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Exploiting RERA to break PM's contract with home buyers?

By Vishal Duggal & Rakesh Ranjan- 08 Dec 2020
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"Samar shesh hai, nahi paap ka bhagi kewal vyadh,

Jo tatasth hain samay likhega unka bhi apraadh"

(The battle is still on, the hunter alone isn't the culprit; time will also account for the moral lapses of the neutral). 

As legendary poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar puts it so succinctly in the above-quoted lines from his immortal literary creation Kurukshetra, neutrality is not an option in combat.

Senior officials will be well advised to learn from the above lines of the national poet particularly in the context of the implementation of the landmark RERA Act, which real estate conmen, financed, pampered, and protected by invisible politicians, have set out to game and defeat in their vicious attempt to break the people's trust in PM Narendra Modi and his ambitious people-oriented reforms plans.

Let facts be known to policymakers. Despite RERA, ordinary middle-class homebuyers, the biggest political constituency of the PM, continue to be trapped in the web being assiduously and craftily sustained by the several rings of unscrupulous developers, land predators, parasitic marketers, and brokers who have been battening upon their undercover nexus with corrupt elements in governments, development authorities, regulatory bodies, and banking & financing institutions.

Real estate, like all political businesses in the country like potable alcohol and sugar, remains the last hotbeds of seedy operations where the customer is not the king but the beggar despite shelling out huge sums, raised through life-long savings and borrowings from every quarter, even before they are served.

One estimate has put the number of delayed and pending housing units at  6.75 lakh causing Rs.  five lakh crore to be counted as stressed. Among these housing units are as many 1,665 RERA-registered housing projects which have been delayed by over five years. They are spread all over the country and their completion remains uncertain even beyond 2020. The Delhi-NCR region comprising Noida, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, and Gurugram, alone account for over one lakh delayed housing units.

As projects get stalled, they gradually turn insolvent. Reportedly, there were 115 real estate companies under the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) initiated by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) at the end of September 2019. The amount involved in these proceedings is estimated to be $66 billion (Rs 4, 50,000 crores).

Another challenge that has accentuated the woes of consumers is the plethora of litigation surrounding real estate projects in the country. As per a survey conducted by the MahaRERA, legal disputes plague around 16 percent of projects and 31 percent of built-up spaces in Maharastra.

Since the RERA kicked in May 2016, as many as 46,152 complaints have been disposed of by real estate regulatory authorities across the country. However, the possession of the houses booked or the recovery of the money invested eludes the majority of buyers.

The fact that an under-construction project has RERA registration does not mean that it will be completed on time. Indeed, it continues to remain a risky bet.

Further, even after getting favorable orders from RERA, the buyers’ ordeal doesn't end and indeed multiplies when it comes to the orders' execution. Armed with a battery of lawyers that developers can hire by misusing investors' money, the system is being gamed because it remains open to manipulation. Such is the pathetic state of affairs that even the buyers who secure recovery certificates(RCs) against builders, have to make unending rounds of the offices of the district magistrates who too largely fail to recover the dues stipulated under the RC.

This means that it's time the government kept its promise to homebuyers by plugging the loopholes in the RERA, further strengthening the law, making the recovery process faster, and penalizing officials who don't keep the trust of the home buyers. Indeed, the RERA must be invigorated to keep the PM's contract with the people. There is but no option in this regard.  

(By Vishal Duggal & Rakesh Ranjan)

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