward, who smelled a foul play in Occupancy Certificate episode, calls it as nothing less than a scam. “There is no doubt that more than 97 high rise apartments were constructed in BBMP between 2009 and 2014 and several of them have been occupied in the absence of Occupancy Certificate or perhaps with the fake OC. It appears as though the buyers of the flats were unaware of the absence of Occupancy Certificate or were provided with fake OC’s,” he alleges.
N R Ramesh has also filed a complaint against unnamed officials, with Bangalore Metropoiltan Task Force (BMTF) police, where he alleges that there are more than 30,000 buildings that have come up in the city since 2009, but BBMP does not have records of plan sanctions for all these buildings. There were only 1300 plans sanctioned, 350 Commencement Certificates and 95 Occupancy Certificates issued between 2009 and 2014 according to BBMP which suggests foul play in the issue of plan sanctions and other certificates, says Ramesh.
He doubts that Occupancy Certificates issued to the buildings other than the official 97 high rises would have been fake. He also suspects a revenue loss to BBMP, as the suspected fake certificates would have been issued after pocketing money from the building owners but not remitting the same to BBMP accounts, which is why no record exists with the BBMP. Case against BBMP officials has been registered under section 441 of KMC Act, and IPC sections 420, 409, 468 and 217.
‘There may be fake OCs, we’re yet to trace them’
BBMP Commissioner Lakshminarayan, when asked about updates in the case of fake OCs, said he has referred the case to Technical Vigilance Cell under Commissioner (TVCC) and they are looking into the matter. Meanwhile, the respective Join Commissioners too were asked to submit a report. So far, only one case of fake certificate has come to light. He said he could not recall the name of the building. He is yet to receive the final report from the TVCC and Joint Commissioners.
“I will not claim that all cases are genuine. There may be cases of fake OC and buildings without OC. But we could not trace them yet,” Lakshminarayan added.
Meanwhile, a senior official from the town planning section, on condition of anonymity, refuted such charges and assured that the department would go for spot inspection if such cases are brought to the department’s notice. “There have been some instances of the apartment builder violating building bye-law and we have ensured that OC is issued only after the deviation is corrected,” the officer said.
The case, however, does not include the Occupancy Certificates issued by Bangalore Development Authority.
OC must for utility connections in high rises
There have been cases of the flat buyers registering and occupying the house even before obtaining the Occupancy Certificate, mostly because there was no strict law in place that prohibited buyers from occupying the house. A house would get permanent water, UGD and electricity connection even before it is certified to be fit for occupancy, by producing a proof of ownership or occupation of premises (latest khata, sale deed, property tax paid, sanction plan, architecture plan, signed by the civil engineer and / or route sketch).
Now this has slightly changed. Recently the Urban Development Department issued a circular making it mandatory for people to produce Occupancy Certificates to BESCOM and BWSSB in order to get electricity and water connection. BESCOM Executive Engineer Shanthamallappa said that the department was providing permanent electricity connection to the buildings even in the absence of OC and the new rule has been implemented from December 1, 2014.
In yet another development, while addressing mediapersons on January 12, Energy Minister D K Shivakumar said that the new circular will not be applicable for housing units having a built-up area of below 8,000 sq ft and building height of less than 50 ft, which means the rule is applicable only for high rises.
BWSSB has already displayed the terms and conditions, which say that buildings that have fourth floor and more have to submit occupancy certificate. Plan sanction is a must for all the buildings to get water connection. BESCOM website still displays the old form where it asks the owners to produce either “Proof of Ownership of the premises or Proof of Occupancy”, which means BESCOM hasn’t yet officially announced that OC is mandatory.
However, if the accusation of fake occupancy certificates turns out to be true, there may not be much coming out of the new rule that makes OC mandatory. Unless the government tightens the noose and puts a full stop to fake occupancy certificate, there is not much meaning to it.
Here’s the list of 97 buildings that have official Occupancy Certificates issued by BBMP between 2009 and 2014.