Buy­ers can’t be forced to ac­cept al­ter­na­tive flats

A buyer has the right to ac­cept or re­ject apart­ments of­fered by the de­vel­oper in lieu of an­other one

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Su­nil Tyagi

We of­ten hear about de­vel­op­ers not com­pleti ng projects on time. At times, they aban­don projects that leaves home­buy­ers wor­ried. That’s not all, in or­der to make up for the late de­liv­ery or can­cel­la­tion of a pro­ject, many de­vel­op­ers of­fer al­ter­na­tive apart­ments to buy­ers in other tow­ers or projects. How­ever, the ques­tion here is, can a de­vel­oper force a con­sumer to take pos­ses­sion of an al­ter­na­tive flat that may not have the same spec­i­fi­ca­tions as the orig­i­nal flat booked by the home­buyer? This is­sue was re­cently dealt by the Na­tional Con­sumer Dis­putes Re­dres­sal Com­mis­sion.

In this case, a con­sumer booked a seven- star apart­ment in an up­com­ing Greater Noida pro­ject. The said unit was a 4- BHK with a ser­vant quar­ter and all mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties. Ac­cord­ingly, an al­lot­ment let­ter was is­sued by the builder to the buyer. The let­ter promised pos­ses­sion of the flat by De­cem­ber 2009. The con­sumer paid up 86.66% of the cost of the flat within four months of the let­ter be­ing is­sued. The re­main­ing amount was to be paid on com­ple­tion and hand­ing over of pos­ses­sion of the flat.

When the buyer in­spected the pro­ject site in March 2009, he found that con­struc­tion had not started. Con­se­quently, the buyer sent a let­ter to the builder to which he re­sponded say­ing that the flat would be handed over only in Oc­to­ber 2010 in­stead of De­cem­ber 2009. The buyer sent sev­eral re­minder let­ters and made ver­bal re­quests to the de­vel­oper ask­ing for rea­sons why the pro­ject had been de­layed and asked the builder to pay a higher penalty due to de­lay in the pro­ject.

Ul­ti­mately, the de­vel­oper de­cided to scrap the four-bed­room apart­ment for­mat of the pro­ject. Left with no op­tion, the con­sumer agreed to ac­cept an apart­ment in a new lo­ca­tion by the same de­vel­oper. How­ever, the new flat did not have any of the fa­cil­i­ties and spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the orig­i­nal flat. The de­vel­oper also re­fused to pay a penalty due to de­lay in hand­ing over pos­ses­sion of the flat, de­spite agree­ing to the same in the al­lot­ment let­ter and the builder-buyer agree­ment. It was then that the con­sumer de­cided to ap­proach the Na­tional Con­sumer Dis­putes Re­dres­sal Com­mis­sion and asked for a re­fund of the amount paid along with other dam­ages.

The main is­sue that the court faced while deal­ing with this case was whether a con­sumer could be com­pelled by the de­vel- oper to ac­cept an al­ter­na­tive left in an­other or ad­ja­cent lo­cal­ity in lieu of the orig­i­nal flat booked by him.

The com­mis­sion ob­served that no de­vel­oper could force a buyer to ac­cept a flat that was not of his choice. He had the free will to ac­cept or re­ject the aoart­ment. The court also said that the de­vel­oper had cited ex­cuses for de­lay in han­dover of pos­ses­sion of the flat. It was there­fore clear that the de­vel­oper “had other fish to fry,” in­stead of work­ing round-the-clock. This amounted to ha­rass­ment of the con­sumer, it ob­served.

Based on the above ob­ser­va­tions, the court di­rected the de­vel­oper to re­turn the amount paid by the buyer to the de­vel­oper, along with an in­ter­est at the rate of 18% per an­num from the date it was de­posited un­til it was re­cov­ered by the con­sumer.

Buy­ers should be aware that they have the right to ac­cept or re­ject an al­ter­na­tive apart­ment and the de­vel­oper can­not force them to ac­cept al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion.

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