Before investing your hard earned money in a house, make sure you have chosen a reputed builder

After staying in a leave and license accommodation for many years, an enthusiast dreaming to have his own house, eventually bought a flat in Borivli by taking a home loan. Since shifting was a priori­ty to save the dual cost of the lease rental and the loan repayment on his new pur­chase, he readily signed a letter stating that he was be­ing given the keys to his flat by the builder pending the completion of the building for carrying out furniture work

Initially, the tanker wa­ter provided by the builder was quite sufficient for the few families residing in the building. However, there was soon an influx of buy­ers shifting into their newly purchased flats under simi­lar circumstances, and the water supply began to fall short of their requirements. When repeated requests to the builder for getting the occupation certificate (OC) fell on deaf ears, the flat buyers got together, organ­ised a signature campaign and sent a formal letter to the builder asking for imme­diate action. Imagine their shock when all of them received identical letters in reply from the builder's solicitors, informing them that since the keys had been provided only for making furniture, they had no right to reside in the building or make any demands whatsoever

Several months of alle­gations and counter allega­tions followed, after which the residents discovered that the builder had constructed more flats than he had been permitted in a previous proj­ect, which was why their OC was being held up. Ultimately, the addition­al FSI was adjusted against a new project by the same builder and after waiting for more than four years, the building finally received the OC.

However, not all such stories have happy endings. There are numerous in­stances where flat buyers are languishing without the OC for over a decade, receiv­ing a limited supply of wa­ter from the Municipal Corporation on “Hu­manitarian grounds” (and paying twice the normal charge for this privilege). Il­legal constructions have been a standard fixture in the Mumbai & Thane residential property market for quite some time now. These are buildings where you can get a flat at a price that is substantially lower than the prevailing rate for the area, which makes them an ttractive proposition for first time buyers who are desperately trying to find a house that fits within their budget.

Adv. R. P. Rathod emphasize that while these structures have proliferated in a pattern similar to that of the unauthorized slums, there is a basic difference, you can put up a slum over a single weekend, but a building takes several months. So why doesn't the Municipal authorities have a system for monitoring con­struction activity and put­ting an immediate stop where permissions have not been granted? He also feels that the large number of clearances required while putting up a building fur­ther compounds the prob­lem. With the numerous of­fices concerned spread across the city, unless if a builder has a separate de­partment in his office and makes the effort to comply with the requirements, it is just not possible to get clear­ances in time and the project gets delayed.

Adv. R. P. Rathod further states that Illegal work is the work that is car­ried on the plot where the construction cannot be done or alternatively the plans cannot be approved. Normally, building work com­mences with the regular one FSI construction.       During the course of construction, the developer or builder purchases the TDR and submits its revised plan to the Municipal Corporation for its approval. The approval takes a while and during this period the construction activ­ity cannot stop. This is the time-gap wherein some of the construction is added and the plans are yet to be ap­proved for additional floors by the Corporation.

The pro­visions within the Municipal rules state that if the con­struction is within its rules and regulations and permis­sible FSI, the construction has to be approved. This means that with the help of TDR purchase, a few floors can be added. So a technical delay in getting approvals for such plans cannot be consid­ered as illegal construction. There are provisions in the BMC rules to allow such work by imposing a double fine, he says.

However, not all builders pay the fine and not all situ­ations are as easy to resolve either the problem is that not every pending OC case is a high-profile one with blatant violation of FSI norms or over-construction of floors by two to three times the permitted number. It could be just one item like pending agricultural land tax, which is holding up the OC. In most such cases, the person who owned the land did not pay the tax and now the fine levied is 40 times the origi­nal amount, he says.

While there is no easy solution for people who have already purchased flats in such projects, Adv. R. P. Rathod cautions new flat buy­ers against being lured by just the price of a project. Stressing that it is impor­tant to verify the builder’s track record and reputation he advise Mumbaikars & Thanekars to only go in for projects by reputed construction companies. The extra amount paid per square foot is well worth it in terms of the peace of mind in the years that fol­low. If flat buyers are not vigilant, their dream home could end up being a nightmare concludes Adv. R. P. Rathod.