When everything else fails... go to court
Keep papers handy to prove that your developer has reneged on his promise to give you a discount
What are t he l e g al options for a consumer in case a developer backs out of a commitment? Legal experts say people usually hesitate to take action against a builder as they feel it means a waste of time and money, but proper action can bring the guilty to book.
The real estate market is flooded with offers ranging from gold coins, LCD TVs, air conditioners, foreign trips to cars or handsome cash discounts on bookings during the festive season. “So, if a homebuyer wants to drag a builder to the court for backing off from his promises, he must have a written offer duly signed with a seal of the promoter. He should go through the content minutely (the fine print),” says SK Pal, a Supreme Court lawyer.
Experts say that these offers in most cases are conditional, not assured and are often routed through partners/third party vendors so the responsibility of honouring the commitment is shifted to the third party vendor from the builder. The builder thus often refuses to entertain any query. In the event of refusal or delay in providing the gift, a buyer needs documents to prove that the offer was actually from the promoter through the third party vendor so that the consumer court with competent jurisdiction can be approached to recover the gift.
Says Pal, “Here it is important to check the office address of t he t hird party vendor because the court within the jurisdiction of the vendor will hear such claims. It is also essential that the promoter furnish details of the actual offer and the equivalent value of the offer in rupees in his/ her own name and lay down the conditions clearly. Consumer courts have consistently held the original company liable for deficiency whenever the consumer has proved the point that it was actually an offer from the company to entice the buyer to buy the product. But at the same time, one should see that the offer in question should be realistic and not disproportionate to the cost of the actual product.”
Property experts say as the Navratra is perceived as being auspicious for purchase of a new house, promoters are prompted to attract homebuyers with innovative offers. One, however, should not lose sight of the fact that a house is a high value property and long-term decision and surely not a oneoff festive buy.
With the rise in the number of disputes in the housing sector, many state legislators have passed laws (apartment acts) to protect the rights of consumers and, as such, these provisions need to be cross-checked whenever an apartment purchase decision is taken. All the state laws make it mandatory for the promoter to make true disclosures of the land, FAR/ FSI, common area and facilities and the layout plan details to the prospective buyers, which can protect the buyers from being taken in by a ‘sample flat’ or a ‘flashy brochure’.
“Buyers should insist on being provided the sanctioned layout and building plan (the specific building and floor) on which the flat is located, land ownership and license details and the draft copy of the allotment agreement. Reluctance to provide any of these documents could indicate that there is something wrong with the project,” says Prashant, a lawyer from Allahabad High Court.
He adds, “Sample flats should be seen only to get a sense of the size of each room and the advantage of the layout only because such units are finished and decorated with the finest quality materials. You cannot expect that these have been used for your apartments unless the promoter offers a house with all internal works. Making a request for a list of products and the brands to be installed in the house could save you from any disappointment after moving into the house.”
Delivery date of the apartment with all common amenities and the projected maintenance costs are important factors that need to be considered because any delay in delivery upsets the payment plans. Absence of common facilities such as gym, club, swimming pools take the pleasure out of living in a group housing.
“Taking an informed decision after due diligence and research into a project and the promoter’s track record can surely help avoid litigation and make the new house a gift of God this Navratra,” says Anil Tyagi, a lawyer from the Ghaziabad civil court.