A Guide for homebuyers on RERA Rules and RERA Complaints
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA), which came into force on 1 May 2016, seeks to protect the interests of homebuyers as much as it hopes to boost investments in the real estate sector. The Act has given the Indian real estate industry its first regulator. It is now mandatory for each state and union territory to form its own regulator and frame the rules that will govern the functioning of the regulator, on the basis of the model rules framed under the central Act. Up until now, homebuyers’ interests were in a limbo due to the dominance of land mafias in the real estate sector, a largely unorganised approach in dealings, lack of accountability, and long-drawn-out procedures in civil courts. Homebuyers have a point when they complain that many real estate transactions are lopsided and heavily in favour of developers. So, will RERA correct the imbalance that has been for so long the bane of the sector?
The provisions of RERA Act regarding accountability and transparency are stringent and will hopefully make real estate transactions simple. But for all these to be truly realised, it is absolutely critical that homebuyers are an aware lot – they need to understand the law and its implications so that they are vigilant about any wrongdoing and are able to get the resolution machinery going if needed.
Many buyers know that RERA has been implemented and it protects consumers’ rights, but only a few know how to file a complaint. The success of the Act and its provisions depends largely upon its implementation. Hence, consumers need to know how to approach RERA – without this, its proper implementation is not possible. This is an alternative to consumer courts. RERA provides for filing of complaint if no case on the same matter is pending before consumer courts.
There are several homebuyers who bought homes before and after the implementation of RERA. In case they are facing any problem after having invested their money in an under-construction project—due to project-layout inconsistencies, undue delay in getting possession, etc.—they can withdraw the booking amount. They can apply for getting the amount refunded, notwithstanding the builder’s refusal to do so.
RERA is aimed at establishing a real estate regulatory authority for regulating and promotion of the real estate sector, ensuring efficient and transparent transactions and establishing an adjudicating mechanism for speedy disputes redressal, thereby protecting the interests of consumers. It seeks to address vital issues of fair transactions, timely delivery and quality construction.
The regulation has come as a big relief against the backdrop of lakhs of aggrieved homebuyers across India protesting against long delays in delivery of their homes. Homebuyers have fallen prey to unscrupulous builders luring them to invest in unapproved projects, promising high returns.
Under RERA, only registered developers can launch projects. Moreover, developers cannot launch and advertise their projects and seek customers’ bookings without getting all the required permissions from the authorities. They are also barred from charging the booking amount arbitrarily – under the new regulation, booking amount has been fixed at 10 percent of the property cost.
RERA has also made it mandatory for developers/project promoters to make all necessary disclosures about projects including permissions secured from authorities, date of launch, promised date of delivery, project specifications, amenities/facilities, etc. All this information is to be uploaded on the project website by the builder. In the light of these mandatory disclosures, consumers will be able to do proper due diligence of properties and make an informed decision about investing in a particular property.
When to File a Complaint?
It is important to know when to take a decision regarding filing of a complaint. One has to be prompt in this regard. Any delay that is unjustified may weaken the case and the buyer may not be able to seek the desirable relief. Under RERA, there is no specific time frame provided for filing a complaint but it should be filed just after the cause of action occurred, which means as soon as the violation of terms and conditions of the agreement has happened or any violation of RERA provisions comes to knowledge.
How to File a Complaint?
A complaint can be filed under Section 31 of RERA with either the real estate regulatory authority or the adjudicating officer. The complaint can be filed against promoters, allottees, and/or real estate agents. Many state governments have laid out the procedures for filing applications under RERA. The complaint must be in the form prescribed as per the respective state government’s rules. If a buyer’s rights are violated or any provision of the Act is contravened, a complaint can be filed under RERA in the format provided by the respective state government. Buyers need to visit the RERA portal of the respective state government. The fee for filing a complaint under RERA varies from state to state – for example, in Maharashtra the fee is Rs 5,000, while in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh it is Rs 1,000.
To initiate a case under RERA, one needs to file an application with all the possible details and documents. It is easy if you know what your case is and what relief you are seeking with regard to filing the complaint under RERA. All your details – such as project name, its address, total value of the flat, and date of completion – should be as per the agreement. Homebuyers should read the builder–buyer agreement very carefully before filing a complaint under RERA, so that no point is missing. It is relatively easy to file a complaint in states where there is a functioning authority with a website. There is no specified list of documents required for filing, but the agreement to sell, conveyance deed (if any), and application form are essential.
Why a Homebuyer Should Choose RERA over Other Forums
Until 2017, most consumers used to file their cases under Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 1986. But then, even if the consumer had an order for refund, the builder invariably filed their appeal up to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). The final adjudication would take time.
With RERA in the picture, there is hope for expeditious disposal and early resolution of a complaint. If a case is pending before the consumer court, the buyer should ask for its permission to withdraw the case and approach the RERA authority directly. RERA is a quasi-judicial authority meant only for real estate matters. Therefore, real estate cases may be better handled under RERA. RERA is better equipped to understand the relief a consumer may need and chances are high that the dispute is resolved at the earliest.
These are some of the benefits of filing a complaint under RERA:
- It is meant to be an efficient disputes-resolution body.
- There is a better chance of expeditious disposal of complaint.
- Promoters cannot manipulate facts as they are bound to disclose correct information for registration of their projects under the law.
- Transparency is high as all information has to be put up on website.
- Buyers can claim compensation for delayed projects.
- There is a clear requirement for financial discipline by the promoters.
- There can be no ambiguity in area measurements.
- Adjudicating mechanism is mandated under law.
RERA is the best thing to have happened to homebuyers in recent years, and also to buyers of properties of various types. With such a law in place, buyers can invest in properties fully secured from many risks. They can be assured that in case of any dispute, they have a remedy in a minimal time span. RERA is for consumers and the authority will pay heed to cases as per the Act. If you are an aggrieved buyer, just approach the RERA authority and feel free to file your case.
The Grey Areas
There are certain issues that a consumer may face in the process of filing a complaint.
- For example, the project may or may not fall under the jurisdiction of RERA Act 2016 in that state since completed projects may not be under its jurisdiction.
- There are many projects that are as yet unregistered and not in the dropdown menu while filing a complaint on the RERA website. Consumers may not know how to file a complaint against a project that is not registered. In such cases, they are advised to file the case online mentioning the exact location.
- Builders who have not registered their ongoing projects are in violation of the law and consumers should complain against such builders to RERA.
- Many states have still not appointed the adjudicating officers u/s 71 of RERA.
- Many ongoing projects are unregistered even now.
Consumer Voice Legal Help Desk is helping aggrieved consumers and assisting them in resolution of their disputes. Consumer VOICE is also actively looking after the implementation of RERA. If you have any complaint, we can help you.
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