High on maintenance

Hidden cost

High on maintenance

The maintenance fees that apartment owners have to shell out  every month keeps increasing, than a decision to live in an apartment can be very heartening for a lot of people who don’t own sites. The satisfaction and joy is that they atleast have a home they can call their own in Bangalore, with plenty of facilities.

But this is where the catch is — you not only pay for the apartment, but also for its maintenance and upkeep, which can set you back. The joy is tempered by high maintenance charges that are ever-increasing owing to high cost of materials and labour. In short, general inflation impacts apartment maintenance charges too.

Depending on the size, facilities and area of the apartment you live in, maintenance charges, on average, fall between Rs 800 and Rs 15,000 per month. It could be less, or it could be more. But, this is the price band for maintenance charges in Bangalore currently.

The charges at both ends may amount to actually paying a rent for living in your own house. The  maintenance charge pinches people who are otherwise happy to live in an apartment, so much so that these days buyers ask builders in advance what the maintenance charges every month would be, before making the purchase.

No questions asked

Mahesh G K, resident of an apartment with basic facilities – parking space, walking space,  small garden, party hall etc — near Bangalore University, says, “I have to pay Rs 2,100 per month as maintenance. I live in a two bedroom house. The apartment is good, but not spectacular. I wonder why I should be paying anything over Rs 800 or Rs 1,000? The maintenance fee is eating into my income. Vegetables are so expensive these days that you cut back elsewhere and spend more on veggies. A Rs 1,000 saving is quite a bit of money. But we don’t have a choice,” says Mahesh.

Then there are people paying higher maintenance fee at the other end of the price band. Shankar Prasad owns a flat close to Banashankari III Stage. The flat is worth more than a crore.

“My maintenance fee is around Rs 9,000 per month. I have to pay this because we have tennis and squash courts, a swimming pool, a gym, heavily landscaped areas and a club house. I have to charge an appropriate rent for these facilities. Ideally, I would like to pay less, but after agreeing to buy the apartment, how can I say I won’t pay up the required amount? You have to be clear and aware that you have to pay for what you get.”

The normal rates at which maintenance charges are levied are between Rs 2 per sq ft to Rs 4 per sq ft. For luxury apartments, it is anywhere between Rs 2.80 per sq ft and Rs 3.50 per sq ft. The lower end apartments try to stick to charges within Rs 2.50 per sq ft. There cannot be one fixed range of maintenance charges as it varies according to the built-up area and the occupancy rate of the apartment concerned.

On the higher end, luxury apartments charge buyers for tennis and squash courts, club house, swimming pool, billiards, library, hi-tech security, 24 hour security personnel, penthouse, landscaping and library, apart from the basics like painting and water and electricity supply. Back-up power systems too come under maintenance charges. Associations do face trouble when asking for the monthly fee.

Many residents refuse to pay, saying they can’t afford it, but ultimately the association prevails over the individual, and in extreme cases, asks the person to vacate.

The monthly maintenance fee goes up after a period of time because the infrastructure rates go up periodically, apart from the rise in labour costs. Security personnel have to be paid for 24 hour duty, which means three shifts every day.

The cost of replacing equipment is also high — like motor or mobile water tanks, water pipes,  technology-based security and the like.

This rise eats into the monthly budgets of salaried class, reason why many residents refuse to pay the maintenance fee. But the fact that they cannot afford sites in Bangalore and then the construction cost, makes them dependent on apartments.

The one alternative such apartments have is to outsource maintenance at a particular rate every month. The total amount charged is divided among residents and those who live in larger apartments pay more, while those who live in smaller apartments, pay less.

Some apartments try to generate money by allowing cellphone towers on the roof. The monthly fee that comes from cellphone companies is built as a corpus fund and is kept for emergency purposes. The other source of income for the associations is to allow specific friends and their families to use the facilities within the apartment complex at a particular rate.

The latter is a bit rare as associations would resist outsiders using their facilities, but the former source of income is seen in many areas. In general, higher the number of apartments, lower the maintenance fee, and lower the number of apartments, higher the maintenance fee. While the salaried class finds it tight to pay the fee, the investor and business communities are able to afford luxurious living spaces. Many would pay for sheer privacy too.

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