(Written by Sumedha Sharma)
At 7,901, consumer cases relating to housing top the list of cases filed by aggrieved consumers in the UT State Commission since its inception. The commission had 489 cases pertaining to real estate sector pending with it as of December 2018, according to data shared by Consumers Association, Chandigarh.
The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Chandigarh, receives an average of 20 cases a day, the majority of which include property-related cases.
Interestingly, these cases are not just against fly-by-night property dealers but also against leading builders, which include DLF, Manohar, Sushma, Omaxe, Unitech and BCL. The top-listed cases are those where builders fail to give timely possession, mislead buyers by showing them representative apartments at their luxurious offices in Chandigarh and those who promise to deliver property in the main city but end up giving possession in the periphery, the data states.
Poor quality flats, hidden payments for parking, lifts, clubs and other facilities which are not disclosed during the time of booking, are other issues on which consumers drag builders to court. Delay in handing over property on the plea that the authorities are not giving the requisite permissions and hurdles in land acquisition, are other cases that reach the commission.
A senior official lamented that people don’t read the fine print or verify the claims made in newspaper ads and end up paying 70% to 80% of the cost of the apartment in many cases. ‘’They don’t even enquire whether the land for the apartment complex has been purchases or not , do the builders have all the permissions and whether there are other hidden clauses which will escalate the cost of the property. Most of the cases are registered by the elite educated class, the problem is we lack general awareness and get trapped in these housing investment traps.’’
“There are mainly two types of cases — one is delay in possession and the others relate to refunds. I am dealing with many big builders. They impress the consumers by showcasing well-designed brochures but what they deliver is not what they promise, which is against the law. The agreement, which is 150-200 pages, is impossible to read for a customers and the registry documents are typed in Punjabi which people from other states can’t understand. This is a very serious issue. The buyers must read everything before signing any contract,” warns Naveen Sheokand, an advocate.
Narendra Yadav, another advocate, said, “Recently, I have come across flats worth a crore where builders failed to give possession and now the buyers are seeking a refund. Nowadays, the builders have found a way out , where they can avoid compensation. They seek to liquidate their assets due to financial crunch, and move an application to National Company Law Tribunal (NCLW), where they get a stay on all court proceedings.”