CON­SUMER AS KING - Ten­ants of build­ings un­der re­de­vel­op­ment are con­sumers

Since free ser­vices are ex­cluded from the purview of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act, would the ten­ants be en­ti­tled to file a con­sumer com­plaint for de­fi­ciency in ser­vice against a builder?

Accommodation Times - - Front Page - By Jehangir B Gai

More and more old and di­lap­i­dated build­ings are go­ing in for re­de­vel­op­ment. The builder makes money by sell­ing flats to new pur­chasers, but con­sid­ers it oner­ous to pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tion to the ex­ist­ing ten­ants with­out charg­ing money . Since free ser­vices are ex­cluded from the purview of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act, would the ten­ants be en­ti­tled to file a con­sumer com­plaint for de­fi­ciency in ser­vice against a builder? Case Study: Jagdishb­hai had a tai­lor­ing shop on ten­ancy ba­sis in Moon House. The land­lord sold the prop­erty to Surb­hih Real­tors, which de­cided to de- mol­ish the old build­ing and con­struct a com­mer­cial prop­erty. Jagdishb­hai was to be given shop no.1 ad­mea­sur­ing 26.29 sq m in the new prop­erty in lieu of his ex­ist­ing shop. An agree­ment was ex­e­cuted, un­der which the builder agreed to bear ex­penses of reg­is­tra­tion of the sale deed. Pos­ses­sion of the shop was to be given in a month. In case of de­lay, the builder had agreed to pay Rs 10,000 per month. The builder failed to give pos­ses­sion of the shop and of­fered an al­ter­na­tive one on the rear side of the com­plex. Since it was not ac­cept­able to Jagdishb­hai, he filed a com­plaint be­fore the dis­trict fo­rum for a di­rec­tion to the builder to hand over shop no. 1 and to pay Rs 10,000 per month for the de­lay. The builder op­posed the main­tain­abil­ity of the com­plaint, con­tend­ing that Jagdishb­hai was not a con sumer since the trans­ac­tion did not in­volve any pay­ment or con­sid­er­a­tion. The builder ar­gued it was a land­lord-ten­ant dis­pute and not main­tain­able be­fore the con­sumer fo­rum. The dis­trict fo­rum over­ruled th­ese ob­jec­tions and di­rected the builder to hand over pos­ses­sion of shop no. 1 in ac­cor­dance with the agree­ment and ex­e­cute the sale deed. If this di­rec­tion was not com­plied within 30 days, the builder would also be li­able to pay Rs 10,000 com­pen­sa­tion per month. Both the par­ties ap­pealed to the Gu­jarat state com­mis­sion. While Jagdishb­hai wanted the com­pen­sa­tion en­hanced, the builder wanted the or­der set aside. The com­mis­sion con­cluded that Jagdish­bahi was not a con­sumer as the trans­ac­tion was in re­spect to trans­fer of ten­ancy rights to own­er­ship prop­erty and as the ser­vice was not hired for con­sid­er­a­tion. It al­lowed the builder’s ap­peal, set aside the fo­rum or­der and dis­missed the com­plaint.

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