MUMBAI: Call it lack of concern for next-door neighbours or blame it on toothless housing society bye-laws. A Dadar resident recently requested his neighbours, a lawyer couple, to halt renovation work in their newly purchased flat in the afternoons, as the noise “greatly disturbed” his ailing son. A tiff later, the resident tried unsuccessfully to take up the issue with the housing society. The couple stopped work for a few days, albeit reluctantly. They resumed it a month later, after the neighbour’s son had succumbed to cancer.
This society, like most others in the city, has no rules or powers to help alleviate inconvenience caused to residents due to noise emitted by renovation work in flats. Although society bye-laws mandate approval from the housing society as well as the BMC to undertake alteration work or renovation, there seems to be no restriction on timings. While bye-laws leave it to housing societies to frame guidelines on work timings, housing societies, in turn, prefer to leave things to the mutual understanding among members.
“We expect people to not cause inconvenience to fellow residents and halt work between 2pm and 3pm and stop for the day after 6pm,” said the secretary of an upscale housing society in Bandra. “Though most owners adhere to the above timings, those who live elsewhere tend to give civil work contractors a free run.”
There have been instances of residents approaching the police over incessant hammering and clattering that cause disturbance in the locality. Only last month, Justdial chairman V S S Mani was in trouble after his neighbours complained of disturbance due to revamp work in his 24th floor flat in Oshiwara.
According to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, the noise limit for residential areas during the day (6am-10pm) is 55 decibel and at night (10pm-6am) 45dB. However, a cutter—a most commonly used tool for refurbishment—produces nearly 85-87dB, said Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation. “The problem is that there are no rules governing these issues. The sound of a cutter (85-87dB) is as much as traffic noise, only the frequency may be different,” she added.
Ramesh Prabhu, president of Affordable Housing Welfare Organization of India, said the only provision in the bye-laws is that a member should intimate the housing society before undertaking any construction and before material for work arrives at the site, in case of tenable repairs such as changing of tiles. For non-tenable repairs such as putting up a barrier and changing windows, residents need permission from the local ward office. “However, there are no laws that spell out timings for residents to carry out renovation and put a cap on decibel levels at the site,” says Prabhu.
The government may have failed to put in place a mechanism to regulate flat renovation work in residential buildings to curb noise pollution, but a few societies have taken the matter into their hands and framed their own guidelines. For instance, a Mhada society in Pratikshanagar, Sion, permits flat owners to carry out work only during specified timings; any violation draws a Rs 5,000 penalty.
A member of this society says they decided at the annual general meeting to not allow any one member’s flat work to inconvenience all residents.
“Also, before we give permission to a resident to start refurbishment work, we collect a security deposit to ensure noise pollution and other rules are adhered to,” he said. “There are no provisions under the law that specify rules for renovation work. However, the government has given housing societies the power to frame guidelines that fit them,” said Vikas Rasal, divisional joint registrar, cooperative societies.
Credits ET Realty