CAVEAT EMPTOR Owning a property is a dream for many. It’s important to ensure that property developers do not fleece consumers

Shree entered into an agreement with a builder for the purchase of a flat on the outskirts of Chennai. The flat was supposed to have been handed over in May 2011 and the total sale consideration was Rs. 21,00,000, which Shree promptly paid.

Despite receiving the entire payment, there was a delay of over six months. The builder offered possession of the flat with the prerequisite that Shree deposit Rs. 15,000 towards maintenance.

Maintenance of the flats, after the completion of construction was to be taken care of by the builder himself and the agreement for sale had a clause that specified that Shree will have to pay Re. 1.50 for a sq.ft. monthly towards maintenance, and that he will enter into a separate agreement for it later. No further charges were mentioned, and thus, Shree wrote to the builder questioning the demand.

The builder chose not to respond, and Shree sought our help. We wrote to the builder explaining that there were two separate agreements — the sale agreement already signed by both parties, and the maintenance agreement, which Shree was yet to see, let alone sign. Unfortunately, the builder insisted on the payment and so, we have advised Shree to approach the Consumer Fora.

In another instance, a complainant had entered into an agreement with the builder for the purchase of a flat having a built-up area of 714 sq.ft. At the time of taking possession of the flat, the builder’s architect’s report was given to the complainant. It stated that the building was ready for occupation, and that the net carpet area of the flat was 395 sq.ft. and the built-up area was 714 sq.ft.

The complainant suspected foul play and got an architect friend of his to take measurements again. He gave a report stating that the built-up area was only 565 sq.ft.

Taken aback, the complainant filed a complaint in the District Forum. There were also complaints of other defects in the flat. The District Forum only addressed the defects specified and did not speak about the issue of the difference in the built-up area. Hence, the complainant preferred an appeal in the State Commission. The State Commission appointed a Government registered Valuer — an architect as Court Commissioner who submitted a report that the actual built-up area in possession of the complainant was only 573.83 sq.ft.

The State Commission then directed the builder to refund Rs. 1,05,127.50 for having given lesser built-up area than agreed, along with interest at nine per cent. The builder was also ordered to pay a compensation of Rs. 25,000 for the mental agony caused, and Rs. 5,000 towards costs. The builder filed a Revision Petition, which was heard and dismissed by the National Commission.

It is important for builders to realise that for most people, buying a property is a dream. They should be transparent and not fleece consumers.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details / queries contact 2491 4358 / 2446 0387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)

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