Akash Gupta (name changed) was desperate. After a wait of five years for the delivery of his apartment, he had threatened to drag his developer to court and had been offered an option that he thought was too tempting to resist. The developer cited recession as the reason why he had no funds available to complete some towers of the project and get a completion certificate or even a partial completion from the development authority. When told that Gupta was finding it difficult to pay his EMIs and rent, the developer said he had a solution. Gupta was advised to give an undertaking that he would take internal possession of his apartment for getting some internal fitting work done. He was also made to commit that in case of any mishaps in the under-construction project, the developer would not be liable for it.
Gupta took up the offer. ‘’I didn’t want to go in for legal action as I did not have the money or the time for it. I had to take possession under the conditions laid down by the developer. Now the problem is that in the whole township, out of 200 towers, just a handful of people have taken possession without access to any facilities.”
Gupta’s building block is surrounded by towers with ongoing construction work, because of which severe air pollution and safety and security of the residents have become major issues. Common areas, too, aren’t ready and waterlogging has led to huge problems of mosquitoes and a foul stench. ‘’My children can’t go out to play in the open as the under-construction towers pose a serious threat to their safety. Even a small brick can prove fatal, so the children are confined indoors. People who have taken up the developer’s offer feel helpless as they have no option available,’’ says Gupta.
Gupta’s project is not an isolated case. Many homebuyers who have moved into underconstruction projects say their developers have forced them to sign documents with clauses absolving them (developers) of their responsibilities in case of damage or injuries.
Says a Noida-based real estate developer on condition of anonymity, “There are two main issues why we have to give possession in the name of fitouts. Due to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, the Noida Development Authority cannot issue completion certificates to any real estate project which falls in the 10 km radius of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. In the absence of a completion certificate, no developer can legally give possession. This is a genuine problem with some developers who have completed their projects but are unable to offer possession.”
The developer adds that the NGT order has come as a boon in disguise for many real estate developers with delayed projects as by citing it they are able to wash their hands of their responsibilities. “When pressurised by homebuyers, developers offer possession just for fitouts in under-construction towers which could pose a serious risk to residents because of falling debris, naked wires etc,’’ he adds.
Possession just for fitouts is being offered in Gurgaon, Faridabad and other real estate destinations because developers who fail to comply with building byelaws know that they will not get completion certificates. “It’s a common practice in many upcoming sectors in Gurgaon. We have complained often to the department of town and country planning but nothing has happened yet by way of redressal,” says MK Gupta, a homebuyer in Gurgaon.
HT Estates had highlighted a similar issue sometime back in which a developer in Noida was offering possession in a similar fashion because he was unable to pay lease rent to the Noida Authority. Soon after the story broke, the authority took action against the builder.
“Earlier, when the developers were unable to pay the lease rent, the authority refused to grant them a completion certificate and the developer used to take the fitout route to give possession. Now the same thing is happening due to several other reasons. Be it the NGT order or delay in construction, when the developer realises that he is not able to give possession on time, he compels the homebuyers to take possession in the name of fitouts,” says Jasbir Singh Mallik, a Supreme Court lawyer.