Mon, May 08, 2017 - Page 14 News List

India’s new property law seeks to protect home buyers

AFP, GREATER NOIDA, India

Women on April 17 walk past unfinished residential apartments in Greater Noida, India.

Photo: AFP

In 2010, Neena Nagpal and her husband spent their life savings on an apartment outside New Delhi that was never built. Now, a new law seeks to protect thousands of home buyers such as her from unscrupulous property developers.

“The entire experience has been painful,” said the 54-year-old, whose husband recently died, leaving her to take care of their partially deaf son alone in a two-room house in a run-down part of the Indian capital.

“When you don’t walk what you talk, it really hurts us,” she said.

From the mid-2000s onward, millions of middle-class Indians eager to own their own homes poured cash into new building projects on the outskirts of major cities as a property boom took hold across the nation.

Many were young workers in the burgeoning information-technology sector eager to break away from the traditional joint family set-up.

However, the industry was riddled with problems and buyers were almost always the victims.

“What was shown and what was delivered was always different,” real-estate consultancy Knight Frank India executive director Gulam Zia said. “Developers got away with whatever they wanted and consumers always got a raw deal. Now a developer can’t hide anything and he can’t go back to his old habit of taking the consumer for a ride.”

Developers could face jail sentences of up to three years and substantial fines under the new law, which took effect on Monday and applies to ongoing as well as new projects.

State governments would be responsible for keeping tabs on developers’ progress and ensuring they stick to their plans for everything from the number and size of apartments to the construction schedule.

Buyers’ money would have to be deposited in an escrow-like account and could only be used for the property they are investing in — not to launch the developer’s next project.

If the apartments are not delivered on time, the developer would have to pay the monthly interest on the buyers’ bank loans.

The Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India welcomed the new law saying it had been calling for better regulation.

“This will go a long way in restoring consumer faith in the real estate sector,” association president Jaxay Shah said.

The road from New Delhi to the satellite city of Greater Noida provides ample evidence of the problems, as it is lined with half-built apartment buildings, most behind schedule.

Among them is Lotus Panache, where Nagpal and her family were hoping to make a home.

The 3C Company sold the development as “an enviable blend of sheer luxury and suburban lifestyle,” touting ambitious plans for a creche and 12,500m2 sports and leisure center.

The reality — rows of unfinished shells — is a far cry from that.

Although every buyer has paid at least 90 per cent of the price, only about 800 of the 4,200 promised apartments have been delivered so far and the project is nearly four years behind schedule.

The promised sports and leisure facilities amount to some workout equipment in one of the empty flats, a small swimming pool and some swings for kids on a brown patch of land.

About 600 buyers have filed a case against the developer in a consumer court demanding the homes they paid for and fair compensation for the delay.

However, the slow pace of India’s overburdened judicial system means they are still waiting.

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