MUMBAI: Fancy apartments in new luxury buildings not only cost a king's ransom, but also need a fortune to be kept in possession.
Maintenance charges and municipal taxes can run into several lakhs a year because of amenities like swimming pools, club houses, elaborate security arrangements and property tax assessments at the highest rates. "It's like renting your own home," said a property market insider.
Depending on size, a flat in buildings like Imperial Heights in Tardeo, Orbit Arya and Villa Orb on Nepean Sea Road, Raheja Vivarea in Agripada, and One Altamont Road can cost a home owner Rs 60,000 to Rs 2 lakh a month, as the monthly maintenance cost and property tax works out to as high as Rs 30 a sq ft.
"It's a lifelong liability. They have to set aside a few lakhs every year, whether the value of their property appreciates or depreciates," said a real estate consultant.
Imperial Heights, a twin-tower 60-storey complex, came up as part of a slum rehabilitation project and houses corporate honchos, bankers, top lawyers and expats. A resident said he pays Rs 70,000 a month in maintenance charges for his 3,450 sq ft flat. The amount will increase to Rs 1 lakh a month once the municipal property tax kicks in.
"We have not paid property tax for over a year as the society has challenged the BMC's levy. Once the matter is resolved, the monthly outgoing on a flat will increase substantially," he said. The complex also has 10,000 sq ft flats, whose outgoings are more than Rs 2 lakh a month.
For a first-time visitor, the "unparalleled" security arrangements in the towers almost give the feeling of a defence establishment. Domestic helps are randomly frisked for tobacco, alcohol and more sinister objects, and CCTV cameras in the lifts, lobbies and corridors keep a hawk eye on mundane movements for fear that they may turn malevolent. More pleasant aspects include a climate-control swimming pool, a gym, a restaurant, a cigar room, a convenience store and a banquet hall. Not to mention guest houses serviced by the Taj.
The other buildings follow closely. One Altamont Road, constructed jointly by developers Suresh Raheja and Govani, has 8,000 sq ft flats, where monthly outgoings are over Rs 1.2 lakh, not counting municipal taxes. Villa Orb on Nepean Sea Road, where Union minister Piyush Goyal (BJP), owns a flat, is another tower where monthly expenses are believed to be astronomical. Sources said the outgoings, without civic taxes, are Rs 18 a sq ft a month for flats of 5,500-7,770 sq ft area. Agripada's three Vivera towers command Rs 12 a sq ft, without taxes. A resident said the builder, Raheja Corp, has already collected a corpus from each flat owner: Rs 35 lakh for a 4-BHK flat and Rs 22 lakh for a 3-BHK one. Besides a club house, a swimming pool and a banquet hall, the amenities include billiards, badminton, squash and tennis courts, a health club, a recreation ground for children, a yoga centre, and air-conditioning for the entire building.
Outgoings in smaller buildings with fewer flats are higher than in larger buildings with more flats as the maintenance costs get divided among more owners, said developer Abhisheck Lodha. Another developer said occupants of new buildings built with limited floor space index (FSI) because of coastal zone regulations pay more. "Flat owners in buildings with higher FSI incur lower maintenance charges because of more apartments."
Property experts said municipal taxes on new apartments will increase by as much as 40% every five years. This is a factor why some prefer to buy flats in landmark buildings constructed four or five decades ago. Owners of large flats in old, plush buildings on Malabar Hill and Carmichael Road pay much lower amounts. In Pedder Road's Woodlands, a premium residential tower built in the 1960s, an owner of a 1,200 sq ft flat pays only around Rs 12,000 a month. Residents of Carmichael Road's Rushila, where flats measure 3,000 sq ft, pay a similar amount. The building came up in the mid-1950s. A resident of the 1960s-constructed Meher Apartments, Altamont Road, said outgoings are between Rs 7,000-12,000 a month.
The luckiest are flat owners in Jolly Maker Apartments 1, Cuffe Parade, a complex comprising two 25-storey towers with about 180 flats and 10 bungalows. Here, residents do not pay a paise. Touted as the country's richest housing society, Jolly Maker's flat owners get annual dividends of Rs 5-10 lakh from their housing society, which also pays civic taxes and maintenance charges. The reason for the society's huge cash pile is because it owns six floors in Nariman Bhavan at Nariman Point, which are leased out to companies. In the mid-1970s, the builder offered the Nariman Bhavan property as a package to buyers who paid 40% more for their flats.