Mumbai: MahaRERA accounts for 75 percent of nation's property registrations

Updated: Dec 13, 2018, 15:00 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

EXCLUSIVE >> MahaRERA chairman shares with mid-day his vision of the regulatory body that will not just resolve disputes, but will go above and beyond to ensure people get complete homes

Gautam Chatterjee, Chairman, MahaRERA.
Gautam Chatterjee, Chairman, MahaRERA.

It's been a year-and-a-half since the Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority, or MahaRERA, came into existence to bring transparency to the property sector in the state. As mid-day sets out to find out how much of a difference it has really made to home buyers, who better to ask than Gautam Chatterjee, the man who was hand-picked by the chief minister to build and lead MahaRERA. The former housing secretary is credited with not just creating the blueprint, but also leading the charge in how Maharashtra has implemented the Centre's Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016. 

Excerpts:

Has RERA achieved its purpose? How many complaints have been received and settled so far?
It is a bit too early to say if RERA has achieved its objective. However, in Maharashtra, we have been able to do much more than all other states put together. With projects and real estate agents put together, we account for almost 75 per cent of the total registration numbers across India. Also, let me also state the total number of apartments in these registered projects is equivalent to approximately 19 lakh.

Since its formation, MahaRERA has received a total of 4,989 complaints, of which orders have been passed in 3,147 cases, and 1,518 are being heard. Around 584 appeals have come to MahaREAT [Appellate Tribunal].

Our aim is to make the process under MahaRERA a self-driven, time-tested mechanism, where we are able to facilitate both flat buyers and developers to achieve the ultimate common goal - completing the project within the stipulated time period.

To bridge the trust deficit between home buyers and promoters, MahaRERA has set up a conciliation forum comprising members of a consumer association [Mumbai Grahak Panchayat] and developers' associations [CREDAI/MCHI/NAREDCO] with benches in Mumbai, Pune and also Nagpur. I am glad to share that the success rate of grievances redressed through conciliation is as high as 90% in Pune and around 80% in Mumbai. Therefore, it would be apt to say that MahaRERA is certainly on the right track.

What happens when settlement is not possible? Why are such cases not automatically listed for hearing, instead of making flat buyers chase MahaRERA again?
I completely disagree with the point raised in this question. If at all anyone has come across such an isolated case, they can bring it to my notice and I will surely look into the matter. MahaRERA strictly adheres to the principle of paperless and footfall-less working concept, and we do not expect anyone to chase MahaRERA to get what is rightfully theirs.

Does RERA have the mechanism to complete a project once its registration is revoked? How will you protect buyers who have not requested refund in case of an attachment order?
RERA is not merely a platform where a distressed flat buyer can register a complaint to seek his money back from a builder of a MahaRERA-registered project. It is a forum that should help deliver a complete home to every buyer. The Act has a provision for withdrawing from a project and seeking a refund with interest and compensation, but even if a handful of flat allottees seek refund, how will this affect the project? Section 40 of RERA allows the adjudicating member to issue a warrant to the Collector for recovery of arrears of land revenue via attachment of the property. This leads to another problem - who will finish the project and help the other allottees who have not cancelled their allotment, to get their completed apartments? MahaRERA's endeavour is to help all allottees, to ensure that the project gets completed and they get their completed homes, along with their appreciated value and agreed amenities. This would be in the larger interest of not only the flat allottees, but also all other stakeholders.

MahaRERA facilitates completion, through the association of allottees and other creditors. MahaRERA will attempt to get the flat allottees to come together and form an association and take over the project, in case the said project's registration stands revoked. We are already working on two to three such distressed projects, which are likely to be taken over by an association of allottees. The other possibility is replacing the promoter. In such cases, the new builder will take on the project's liabilities; allottees' rights will be protected.

70 per cent of the project cost is deposited in ESCROW, what happens to this money?
It is not an ESCROW, it is a separate dedicated bank account attached to every MahaRERA-registered project. It will only be used for the completion of that project. The details of such bank accounts have to be uploaded online for public knowledge. The operation of such accounts need to be certified by a Chartered Accountant and further verified annually by a separate statutory Chartered Accountant.

Why are co-operative society not being registered as soon as 50 per cent flats are sold?
Unlike earlier, when the cooperative department would insist that the formation of society can happen only once the Occupation Certificate is received, since MahaRERA's establishment, society formation can be done once 50 per cent of the allottees have entered a legal agreement with the developer, with appropriate registration and stamp duty payment. And in case the developer/promoter fails to form the society, the allottee can complain online and necessary action under the Act can be initiated against the developer/builder.

Is a developer/promoter permitted to sell parking?
No promoter will be able to sell or allot open parking areas, as this falls under the definition of common areas. Covered parking and garages can be sold as per the Real Estate Act.

In how many cases has MahaRERA begun suo motu investigation of stalled projects?
So far, none. But we have few cases at present, where we are contemplating forensic audit of the developer's books of accounts.

