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An ombudsman for real estate

Last year, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in UK made it mandatory for all those engaged in estate agency work in respect of residential property to become members of an approved redress scheme.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2009 22:26 IST

Last year, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in UK made it mandatory for all those engaged in estate agency work in respect of residential property to become members of an approved redress scheme.

Under the Consumer Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007, the schemes need to be in accordance with the criteria laid down by the OFT and have to be approved by it. The schemes would be funded by an annual fee payable by members.

As per the OFT norms, the scheme has to be easily accessible to consumers, the proceedings should be simple and easy, free of charge, impartial, transparent, fair and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

The decisions will be quick and so will the compensation award. The award of the Ombudsman, to be established under the scheme, would be binding on the members of the scheme.

We in India need to pass a similar law for all sectors and ensure that the trade and industry provide an independent Ombudsman at their own cost. Today it is apparent that there is no credible and reliable redress system in place. This needs to be addressed urgently by the ministries of consumer affairs and law.

We have made a beginning by enabling quick redress in areas like Banking and Insurance through Ombudsmen. We now need to extend it to other sectors like real estate. This sector needs urgent attention because of the huge investments that consumers make to buy homes. It is therefore time we had a Real Estate Ombudsman to quickly and impartially attend to complaints.

Mr S.M. Khurana said: I applied for a flat through a land development agency and paid the initial deposit. Later I came to know that my name was not included in the draw even though I was eligible. After innumerable letters, I was told that it was an inadvertent mistake, but they haven’t rectified it. What do I do?

I must quote here a case similar to yours that came up before the highest consumer court in the country some years ago. The decision in this case should help you. The case goes back to 1992 when the Tamil Nadu Housing Board dropped the name of Mr Ramakrisnan in the draw of lots for a plot and said it had happened inadvertently. Following his complaint before the consumer court, the housing board promised to include his name in the next draw of lots.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission disagreed and said the board had been negligent in not including his name in the draw of lots and therefore had to give him a plot...(the Tamil Nadu Housing Board Vs A.V. Ramakrishnan, FA No 183 of 1992, decided on December 15, 1994). So quote this case and see if the land development authority will make amends for its mistake. If they do not take any action, you can file a complaint before the Consumer Forum.

Do you have any problems? Send in your queries to pgirimaji@gmail.com