Not having an occupation certificate may prove to be a challenge, say real estate experts.
After several real estate builders announced that they would provide unoccupied housing units to the municipal authorities as quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients, homebuyers of a delayed Unitech project in Gurugram, who have been waiting for possession of their homes for over eight years, have offered their unfinished residential units in their projects to the state government to be utilised for the purpose.
While the intent is noble, legal experts say that there may be some challenges because, legally, most of these projects may not have an occupancy or completion certificate. What this means is that, while the projects may have water and power supply, they may not necessarily have documents to prove that the buildings are safe for habitation.
A few days ago, Unitech homebuyers offered their 95 percent complete flats to be utilised as a quarantine facility for COVID patients. They hope it would propel the government to complete the remaining 5 percent work and handover the incomplete units that have been stuck for almost eight years now. The project is located at Shankar Chowk in Gurgaon.
“We would like to contribute to your efforts in combating the Novel Corona Virus. We are offering 156 flats in G Block of Unitech The Residences, Sector 33 Gurugram. These flats can be used to quarantine and treat COVID-19 patients.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The Haryana Government will be able to treat over 11,000 patients over the next few months in this facility. The towers are 95 percent complete in all respect, it is equipped with lifts, and plumbing has been completed,” the homebuyers said in a letter to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
“The Government of Haryana and these 156 families can together provide a facility which can treat over 11,000 COVID patients over the next few months in 2020 and 2021,” it said.
The units require water, sewerage and electricity connection and completion of bathrooms, “which can be completed and made operational in a matter of few weeks using the existing material and infrastructure available at the site,” the letter said.
The project is only 5 km away from the Civil, Fortis and Medanta hospitals. Doctors, nurses and medical staff can come from these hospitals to the site to treat the patients, the letter by Suraj Singh of Unitech Uniworld Resorts said.
Stranded migrant labour in Gurugram city can be deployed in the towers to make it ‘Quarantine Ready’ for COVID-19 patients. “By doing this, they will also be able to earn their livelihood with dignity. We would like your Government to take the lead and come forward to start economic activity in the state,” the letter said.
In Delhi’s Rohini area, an eight-bed isolation centre has been set up by the residents of Antariksh Apartment in sector 14. The isolation centre has been set up using four rooms of a guest house of Antariksh Apartment.
A few weeks ago, Naredco UP had offered 500-bed space to the district administration to fight against COVID-19. While Supertech had offered a 400-bed space, Antriksh group had offered a 100-bed space for quarantine facilities.
Supertech had offered 400-bed space at Upcountry project located along the Yamuna Expressway and reserved one exclusive tower for the purpose, said RK Arora, Naredco UP president and chairman of Supertech Group.
“The response is awaited,” he told Moneycontrol.
“This dedicated block has a separate entry and exit. Other blocks in the area are currently under construction. All facilities including water, power and the lift are currently available. The completion process is on and we are trying to meet the requirements of the district administration. They will first check if it is fit for the purpose. Also, there may be a possibility that the project is granted a temporary occupation certificate for the project to be used as a quarantine facility,” he said.
In Gujarat, Savvy Group has offered 250 units in one of its vacant projects to the local administration to be utilised as an isolation or a quarantine centre for COVID-19 patients.
“We have offered 250 units in one of our vacant projects in Ahmedabad to the local authority to be utilised as a quarantine centre for COVID-19 patients. These are 1 BHK units that can be used to accommodate around 500 beds. They are in the process of getting completed. We may get a temporary completion certificate for the project,” Jaxay Shah, chairman Credai and managing director of Savvy Group told Moneycontrol.
In Mumbai too, realty developer Shreeji Sharan Developers has handed over a newly constructed, 19-storey ready-to-move-in building in Malad to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) city's municipal body to be used as a quarantine centre for COVID-19 patients.The building on SV Road has 130 apartments, for which the developer has already received an occupation certificate (OC) from the authorities and was ready to be handed over to the flat owners, a media report said.
Will turning housing units into quarantine centres impact valuation?
Even though the quarantine centre would be a temporary facility, some developers may also have to deal with the problem of ‘project perception’ and may find it difficult to liquidate inventory later as buyers may desist from purchasing a property that has been used as an isolation facility during the pandemic, say some experts.
Others said that this may not have any impact on the prices as these facilities are only temporary in nature. Once the patients have recovered and move out of the facility or for that matter once the pandemic is over, the authorities would sanitise the entire place before returning the units to the concerned developers, they said.
“It is unlikely to impact sales or the value of the units. At present, there may be a reluctance to buy property in that project and it may impact sale of units in the short term. However, it is unlikely to impact pricing of these units in the long term. It is highly unlikely that these units would remain unsold or would be sold at a lower rate,” said Ritesh Mehta, senior director and head - West India, Residential, Jones Lang Lasalle India.
Medical experts that Moneycontrol spoke to said that as long as these quarantine centres are located away from habitation and have a separate entry and exit, they cannot pose a threat.
“We have tried creating a quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients in Jhajjar. The facility has been fenced and has a separate entrance. The important thing for the facility is to have a dedicated entrance – there cannot be a common entrance for COVID patients and other residents,” Dr Randeep Guleria, Director - AIIMS, told Moneycontrol.
He recommends that ideally such facilities should be managed by a health/medical service provider. “The developer may provide the physical infrastructure but the quarantine facility should be run by a health service group,” he said.
Legal experts explain that as per the provisions under most legislations, both at the central and state levels, no individual shall be allowed to occupy any building or an apartment sans receiving a completion certificate and occupancy certificate from the competent authority.“If one were to strictly go by what the law lays down, there may be a compliance issue and safety risks subject to the grant of completion certificate with regard to these vacant, under-construction projects being converted into quarantine centres,” says Rahul Arora, Partner - Trilegal.