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Legislation or regulation?

What is the need for ensuring quality real estate in India, wonders K. SUKUMARAN

“25 people dead and 170 injured in multi-storeyed residential building collapse”

“Many caught under the debris of collapsed building”

“….Another apartment building is leaking profusely with the onset of monsoon”

“Large-scale deviation from approved plans; builder booked”

Media headlines like these are common in our country now-a-days. Close on the heels of such reports, one can find statements from the concerned Minister or officials to the effect that legislation is in the offing to make builders responsible.

Who is to blame?

The intention of the media in focusing on socially relevant issues cannot be termed witch hunting. Nor it can be called an attempt to find scapegoats. The basic object is to bring to light the laxity in administration and to prevent repetition of such incidents.

In the case of buildings - residential or commercial - it is the promoter or the builder who has to bear the responsibility, apart from the officials responsible, for enforcing the guidelines covering the construction work.

Some of the glossy pre-launch advertisements and billboards to market apartments and villas will run thus:

Designer Flats; World class facilities; Five star ambience; Paradise beckons you; Unmatched amenities; Address of Royalty; Luxurious living.

None of the ads contain quality of construction, details of materials used, life of the building, post-occupancy maintenance, compensation for inadequacy of any kind and so on.

It is evident from the innumerable incidents of building collapses, deaths and injuries to people that there are serious lapses on the part of the developers and builders. Conditions appended to the approved plans often remain on paper and even a copy thereof may not be displayed in the premises.

The officials responsible for supervision do not often take the matter seriously. Each time a ghastly incident takes place, a ‘detailed’ enquiry will be conducted and based on its recommendations some new guidelines will be issued.

Legislation or strict supervision?

It is common knowledge that legislation is necessary to lay down legal framework for enforcement. Moral and clean standards in public life are the prime needs of public accountability. Policing is also often necessary so that rules are not given a go by. Both are absolute needs of a non-corrupt democracy.

As regards the real estate field, in order to protect the interests of the consumers, regulation of promotion, construction, sale and management are utmost needs for healthy growth of the sector.

Being primarily a State subject, the States have to pass necessary legislation. The Karnataka Ownership of Flats (Regulation of Promotion, Construction, Sale, Management and Transfer) Act, 1972, deals with the rights and responsibilities of promoters and purchasers.

The HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Act) has more teeth than many other State legislations and the purchasers of apartment houses have won certain significant legal battles against the promoters/ builders under this Act.

Most of the legislations deal with fundamental requirements such as title to the property, legal opinion, approved plan, clearance from different authorities for occupation, maintenance, tax-paid receipts and such other documents. Similarly, approvals for changes in plans and specifications too are dealt with.

As it happens, in many cases, the promoters leave the numerous maintenance problems to the purchasers of apartments/ready built houses in gated communities, despite collecting deposits for future upkeep/maintenance and common amenities.

In order to eliminate all inadequacies, the Urban Development Ministry is reported to have circulated a draft bill to the States. The legislation intends to set up a Regulatory Authority to oversee the real estate sector as a whole, on the lines of telecom and insurance.

Some of the major areas requiring legislations are: Registration of promoters/ builders; code for advertisements and sales promotion; construction norms and quality standards.

Strict surveillance

More than the legislation, supervision over construction and implementation of other terms and conditions by the proposed authority is required to be ensured, laying down punitive penalties for non-compliance/deviations. As we all know, legislation is paper whereas compliance is ensured by the people in authority.

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