2016: A year of high judicial intervention in real estate

[] Several court verdicts in 2016, indicate that the judiciary is no longer ready to be lenient with erring builders. Does this mean that customer will finally be king in the real estate market? We examine

For far too long, aggrieved home buyers have suffered owing to judicial delays. Developers have been comfortable, in the knowledge that court cases can drag on for years. However, the year 2016 exposed them to a new reality, where judicial intervention has not only highlighted their aberrations, delays and defaults but also given a ray of hope to dejected home buyers.

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How judicial intervention can change the market dynamics of Indian real estate

  • Judicial intervention in the year 2016, fuels consumer and media activism.
  • For the harassed home buyers, stern judicial verdicts give them hope that they will finally get what has been promised by the developers.
  • It also highlights problems in the process of obtaining approvals, which developers cite as the main reason for project delays.

Will judicial intervention benefit home buyers and the real estate sector?

Archana Bhargav, a home buyer in Chandigarh, lamented that she was utterly dejected with the system, after her dream home was not delivered for over seven years. She knocked on every possible door. The developer refused to meet her, while the other home buyers in the project were also clueless on what to do. With project delays being common, the media was also not interested in her case. Finally, she approached the judiciary, where her case dragged on, while the developer had more financial clout to afford eminent lawyers.

In June 2016, she decided to pursue the case against the builder again, as she felt that the courts were finally forcing erring developers to fall in line.

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“I called up my advocate and asked him, whether my case could be clubbed along with the other cases that the home buyers had filed in the High Court. This sudden impulse was borne out of the fact that the High Court had come down heavily on this builder in the case against fellow home buyers. The court has obliged and now, I am also a party in the case against the builder,” says Bhargav.

Some legal experts believe that the vigilant judiciary that we are presently witnessing, will change the property market’s dynamics, more than any government-appointed regulator.

“This is not just about judicial intervention, but also speedy trial. In some of the cases the judges have gone to the extent of warning developers to ‘sink or die, but pay the buyers’. Courts are also acknowledging that the home buyers are a harassed lot and the only way to clean the Indian housing market, may be through the judiciary,” maintains advocate Madhurendra Sharma.

Core problems need to be addressed, say developers

Developers, naturally, are apprehensive. Raj Gala Shah, partner, Zara Habitats, maintains that market forces should ideally be the catalysts that improve the real estate eco-system. The aim, should be to weed out unscrupulous elements, not just from the business but also from the consumer activism side, where certain individuals pursue monetary benefits under the garb of activism, he says.

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[] Consumer activism: Protecting the home buyers’ rights

“With the easy availability of information through RTI, 24×7 media coverage and a judiciary with a stern outlook towards the real estate sector, it seems as though only unscrupulous elements exist in the business. A united effort from the consumers, media and judiciary, can steer the real estate sector towards a transparent environment, without being dependent on the government,” opines Shah.

Developers also argue that the reason for many project delays, is the system. The biggest challenge, they say, is the process of obtaining approvals for projects, where multiple agencies are involved and there is lack of coordination and willingness to adhere to timelines and no accountability. Nevertheless, analysts point out that genuine developers, who are not guilty of delaying their projects and denying the buyers, should welcome judicial intervention and also be more open about the issues that they face. With greater judicial intervention, many processes can be monitored, documented and changed, through court orders. The judiciary can also pressure the government departments to work diligently. However, it remains to be seen, whether the judicial process initiated in 2016, will lead to a significant change in ground realities in 2017 and bring relief to home buyers.

(The writer is CEO, Track2Realty)

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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