The huge noise alerted the residents. "Luckily the incident did not happen while someone was on the balcony. Even last night, the children were playing on the balcony," said the woman, who owns the flat.
Residents of Five Star Apartments on Padikuppam Road in Anna Nagar woke up at 4.30 a.m. on Wednesday, when the balcony of a first floor flat came crashing down.
The huge noise alerted the residents. “Luckily the incident did not happen while someone was on the balcony. Even last night, the children were playing on the balcony,” said the woman, who owns the flat.
The colony had been constructed by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) in 1989. Sources in the residential association said that the balcony was an addition that had been made later, by a private builder.
“Though this balcony was not constructed by the TNHB, we have had lofts and staircases falling down and leaking ceilings in the construction. We do have a maintenance fund under which repairs for common areas are taken up,” said K. Mani, the association secretary.
He said that many residents have been facing such problems for the past five years.
“During rains, the walls get blotchy and wet. We move things away from the walls. We are now planning to reconstruct these houses. We wonder why these houses are falling apart so soon. We thought they would last for at least for 30 to 40 years,” he said.
“In many cases, if a qualified engineer constructs the structures and confirms to the specifications, a cement concrete house should last for more than 80 years. Otherwise, if proper materials are used, it should last for 50 years. Construction quality suffered in TNHB projects during the 1980s and 90s. Those houses will not last for more than 30 years. The correct specifications for materials would not have been followed,” explained a former government contractor.
Residents of TNHB houses in Manali New Town say that they too face similar problems of maintenance.
“There have been instances of pieces of concrete falling. We finished paying for this house only last year, which is why we are still here. TNHB staff members threaten those who have not paid the EMI. But they don’t do anything about the maintenance,” said Pramila, a resident.
Official sources in the TNHB said the responsibility of maintenance of the flats lies with the owners and not with the board. “We can only do a one-time maintenance within six months of handing over the houses,” the official said.