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

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Su­nil Tyagi

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.

THINKSTOCK

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