Why NRIs can’t be taken for a ride
A builder had to recently refund costs of an ‘inferior’ apartment delivered to an NRI, who was not provided facilities as promised
The t er m NRI, i e nonresident Indian, refers to Indians who have left India and are residing abroad. A number of NRIs buy and invest in property in India as they wish to remain connected to their home country. While buying property in India many of them face a number of difficulties and hurdles. As they reside outside India they are often unable to look after their investments in this country. There have been cases of builders and developers taking advantage of NRIs absence from India and raising unreasonable demands and some times also delaying handing over of property.
The National Consumer Redressal Commission had the occasion to decide a complaint filed by an NRI against the deficient services of the builder, who by taking advantage of the NRI’s gullibility, lured him into investing in a residential project and thereafter failed to complete the project and provide amenities and facilities as promised.
As per facts of the said case, the builder floated a colourful and attractive advertisement offering allotment and sale of excusive deluxe residential flats especially for NRIs with special features and relatively higher prices than other apartments in the project. Attracted by the advertisement the complainantNRI booked an apartment in the project and paid the entire consideration as and when demanded by the builder.
Subsequently, the builder unilaterally and arbitrarily allotted an inferior flat in another block to the NRI. Having paid all the installments for the flat , the NRI found no other way out and agreed to accept the allotment of the inferior flat.
After an unreasonable and inordinate delay, the builder symbolically handed over the incomplete and unfinished apartment in an uninhabitable condition, without the fundamental and necessary amenities, facilities originally promised. The completion certificate for the building in which the apartment was located was not obtained by the builder from the competent authority even till the date of the judgment.
The builder also started demanding maintenance charges without providing the amenities and facilities. The builder/ opposite party also invoked the default clause in the sale agreement and threatened to terminate the agreement on account of the complainant’s failure to pay maintenance charges. Left with no option, the NRI then filed a complaint with the National Commission at Delhi seeking refund of the entire amount paid to the builder along with interest.
The issue that arose before the National Commission was whether the act of the builder of providing an inferior, unfinished apartment and charging the consumer for amenities and facilities which were not provided amounted to deficiency of service of the builder.
The National Commission held that this amounted to deficiency of service and decided the case in favour of the NRI/ complainant and observed “that a gullible NRI has been lured to buy a flat... exclusively meant for NRIs through grandiose advertisement and brochures but the builder failed to build the same and allotted him an alternate inferior flat which he accepted under mental duress”.
The National Commission directed the builder/developer to refund the entire amount for the apartment along with interest at 12% per annum from the date of deposit till the date of payment and also awarded legal cost of ₹ 25,000 to the complainant/NRI.
To avoid being duped, NRIs are first of all advised to first verify the credentials of builder/developer and projects being developed by them.
They should invest their money in the project only after verifying the antecedents of the builder and his record of delivery of property.
However, if they are not provided the services promised by the developer, they can always seek legal remedy by filing a complaint before the appropriate consumer forum.