Prospective apartment buyers are unwilling to opt for a development without plush amenities that spell a status. If that is so, are amenities provided by the builders genuinely failing to meet expectations? A look by Nandhini Sundar

Talk of any gated community and the first enquiry concerns the nature of amenities offered, the kind of lifestyle available.

Gated communities, be it villa development or apartment complex, have become a lifestyle statement given the many conveniences and security they offer. Club houses with facilities such as swimming pool, gym, and squash and tennis courts, have become synonymous with gated development. So are green areas, water bodies, children's play area, amphitheatre, convenience store and such facilities in larger complexes housing over 1,000 units.

While developers claim to offer these facilities at no significant extra cost, not all residents feel amenities bring value for money. Complaints abound about their quality, maintenance as well as availability for use. Interestingly, prospective buyers are unwilling to opt for a development sans these facilities. If that is so, are amenities genuinely failing to meet expectations?

Quality in question

Says Rajagopal, resident of South City, promoted by L & T Group, “The quality of amenities provided is not only bad, facilities offered too are not sufficient to cater to the needs of the large number of units in the complex. Besides amenities being insufficient, what was promised is different from what was actually delivered.”

According to him, while swimming pool, tennis court, and children's play area are constantly overcrowded, the large park and jogging track promised and provided by the developer lies outside the apartment complex.

“Worse, the park is not for exclusive use of residents but open to the public, making its maintenance an issue.”

Similar concerns over exclusive use of facilities are raised by residents in other developments. Ramaswamy, resident of Brigade Millennium, adds, “While amenities offered are of excellent quality and whatever promised was delivered, certain aspects like public membership offered for the club house are a cause for concern.”

According to him, the state-of-the-art club house is run as a commercial club, requiring membership from users, even if they happen to be residents.

The club facilities are also available for members who are not residents. Other facilities such as the pool and football ground are also used by the school which is part of the complex.

“This causes unnecessary financial burden on residents besides overcrowding. Similar case with the park too which is technically open to the public and the road passing through the complex which is used as a thoroughfare. Since residents maintain these areas, it adds to the financial burden.”

Transparency

Says Rajagopal, “Transparency from the builder is required at the time of sale. Placing such details in fine print in a sale agreement can go unnoticed by purchasers. These need to be explicitly stated at the time of sale to make the buyer aware of the facilities on offer.”

For a cross subsidy

Clarifies Vishwa Pratap Desu, Vice-President, Marketing, Brigade Group, “The club facilities offered are on a par with any leading club in the city. Making facilities available to residents as well as the public acts as a cross-subsidy for providing such high-end facilities within an apartment complex. Exclusive use by residents will not yield sufficient revenue to meet the high maintenance cost. It will then be impossible to sustain current level of facilities as well as quality of services.”

As for overcrowding, he adds, “Invariably only 5 to 10 per cent of facilities are used throughout the day. Overcrowding happens only during peak times. Yet, to ensure unrestricted access at most times, our current developments are adding amenities such as multiple tennis courts and swimming pools, where one pool is for exclusive use of residents. Some facilities are exclusively available for residents during weekends to avoid overcrowding.”

Says Raghuraman, also a resident of Brigade Millennium, “The builder is justified in operating the club on a commercial basis, making membership open to the public. Not only does this cross-subsidise the cost of maintenance for residents, the state-of-the-art club here was provided at no extra cost for residents. Apartment complexes do not offer such facilities and when they do, charge a premium.”

Just not up to the mark

However, one of the residents of a development promoted by the Mantri Group is not so charitable in his perspective. Says he, “While quality of facilities is far from expectations, maintenance too, which incidentally is handled by the builder, does not meet the mark. Instances such as bursting of the safety valve, resulting in the flooding of a few apartments, and electrical panels in the basement catching fire, are certainly a cause for concern given the apartment is just over two years old.”

Countering the allegation, Snehal Mantri, Director-Marketing, Mantri Group, says, “The quality of fittings as well as amenities on offer are of the high-end variety, with only top brands in the market being used. As for maintenance of facilities, it is carried out by our personnel who are specially trained to address all concerns relating to the complex.”

Adding that concerns such as these have never been raised by any other Mantri development so far, she further says, “The issue of the safety valve bursting comes as a surprise as a serious issue such as this would definitely have been raised by residents, which incidentally was not.”

As for the concern over the fire, she says, “It was merely a spark and a lot of smoke, snuffed out instantly by our maintenance staff. The fire safety measures in all our complexes are of the highest quality, meeting the highest standards. Besides, regular maintenance of fire equipment is carried out by trained personnel to ensure that any eventuality is met instantly.”

Lack of trained personnel

Says Koshy Varghese, Managing Director, Value Design Build, “Amenities, when maintained by the association, invariably fail to retain quality because of lack of trained personnel as well as lack of periodic maintenance. This is negated when the developer takes over the responsibility of the maintenance.”

As for commercial operation of club houses, he says, “Offering a state-of-the-art club house to the public on membership is a good choice as it makes its running and maintenance sustainable at a lower cost than it would if residents had to bear the charges for its exclusive use.”

To ensure the buyer gets value for money, Varghese further adds, “The buyer needs to look at the quality as well as type of amenities on offer, and the adequacy of facilities vis-a-vis number of prospective users and drop the misconception that quality amenities can be offered only by large, established developers.”

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