1. Due Diligence:This is the first step that you should take even before you book the flat. You must conduct your own due diligence on the builder and the project. You should look at the track record of the builder and look at the average delivery time of his past projects. Then you should check whether the concerned project has received all approvals. See – documents to check before buying a flat.
When opting for a payment plan, always choose construction linked plan. In this way, you are creating an incentive for the builder to complete the project at the earliest. This will also ensure that you don’t block all your money upfront. You should always keep your options open.
2. Penalty Clause:Before handing over the booking amount cheque, you should ask for a copy of allotment letter and builder-buyer agreement. Check out the project delivery time and ensure that penalty clause is incorporated in the agreement. Generally, all reputed builders have a penalty clause in builder-buyer agreement stating Rs. 5-10 per square feet of penalty per month that the builder will pay from the promised project delivery date upto the actual handover date of the flat.
3. Form a Group
Once, you invest in a project, the next thing you would like to do is to get in touch with other buyers and investors of your project. A group has a much higher strength than an individual. In case of any delays,. These days, there are many online forums where you can meet your fellow buyers and investors.
Now Join Nitesh Caesars Palace Buyers Association(NCPBA)
4. Follow Up with Builder
Your job doesn’t get over with regular payments of your home installments. You should keep a track on construction activity. In case, you feel that the construction is getting delayed, you should meet with the builder as a group and understand the situation. A group can build more pressure and it is easier to fight for your cause as a group.
In case you feel that the builder is deliberately delaying the project, you may have to resort to take legal action. You can approach following forums for redressal:
1. Civil Court:If a builder commits breach of its obligations or is involved in unfair trade practices, you can approach a Civil Court for relief. For eg. some builders sell plots and flats even without owning the land, some use sub-standard construction material, some builders don’t apply for approvals deliberately causing delay in projects. Certain states have special provisions to handle delays by builders. the builder is liable to refund the buyer’s money with interest if he is unable to justify delay in handing over possession of flats.
2. Consumer Forum:Consumer Protection Act, 1986, protects the rights of a consumer and provides remedies to a consumer against deficient services. A delay in handing over possession of flat is deficiency in rendering of promised service by the builder. You can file a case in the consumer dispute redressal commission at three levels – district, state and national level. District commission, established in each district, can handle cases where the value of the claim is less than Rs. 20 lakhs. The State commission of every state can handle cases where the value of claim is more than Rs. 20 lakhs but less than Rs. 1 Crore. The National commission has jurisdiction to handle claims of more than Rs. 1 Crore.
3. Competition Commission of India:The Competition Act, 2002 was enacted to prevent practices having adverse effect on competition, to prohibit use of dominance and to protect interests of consumers. A flat buyer can file a complaint against the unfair practices of the builder before the Competition Commission of India which has been empowered to investigate anti competitive practices and impose stringent penalties on the offenders. Penalties imposed by CCI against a builder act as deterrent to unfair trade practices in the real estate industry.
5. Criminal Court:Along with the consumer complaint in consumer forum, you can also file a criminal case against the builder under the provisions of Indian Penal Code, 1860 for breach of contract, cheating, not responding to grievance and delivery of poor quality construction. You can send a statutory notice to the builder. If the builder does not respond to the notice, file a police complaint and then file a criminal complaint before the Metropolitan Magistrate. You should mention all irregularities committed by the builder in your complaints.
It is better to take legal action as a group. If you file a case as a group, your legal costs will be shared and your case can be fast tracked.
Refunds can be claimed if the project is delayed beyond the stipulated time period as per the agreement. If the builder is in trouble and not in a position to deliver the project, the flat buyer can claim for the money required to purchase an alternative flat at the current market rate in the respective area.
If, however you are reasonably sure that the builder will hand over the possession of flat in a few months or years, you can claim the money you will be spending to pay rent during the delay period. Otherwise, you can claim interest on the payment made till date.
Today, builders are leaving no stones unturned in attracting the investors and end users into buying their properties. First, they will promise you moon and once they get all the money, they will stop responding to your queries. Most projects get delayed due to unfair practices by builders. There cannot be any justification against the delay caused by the builder once he has taken money and has promised to deliver the project in stipulated time.
As a consumer, we must know our rights and how to seek justice. First, you should take preventive measures to avoid delays in possession of flat. If however, preventive measures are not working out, you should not hesitate in taking legal action against the builder. After all, it is our hard earned money which is at stake.