Mumbai: Builder dupes 4,000 buyers of Rs 250 crore
Developer abandons people after selling homes on industrial plot; citizens waiting to see if MahaRERA will complete project, which it should do under the new law
From mortgaging gold ornaments to selling ancestral properties, these homebuyers did everything they could to raise funds to invest in a home in an under-construction housing project in Kharbao, Bhiwandi. However, over the last three years, their dream has turned into a nightmare, as the developer has stopped construction, duping over 4,000 buyers and investors to the tune of over Rs 250 crore.
Santosh Bandekar, 52, is cursing himself for not listening to his wife Shweta, a constable at Santacruz police station, who had warned him against investing in this project. Santosh, who recently lost his job, stays with his family in the Mulund police quarters; Shweta is now the breadwinner, earning for the family and their two teenage daughters' education.
Santosh told mid-day, "We have always stayed in a quarter, not having our own house. My ex-colleagues told me about this project by Shree Mahavir Patwa Developers & Construction Private Limited, after seeing huge banners at Vasai station. Also, the developer had quoted a price of Rs 1,800 per square foot [Rs 8.9 lakh for a 490 sqft 1BHK], which was like a dream come true, as property prices in and around MMR were beyond our capacity in 2012.
The work was started in 2012-13 and abandoned in 2015
"As per the plan, the developer was to make 10 towers on 32 acres. I sold my ancestral land (approximately two gunta) in Belgaum for Rs 7.50 lakh, and paid Rs 3.73 lakh to the developer. I was even given an allotment letter for a first-floor flat, but no work has started yet. The work was to begin in a phased manner, and I was assured I would get possession within three years; instead, I lost everything."
Another flat buyer, Vaidehi Munankar, 31, was happy when she learnt three years ago that her husband Vikas, a BEST conductor, was booking a 1BHK flat in her name in this project. The couple, staying in a rented room in Vakola paying Rs 5,000 a month, gave Rs 2.11 lakh to the developer to get an allotment letter for a second-floor flat admeasuring 380 sqft.
"I mortgaged our gold jewellery for Rs 70,000, took a personal loan of Rs 90,000 and borrowed from people to collect Rs 2.11 lakh, but the developer never constructed anything on our plot," rued Vikas, calling it the "biggest mistake of my life".
Fighting it out
The complainants have purchased a total of 246 flats/units; 246 buyers had come together and formed a group - Mangal Murti Foundation - to fight this out. They even registered a criminal case against Deepak Bhanusali and other partners of the construction firm; just recently, they have been arrested by the EOW wing of the Thane police.
Meanwhile, the flat buyers have moved their plea before MahaRERA, requesting that the authority take over the project and appoint another developer to complete it. The matter is likely to be heard by the complete bench of MahaRERA, including Chairman Gautam Chatterjee.
Fact of the matter
According to the petition submitted before MahaRERA (a copy of which is with mid-day), in 2011-12, the developer claimed to have obtained sanction to the plans, and in 2012-13, the construction was started. However, shortly after, the developer stopped all construction activity and hasn't recommenced till date. The complainants have found out that the developer did not have permission to construct a single building, as per the collector record, as the said land was marked as an industrial zone and non-residential.
Advocate Nilesh Gala, who is representing the flat buyers, said, "The developer had initially registered a few of the projects with MahaRERA, which later came to be de-registered."
He added that based on the judgment given by the Bombay High Court in the matter of Zain Khan, these flat buyers have filed a complaint with MahaRERA, seeking either completion of the project or a refund. "As the project is not registered with MahaRERA, rather is de-registered, under the RERA Act, MahaRERA should take over the project and complete it, setting a precedent in such cases. The authority is the last hope for these cheated citizens," Gala said.
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