Delhi’s shop owners struggle to get ownership rights
Two years after the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) decided to adopt the Delhi Apartment Ownership Act, 2009, to facilitate conversion of commercial properties from leasehold to freehold, shop owners in commercial complexes developed by private builders on land auctioned by the land-owning agency in Nehru Place, Dwarka, Pitampura and in a host of other areas are still struggling to get ownership of their properties.
Inder kohli, a shop owner in Nehru Place and a member of the Nehru Place Welfare Association, said, “We have been running from pillar to post for the past two years to get ownership of our property. The government has simplified the process of giving ownership to those living in unuauthorised colonies. But, we are still struggling, despite buying the property legally . We can’t take bank loans against our property. Several shop or office space owners have applied for freehold, but no application has been processed till date.”
Sewak Ram Nautiyal, who owns an office space in Nehru Place, said, “I applied for conversion in December last year. But I’m yet to hear from DDA about the status of my application.”
DDA officials said that in several cases, lease of the buildings (in which shops are located) have been cancelled due to misuse. “We can’t initiate the freehold process of shops if the lease of the building has been cancelled. We have to first get the lease restored and then process the applications for freehold,” said an official aware of the development.
In the last four decades, the land-owning agency has auctioned thousands of plots in Nehru Place, Rajinder Place, Dwarka, Pitampura, Janakpuri etc for development of planned commercial centres. But since the DDA sold these plots on leasehold basis, the builders could sell the shops and office spaces on sub-lease under a builder-buyer agreement. The builder had to maintain a record and inform the DDA every time a property transaction took place, said a DDA official.
DDA officials admitted that there have been several cases where the developers of the buildings are missing or not helpingshop owners get their property converted. This is why the DDA revised the policy for conversion of such commercial properties in 2019. It adopted the Delhi Apartment Ownership Act, 2009, for commercial complexes to allow owners of shops or offices spaces to get freehold rights over their properties.
Vice-chairman of DDA Anurag Jain said that the conversion of commercial property from leasehold to freehold is slightly complicated. “In cases where the lease of the building has been cancelled, shop owners’ application for freehold of their individual units can’t be processed until and unless the lease is restored. If there is misuse of property or illegal construction, then the penalty has to be paid either fully by the builder/lessee or the shop owners/space buyers on a pro-rata basis for his/her unit. We are in the process of further simplifying the process.”
Jain said processes of citizen centric services, like conversion, have been computerised end to end. “Ever since we have made the conversion process online, the number of applications we have received is manifold. Now we are getting about 600-700 applications every month against 1,500-2,000 we received in a year.”
Property owners want the DDA to expedite the process and simplify it further. Robin Sharma, president of Dwarka Vyapar Mandal who has been pursuing the matter with DDA since 2004, said, “The DDA should accept our property documents and not ask for additional papers. The process should be expedited. This will help DDA earn a lot of revenue from conversion charges.”
The land-owning agency is making efforts to streamline the process. Jain said in the housing department, DDA has achieved the benchmark of keeping no case pending for more than two months, barring those where discrepancies have been communicated to the applicants.
“Now, efforts are being made to expedite the conversion process of commercial properties and ensure that no conversion case remains pending for more than three months. We are expecting to achieve this benchmark by the end of September this year ,” said the DDA vice-chairman.
In 1994, the then urban development ministry started the property (both commercial and residential) conversion process in Delhi. For this, it had set up the Urban Development Fund (UDF) for collection of proceeds from one-time conversion charges.
Shop owners also demand that cases where the property has been sold multiple times should also be considered for freehold. Yashpal (identified by a single name), executive member of the DDA Market Joint Action Committee, said, “As these markets were developed in the past four decades, the shops have been sold multiple times. But DDA is not accepting applications where there have been multiple transactions. The people, who are currently occupying the properties in the buildings, are its rightful owners. Currently, they are not allowed to apply. We want the DDA to recognise all such property owners.”