Over the last 25 years, consumer courts have been flooded with complaints from victims of unscrupulous, unethical and ruthless real estate developers and builders.
The volume of real estate-related cases should have alerted the government long ago on the need to bring in a regulatory law for this sector. But in the government's scheme of things, consumer protection gets the lowest priority.
Even now, one has to wait and see how long it would take for the promised Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2012 to become a law and for the state governments to enforce it. The government has promised to introduce it in this winter session of the Parliament.
Meanwhile, consumers continue to suffer at the hands of builders. Here are a few examples from the large number of mails I have received on the issue:
Lt Col Deepak Kumar booked a flat in June 2009 and paid R20 lakh towards it. He is now told that his allotment has been cancelled and that he would have to await fresh allotment in a new sector and would get possession in about two to four years from the date of a new builder-buyer agreement.
In February 2008, MC Sharma was promised that he would get possession of his apartment in August 2010. But till now, the construction is not complete and Sharma has no clue as to when he would get his house.
DP Pathak was told, after several years of waiting, that he can take back the money given by him. But the hitch is that Pathak was asked to pay 15 per cent of the total cost to another company which, he was told, was a sister concern doing the interiors. Now the builder is refusing to pay back that amount and saying that he has nothing to do with the other company.
Atul Kapoor is also a victim of unfair practice - the builder has not only delayed by over two years the completion of the project, it is now coming up with all kinds of excuses to extract more money from him.
GR Sharma: After a delay of two years, the builder with whom I had booked a two-bedroom flat gave me the possession but I now find that there are lot of construction defects. Can I take up the issue even now? The builder has backdated the possession letter by a year.
Answer: You should never have accepted a backdated possession letter. Even now, write to the builder, pointing out the backdating of the possession latter and asking him to issue a fresh letter. Also, list out the defects in construction in that letter and demand that these be rectified forthwith.
Usually, one should examine the house and list out the defects, if any, at the time of taking possession. However, some defects can become apparent only after some time. So there is no bar on a complaint pertaining to such defects even after taking possession.
In chairman, Tamil Nadu Housing Board Vs N. Sivasailam (RP No 658 of 1994, decided on 29-2-1996), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had taken note of the major cracks that had appeared in the walls and dismissed the board's objection about the complaint being raised several years after taking possession.
So if the builder does not rectify the defects, file a complaint before the consumer court. Before doing that, get pictures of the defects and have in writing the opinion of an expert on the defects and costs involved in repair. You will need this for your complaint.