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Freehold at last, but...

real estate Updated: Apr 19, 2013 19:38 IST

The Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA’s) move to allow leasehold-to-freehold conversion of property bought on general power of attorney (GPA)/agreement of sale (ATS) has come as a welcome relief to lakhs of home owners in the Capital. Many, however, still find themselves left out.

For 62-year-old Suraj Bajaj (name changed to protect identity), this means an end to his countless rounds of the DDA office to get his south Delhi apartment converted to freehold. He had bought it through GPA, ATS and will in 2009. The flat had changed hands a few times through GPA, ATS and will since it was allotted in 1994 by DDA till Bajaj bought it in 2009.

Since only the original owner could apply for conversion, Bajaj’s application was kept pending when he applied for it in 2010. “According to DDA, from 1992 onwards, it had allotted flats on freehold basis to homebuyers, many of whom sold these on GPA and ATS without getting a conveyance deed from DDA. Those who bought the flats, therefore, were not eligible for conversion. But now, with the new rules, thousands of GPA-holders like me can get their flats converted from leasehold to freehold,” says Bajaj.

In July 2012, HT Estates had apprised Union urban development minister Kamal Nath of the plight of the home owners who could not get the conversions done. Documents, RTI replies, and several emails were presented to the minister, who then promised to look into the problem and take appropriate steps.

The new policy, however, does not address the problems of another lot of homebuyers who either bought properties through GPA sale after October 11, 2011, or are unable to fulfil some minor documentary requirements.

On October 11, 2011, the Supreme Court in the case of Suraj Lamp vs the State of Haryana had banned the sale of properties through GPA but the Delhi revenue department issued an administrative order for the implementation of the judgment on April 26, 2012, almost seven months after the order.

In the interim period, hundreds of homebuyers bought DDA flats through GPA, ATS and will and got these documents registered with the sub-registrars by paying stamp duty. Many of them also applied for leasehold-to-freehold conversions by paying the requisite chares, totalling more than R1 lakh per application. However, their applications were stuck.

Unable to find a way out, many such residents who have to sell their flats are doing so on the basis of notarised GPA (which is unauthorised in Delhi) knowing that such transactions are risky, making them vulnerable to fraud.

“The flat owners are in a fix. They can’t sell their property through registered GPA because it has been banned by the Supreme Court. They also can’t get their property converted in their own name because DDA refuses to allow them to get conversion done from leasehold to freehold. So, they are resorting to these illegal means of transactions which can land gullible home buyers in trouble,” says Sanjeev Gupta, a lawyer specialising in property registration.

Legal experts say that the only way to resolve the issue is to approach the Supreme Court and ask for relief. “If DDA allows leasehold-to-freehold conversion for GPA transactions post-October 11, 2011, it amounts to contempt of court and if it doesn’t do that, it leaves hundreds of flat owners in the lurch. So the only way out is to approach the Supreme Court and ask for relief for those flat owners who bought the flats through GPA sale between October 11, 2011, to April 26, 2012,” says Jasbir Singh Malik, a Supreme Court lawyer.

'Simplify the conversion process'

Despite assurances by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) that it will get conversion of property done in 45 days if applicants have the proper documents ready, people have been complaining of delays and harassment.

Amit Anand (name changed), an insurance agent, bought a DDA flat in a posh colony in 2006 and applied for conversion in 2012. “Within a month I started getting letters from DDA stating that some documents giving details of the chain of ownership were missing. Though I had submitted these documents, I had to give them once again. Now, surprisingly, I have received two more letters from DDA asking for the same documents. Isn’t that harassment?” he asks.

Another flat owner who now lives in Kolkata has been asked to deposit proof of possession of his flat in Sarita Vihar. “I can only give my telephone bill to support my claim of being the owner as my voter ID, passport and driving licence now have my Kolkata address,” he says.

Applications of those who are unable to maintain a proper chain of documents of property ownership are also on hold. PK Gupta is one of them. “In 1994, the original allottee sold the property through ATS (agreement of sale) to one person and executed a GPA (general power of attorney) in favour of another. The two should have executed the GPA and ATS in favour of the third buyer to make him the owner of the property, but this was not done. Now I am the sixth GPA-holder without an ATS – a document that DDA wants now,” he says.

DDA officials dismissed all these allegations of delay and harassment saying it was the applicants’ fault as they had not furnished the requisite documents.

“Only those cases are pending in which the applicants haven’t provided proper documents. Some applicants don’t have the proper chain of GPA, ATS and will, while many are unable to furnish proof of possession. We don’t take more than 45 days for leasehold-to-freehold conversion in cases where all documents are in place,” says Neemo Dhar, DDA spokesperson.