Since the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) rules were implemented in the state, as many as 16 complaints were registered with the Authority by early July. The complaints are about builders failing to fulfill the terms of agreement, delayed projects or against builders who have not refunded the full amount to the buyers opting out of a project.
The state notified RERA rules on November 24, 2017, but the website of the authority was belatedly launched only on January 15, 2018. The government is yet to appoint a permanent head for RERA, which is in the interim headed by secretary, urban development. RERA should have been a fully functional and alive authority by now, but the process has been going on at a slow pace. Though the state has formulated rules and has a functioning website, enforcement is slow due to lack of supporting infrastructure, such as a screening committee to study the complaints and issue notices to non-compliant builders. In the absence of a functional authority the complaints of persons who have invested their life’s earnings to buy a home have been lying unattended for months and there are no signs that they would be taken up for hearing anytime soon.
The builders against whom complaints have been registered include big national players as well as local players. Though it is mandatory for each and every builder, developer and real estate agent to register with the authority, there are many who have failed to do so. Ever since RERA rules were notified and implemented in the state nearly 300 builders, developers and agents have registered with it. With the complaints not processed for several months in the absence of a head, the government has decided to issue notices to the builders against whom complaints have been received in an interim arrangement with an aim to setting the system rolling for giving justice to the harried home buyers.
The government must not allow any delay in giving justice to the complainants; else they might lose faith in the new authority. The government should take steps to appoint a permanent authority and address other issues connected with RERA. The government has increased the fine for not registering an ongoing housing project from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. The new penalty rate has been made effective for the period from July 2 to October 1, 2018, even as the deadline for registration has been extended till September 30, 2018.
The extension is aimed at bringing all the builders, developers from interior areas within the ambit of RERA who had failed to register themselves on the ground that they were ignorant of the fact that the law was applicable to them. While everyone connected with construction and real estate development has to be brought within the ambit of law, care has to be taken that justice to those who have lodged genuine complaints about unfair practices or breach of agreement by builders should not be delayed or denied.
Only when the authority starts taking action against the defaulting builders, developers or agents that those who have not complied with the law would rush to the authority and follow the rules. The penalty or action of the authority against the errant people should serve as a deterrent and might be increased with passage of time.
Though the government has provided RERA with a website, which is user-friendly and open to the public, its complaint section as of now is not open for viewing. The absence of this facility means that prospective buyers are deprived of the knowledge about builders against whom complaints have been lodged. It would be in the interest of society to provide online linkage to make the complaint section open to the people. The state authorities should take steps to make the RERA website fully functional.
With a selection committee having already shortlisted the candidates to be appointed to various posts in RERA, the government has to just to take a call on the list and give its approval for their appointment to set the motion of formalizing the body without further delay. Why is the government sitting on the list of shortlisted candidates? Let the government not give an impression that there is a design in the delay. Home buyers in the state have waited for justice for long. Hitherto, consumer courts and the High Court have dealt with home buyer complaints. But not all could afford to fight up to the High Court. RERA should be made functional to make justice accessible to all home buyers.