Has MahaRERA conducted suo motu investigation into diversion of funds by a promoter?
New projects registered under MahaRERA will not have any scope for diversion of funds by promoter, but the possibility of such a diversion in ongoing projects cannot be ruled out. MahaRERA is empowered to seek forensic audit of such discrepancies as and when brought to its notice.

Has MahaRERA consulted the state government to take over a project and complete remaining development work?
No, such a situation has not yet come before MahaRERA.

You have mostly declined buyers' pleas for interest on delayed possession, on the grounds it would affect the financial health of the project. Has MahaRERA taken action against any promoter for fraudulent or unfair practices?
As explained earlier, MahaRERA shall take stringent action when cases of fraud, diversion of funds, etc. come to our notice. It is not proper for me to discuss why a certain quasi-judicial order was passed by MahaRERA. Every ruling of MahaRERA is a speaking order clearly explaining the reason for such a ruling.

Has MahaRERA taken any steps to encourage rating of projects on various parameters, including promoter ratings?
Not yet, we are gradually working on setting up parameters like transparency in disclosures, RERA compliance, level of complaints, work quality, and also provision of training to construction workers. Very soon, we will start a training programme [on topics such as zero accident, high safety standards and environment protection]. Once promoters show their competence on these above parameters, MahaRERA will be able to grade them.

There is no public database of promoters whose registration has been revoked or who have been penalised under RERA.
We haven't revoked any registrations as yet. However, there have been cases of suo motu imposition of penalty on errant developers, and such rulings are uploaded on our website.

Has MahaRERA received any complaints about promoters refusing to sell a flat due to cultural or religious bias?
Not yet. MahaRERA has made it mandatory for promoters to submit an affidavit, clearly stating that he/she shall not discriminate on the basis of caste, religion, language, sex or marital status against any allottee. And if such a complaint is made out to MahaRERA, we shall initiate appropriate action against the builder/developer.

Does MahaRERA accept anonymous complaints online on unregistered projects?
Yes, we do have provisions where the identity of the complainant can be withheld, especially with regard to information about non-registration of projects. The complaint must be precise, with pictures, pamphlets, etc.

What and how about insurance of the project? Is it mandatory to have insurance cover for projects?
We are still working on this, as state government has not made insurance mandatory, so far. Also we must understand that insurance will be made compulsory for MahaRERA registered projects only once the state government issues notification. Also insurance come with a premium, which the developers will tend to recover from the flat purchaser, thereby pushing up the cost.

A better alternative may be State Land Title Bill (I believe the concernment department of Government is working on this) which will ensure that Government holds clean definitive (not presumptive) title of land and all types of land transaction gets recorded on real time basis in the land records held by Government. This is certainly possible with a digital tie up between the registration department and land records department.

Why is RERA till date not given any directions against -
a. Registrar of Co-operative Housing Society for formation of CHS?
b. Municipal officers for delaying passing of proposed project plans?
The interesting aspect of MahaRERA is that it empowers the Chairman and the Members to summon anybody as bestowed with the powers of the Civil Procedure Code, but they are not authorised to pass any directions, especially while dealing with officials from other bodies. But we are still empowered to understand the core issue that is causing any hurdle to the registered project, in keeping with the time phase, so that the promoter can complete the same within the stipulated time period. And if we have sufficient reason to believe that the delay (if at all) is not because of developer but due to the undesirable act of omission/commission of other body, then we may reserve our right to name and shame the concerned, while giving our ruling in MahaRERA. Though, we have not exercised this power till now, as such a complaint has not come to us yet. Also this will bring accountably in all stakeholders.

In order to facilitate the growth and promotion of a healthy, transparent, efficient and competitive real estate sector has MahaRERA made any recommendations to the State Government or Mumbai Municipal Corporation or any other municipal body in the state for creation of a single window system for ensuring time bound project approvals and clearances for timely completion of the project, since many building proposals get entangled in red tapism. (Refer Section 32 of RERA)
The Government is already in the process of bringing in all municipal bodies, land revenue departments etc under digital Maharashtra platform, technology will make this possible- where single window system will become operational in next few months in Mumbai and gradually at other places too. Also single window system and digital interface instead of physical interface, will bring in sense of responsibility and accountability, amongst officials working in other government departments, and will also check rent seeking behaviour.

How RERA helps
* Buyers can check the status of any project online, whether it is registered, or under litigation, etc
* Citizens can check registration of brokers to verify if they are bonafide
* You can find info and photos of all promoters of the project online
* You can lodge complaints against developers and brokers
* Promoters have to update any delay in project online, citing the reason

75%
MahaRERA's share of total registrations in country

45
No. of people in MahaRERA team

18,850
No. of registration application received by MahaRERA

18,736
No. of projects registered

3,159
No. of projects completed since RERA

13,000
No. of ongoing projects registered

6,000
No. of new projects launched after RERA

19 L
No. of apartments in the registered projects

4,989
No. of complaints received

3147
No. of cases in which orders have been passed

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