RERA orders only on paper, buyers still wait for money
Even as delays pile up, a majority of buyers who got favourable orders from housing regulator are yet to get their refunds from builders
For the past five weeks, Sainath Sarode, 38, has been skipping lunch every Wednesday in order to make the weekly trip to the Talathi office in Kandivli West, from his office in Goregaon West, with the hope of receiving his refund, in accordance with a MahaRERA order issued six months ago. And, he is not the only one awaiting justice that the regulatory body is supposed to ensure in a matter of two months.
Sarode is one of the many complainants against M/s Vidhi Realtors who could not stick to the promised date of delivering homes by 2013 in the Gaurav Discovery project in Malad West.
A resident of Kotachi Wadi in Girgaon, Sarode had paid around Rs 66 lakh for the flat, after taking a bank loan of Rs 34 lakh. Even as he continues to pay an EMI of Rs 33,000 every month, his dream home is still not his.
"I visit the Talathi office every week hoping that the MahaRERA order of attaching the developer's property (transferring property from the debtor to creditor) is executed and I will get my money back. But after the developer delaying construction, now MahaRERA is delaying execution of its order," said Sarode.
Sainath Sarode has been constantly making trips to the Talathi office to get his refund
The MahaRERA order
According to Sarode, the real estate regulatory body had issued an order under section 40 of the RERA act in August 2018, entitling Sarode to Rs 71 lakh for withdrawing from the project.
MahaRERA has directed the Suburban Collector to attach the property of the developer and return the money to the complainants, and the collector has forwarded the order with directions to the Borivli Tahasildar. He has written to the Kandivli Talathi whose office has sent two letters to the developer so far, giving them 15 days' time to respond.
Komal Chabria, another flat buyer in the same project, too has a copy of the MahaRERA order, passed in March 2018, directing the developer to pay her principal booking amount of Rs 23 lakh, but is yet to receive the amount. "None of us have got our money from the builder," she said.
'Slow pace of work'
Advocate Godfrey Pimenta who represented Sarode and Chabria, said, "We have come across a lot of projects where MahaRERA has passed orders allowing interest on delayed possession under section 18 of RERA, and even attachment in cases of withdrawal from the project, but unfortunately the orders are only on paper."
Pimenta added that attachment of property was, however, a time-consuming process because the order is never easily executed unless the due process of forwarding the directions from Collector to Tahsildar and from Thaisildar to Village Talathi and giving due chance to the developer to respond to their letters is followed before attaching the property. "Post attachment, a public auctioning has to happen, buyers need to be interested in such auctioned property and only once the auction is successful, the complaint can receive his/her money," he added.
"Maharashtra sees a high number of RERA complaints and hence there is a need to increase the number of courts to handle such cases in the state or have circuit benches in Thane, Navi Mumbai and MMR regions, like the Bombay High Court has in Nagpur, Goa and Aurangabad," Pimenta said.
Need to boost MahaRERA
Advocate Vinod Sampat, president of Cooperative Societies' Residents, Users and Welfare Association opines that in order to make MahaRERA effective, its finances need to be strengthed.
"An authority should not only hear pleas but also send a strong message to litigants by having a court-like structure and install live monitors in the common areas of MahaRERA offices. Extension of project delivery time should be allowed only after payment of reasonable compensation to the flat purchasers," Sampat said.
"The RERA Act is going the Consumer Protection Act way. While it was introduced to deliver speedy justice to consumers but due to lack of courts, the essence of the act has been defeated. Once redevelopment of cooperative societies and tenanted buildings are brought under the ambit of MahaRERA, there will be further delays in delivering justice," he added.
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