It’s been more than five years since the Real Estate (regulation and development) Act 2016 was enacted. However, another year’s time was given to various state governments for drafting rules, setting up appellate tribunals, appointing officers and operationalizing websites and other provisions. Ultimately, the Act was implemented from May 1, 2017. Since then, a number of cases have been filed and disposed by various authorities at the state level. As a home buyer, using RERA’s guiding hand for resolving your complaints against builders or to search for information to can be helpful.
When can you approach RERA?
Complaints against developers as well as real estate agents can be made, provided they are registered with the respective RERA. The Act makes it mandatory for every real estate project that has a land area in excess of 500 square metres or has more than eight apartments, needs to be registered. Developers also need to indicate the names of registered real estate agents who will be working for their projects.
So, as a home buyer, you start getting protection under the Act from the time the project starts getting advertised. “Depending on the nature of action or omission, the home-buyer may be able to approach RERA as early as the booking stage. On issues such as deviations from specifications advertised/ agreed upon, an aggrieved homebuyer can approach RERA even after accepting possession and transfer of title,” says Mani Gupta, partner, Sarthak Advocates & Solicitors.
Besides, “a buyer can file a complaint on delay in possession, inconsistencies in design, any demand for advances beyond the permissible limit, false advertisements, non-payment in assured return cases, diversion of funds, alteration in project without consent, breach of any term of the builder-buyer agreement pertaining to the property,” says Harsh Pathak, real- estate matters counsel. Remember, a developer cannot ask for more than 10 percent of the property value before signing a builder-buyer agreement or an agreement for sale.
What are the fees and charges for filing a case?
If you want to file a complaint with RERA, you can do so online through the respective state’s RERA websites. “The fee and charges for filing a case in RERA vary from state to state and it is advisable to check the website of the jurisdictional RERA. Typically, the fee is Rs 1,000 per complaint,” says Gupta.
Unlike civil courts where you mandatorily require an advocate to represent your case, you yourself can represent your case with the RERA. However, some experts advise taking help from advocates to put forth your case strongly. In case you decide to take the help of a lawyer, “apart from the filing fee, the home-buyer would also have to incur the legal counsel’s fee,” says Gupta.
How soon will RERA resolve my complaint?
“The prescribed timeline for disposal of complaints under application is 60 (sixty) days, whether before the Authority or the Adjudication Officer,” says Gupta.
However, there are many homebuyers waiting for judgments way beyond the prescribed timeline. “The act itself provides that if the complaint could not be disposed of in the said timeline, the reasons have to be recorded and additional time may be taken. In most legislations in India, such timelines are generally considered to be directory and not mandatory,” says Gupta. This is the reason why Pathak says that there is no specific timeline for disposal of cases.
How is an order implemented?
Once an order is passed against a developer or real estate agent, they need to honour or implement it within 45 days of the issuance of the order. “On failure of implementation, the party in whose favour the order has been passed would have to approach RERA for execution of the judgment and order,” says Gupta.
Typically, if compensation etc. has to be paid to a home buyer, the RERA would issue a recovery certificate. This can be taken to the District Magistrate and the recovery can be made as arrears of land revenue. The RERA can also take penal action against promoters for non-implementation of its orders. Additionally, it may also attach the promoters’ properties for realisation of the amounts due to the home-buyer, explains Gupta.
There are also provisions for fine and imprisonment for non-compliance of RERA orders. “Section 63 of RERA lays down stringent provisions for non-compliance of orders. In case any promoter fails to comply with or contravenes any of the orders or directions of the authority, he shall be liable for penalty for every day during which such default continues, which may cumulatively extend up to 5 percent of the estimated cost of the real estate project, as determined by the authority” says Pathak.However, there are numerous instances of home buyers receiving favourable orders, but being forced to wait for months or even years for their execution. “The non-implementation of the RERA order may have to be followed up with writ proceedings in the appropriate High Court,” says Gupta.