By Rahul Sarkar
RERA or Consumer Court: How to Seek Legal Remedy Against a Builder
By Rahul Sarkar
For most of us, real estate is the single largest financial transaction in our lifetime. It’s expensive, complicated – and there’s lots of potential for grievance: the builder’s work could be shoddy, there may be project delays or hidden charges, and much else. Luckily, the government has ensured proper redressal machinery at the local, state and national levels.
In fact, there are four bodies you could approach for relief against a builder. The most well-known of these is the Consumer Court, but you may also be familiar with Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act (RERA), which also looks into such matters. So let’s clear it up.
Before we go there, though, here are the reasons you can make a complaint against a builder.
Reasons to File a Complaint Against a Builder
- If the builder has erected poorly constructed buildings;
- If the builder has not handed over the residence with layout, specifications and structure that was agreed upon;
- If the builder has not constructed or provided you with parking space in the premises;
- If the builder has charged you with a higher amount for the residence than the one agreed upon;
- If the builder levies any hidden charges on you which you were misled into believing did not exist;
- If the builder has not provided you with the receipt against the payment you made or not given you a valid sale agreement in spite of advance payment;
- If the builder has cancelled or stalled the project without any legitimate explanation or reason;
- If the builder has not constructed a water tank, proper ventilation and lighting in the building;
- If the house is not delivered to you within the stipulated time limit. Usually, the time period is two years from the date that the construction commences;
- If the builder has not created a housing society and not handed over the reins to it;
- If the builder has not obtained the required permissions from relevant authorities such as the municipal corporation, water authority, etc;
- If the builder has not issued to you the copies of all the required documents such as NOC, OC, POA, approved plans by authorities, development agreement, non-agricultural permission, among others;
- If any fraud such as bribery, embezzlement, etc has been committed by the builder, real estate agent, or any relevant person in the booking, buying or selling of the property.
Consumer Court vs RERA vs CREDAI: Which body is applicable?
Consumer courts are country-wide, with experienced judges and have heard thousands such cases over the past three decades. This is why the consumer courts are preferred when seeking legal relief against a builder. However, matters move slowly and such forums only award compensation or refund, which is narrower than what can be done under RERA.
Filing a Consumer Complaint
While you can go to consumer court on your own, it is recommended that you hire a property lawyer. The process would be as follows:
- Send a well-written legal notice to the builder and inform him of the stipulated time frame within which you expect a response;
- Wait for a response from the builder. If he wilfully compensates, the dispute ends. If not, follow the next step.
- Approach the Consumer Court and file your petition, which should contain precise details of the builder, yourself, builder-buyer agreement, proof of payment, your particular grievance, property details, and the type of compensation you are seeking
- The court fee ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 5000 depending upon the value of the claim.
The consumer court you must approach depends on the valuation of the claim.
- If the value of the property/compensation sought is less than Rs. 20 lakh, you can approach the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum.
- If it is between Rs. 20 lakh and Rs. 1 crore, you can approach the State Consumer Commission.
- If it is above Rs 1 crore, you should approach the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission.
RERA appellate authorities have been set up in most Indian states. If your state’s RERA authority is in place, it may make sense to approach it before going to consumer court. The big reason for this is that cases need to be decided within 120 days. Moreover, RERA takes into account consumer interest and project completion dates, in addition to awarding compensation.
Filing a Complaint Against a Builder with RERA
- Visit the State Portal of RERA
- Find the Complaint Registration section and input the details of your grievance
- You are also required to enter your personal details and asked to attach evidence or documents to support your claim
- Fees usually start from Rs 1000 but can be Rs 5000 for an Adjudicating Officer.
The last option is Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), but the builder in question should be registered with this organisation.