Developers flaunting names of foreign architects to sell housing projects could be violating legal norms
The love of Indians for all things foreign is well known – and most real estate developers know it and take advantage of this fact. That is why many of them have been advertising their residential projects as being designed by architects of international repute, giving buyers the impression, thereby, that foreign collaborations mean apartments of international standards and better value.
However, by doing so, real estate developers could be violating a legal provision, ie, Section 37 of The Architects Act, 1972, which prohibits a foreign architect from working in India without the permission of the Central government.
That’s not all , i n some cases, architects from abroad are emailing their designs to builders which are endorsed and signed off by their Indian counterparts who are then represented as actual designers of the project to get approvals from development authorities. In other cases, while Indian architects finalise project designs for a builder, foreign architects allow use of their brand (for a hefty payment) for advertising the project as one of international standards.
Witnessing many cases, the Council of Architecture (CoA), the regulatory body for architects in India, recently published a pubic notice in leading newspapers, which said “The CoA is receiving complaints regarding the violation of the (architects) Act by foreign architects/consulting firms/ Indian architects/real estate developers and others by hiring foreign architects to render architectural services without following due procedure prescribed under proviso (b) section 37 ( 1) of the Architects Act, 1972.” It adds: “It is also noticed that Indian Architects (as defined under the Act) have been working as local /signing/ liaison architects for projects which have been or are being designed by foreign architects without ensuring compliance of the provisions of the Act.”
HT Estates connected with many developers advertising projects designed by foreign architects. In the case of Supertech’s ambitious project, Supernova, in Sector 94 Noida, it has been claimed in many advertisements that the project’s architectural drawings have been done by renowned British architect Benoy, which also acknowledges the fact on its website. However, RK Arora, CMD Supertech, did not offer any comments when asked if the agreement had been done in violation of the Architects Act.
Tata Housing, campaigning for its residential project Myst, claims it has been “designed by renowned architect Llewelyn Yeang.” When asked if the company had sought the Central government’s permission to get the professional services a foreign architect, a spokesperson said: “Llewelyn Yeang has
to remain vulnerable to uncertainties, and this makes India’s position more lucrative. The ruling government’s action in addressing concer ns of stakeholders through reforms (in the Land Acquisition Act, the Real Estate Regulatory bill, relaxation of FDI rules, etc.) is helping sentiments in the realty space.
According to data collated by VCCEdge, 68 real estate deals worth US$ 1.84 billion were made in 2014 as against 45 deals worth US$ 1.29 billion in 2013. Leading fund houses such as Brookfield, Blackstone, Xander and KKR were all active during the year. Year 2014 was largely seen as a warm-up for a larger game-plan for 2015.
Real estate experts are estimating over US$2 billion worth of foreign funds to flow into
Athe Indian realty market in the current year.
Market sentiment relating to real estate moved from subdued in the first half of 2014 to a phase where global investors were seen firming up plans to inject funds into India. Fund raising activities picked up, and this momentum is likely to continue in 2015. The market has begun showing signs of transition from one-way investments towards an increase in investor-developer partnerships. Joint venture and club funding is gaining preference in India, and investors are likely to look beyond Mumbai, Bangalore and NCR – for development opportunities.
As a result, we will see Grade- A commercial and residential properties in tier-II and tier-III cities benefiting. Attractively-priced and welllocated office spaces, along with mid and upper-mid category residential projects, will continue to lure investments in 2015. Despite improvements in leasing across malls, retail as a sector is likely to lag behind in attracting large investors, although the hospitality sector could pick up. Opening of REITs as a possible route for investing in real estate will help decrease the pressure on cashstarved developers. However, the listing of new REITs will be slow and steady. REITs would likely succeed over the medium term, but they need to successfully pass through a challenging phase of adaptation over the next two years. only provided guidelines for the master plan; whereas we work with CPK, a reputed Indian architectural firm and all architectural services as defined in the 1972 Architects Act by Council of Architecture India were undertaken by them.”
Delhi- based veteran architect Ashok Goel says he finds it “strange that Tata Housing is not using the name of CPK in its advertisements because it’s an Indian firm. On the other hand, a Western company which has just done the master planning, as claimed by the company, has been given a lot of importance.”
Some developers denied hiring international firms to design projects. When asked about their association with Dubai- based fir m Arabtec, a spokesperson for Delhi-based Raheja Developers clarified that Arabtec was only handling Raheja’s residential project Revanta’s construction work and t hat t he architectural design had been done by inhouse Indian architects.
In case of Jaypee Associates, which launched two townships i n Greater Noida ( Jaypee Greens) and Noida (Wishtown) in 2000 and November 2007, respectively, t he company claimed that the architectural designs had been done by Arcop, an Indian architectural firm. However, the regulator, CoA, has filed a criminal complaint against the company for violating the Architects Act 1972. “We are very much an Indian company and we strongly object to any such allegations which doubt our Indian status. In fact, we have filed a case against the regulator for maligning our reputation,” says Sanjay Sharma, director, Arcop Associates.
Godrej Properties, which has claimed that one of its projects in Mumbai has been designed by DP Architects from Singapore, defends its decision, with a company spokesperson saying, “There is no legal restriction on foreign architects providing consultancy and the company is totally in compliance with all laws. The company works extensively with both Indian and international designers.”
Experts say that it is the duty of the development authorities to ask the developers why they have submitted designs signed by Indian architects and are claiming in advertisements that foreign architects have designed their projects.