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Legal options for retail investors when builder delays possession

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According to JLL’s Ramesh Nair, buying retail space is a huge investment, which is why commercial real estate has been traditionally seen as an asset class that only institutional investors or heavyweight HNIs could invest in. However, very few of the world’s commercial real estate markets have undergone such a dramatic and rapid change in such a short span of time as India’s has. The next few years will see a quantum spurt in the services and knowledge sector, opening up tremendous opportunities for the retail investor.

Legal Process for a Dispute between Builder and Buyer

Here’s a basic questionnaire for all retail investors before they put money in their first commercial space:

  • Did you approach a real estate lawyer while booking your first retail space under prelaunch?
  • Did you bother to read the agreement of terms and conditions your builder presented to you at the time of purchase?
  • Did you clarify with the builder about the remedies if the builder does not adhere the timelines?

Perhaps a “No” for all the questions above. Unfortunately, Murphy’s law has taken effect, and you are wondering why did you not considered these options before buying. Even if you have been after a commercial property or a retail space, delay in delivery hits your pocket same as it has hit large number of home buyers.

Don’t worry though, no one can change what has already happened, but surely the future is still in our hands.

Law is on the right side of the issue, and multiple legal options are open to you if you are a victim of builder delays in completion of your house.

  1. Consumer Forum vs. High Court

Any dispute between a builder and buyer is resolved as a consumer dispute. Unlike civil disputes which go to a local court and then up to the Supreme Court, consumer disputes are resolved by consumer courts.

There are three levels of consumer courts in our country:

  1. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Court (DCDRC)
  2. State Consumer Disputes Redressal Court (SCDRC)

The court of your choice will depend on the value of the property at the time of purchase. Usually, property values are more than Rs. 20 Lakhs, thus the lowest consumer court you will start with is the SCDRC, and if the builder disputes the decision, it’ll move up the ladder; i.e. NCDRC and then Supreme Court.

The more levels your case has to climb, the longer your wait has to be for an outcome. That is why most lawyers will ask you to file your case in a quorum, so that total value may exceed Rs. 1 crore and the total time can be less.

  1. Find A Good Lawyer

Finding a good lawyer could be difficult if you are the only consumer looking for one. But since in real estate cases, it’ll be highly unlikely, you can join in with other groups. But just in case you wish to file an individual case finding a lawyer can be easier with the help of portals like LawRato.

You can connect to the prominent property lawyers in your city in a matter of minutes and get a free consultation before you can make up your mind.

  1. Involve a lawyer for your dealings with the Builder

If you are not an existing buyer but are actively seeking a real estate for yourself, involving a real estate lawyer is highly recommended. With RERA being effective in 14 states and union territories, your lawyer can help you understand the contract and conditions better.

It is important to understand your rights under the contract so that you can track the builder’s performance. Even if you are in the middle of the contract and the due date for possession seems far away, given the history, better consult a lawyer soon.

  1. Understand pros and cons and Set Clear Objectives from the legal process

In any consultation with an expert first thing you should understand is your objectives. Similarly, in legal proceedings as well, you need to decide the outcome you want from all the efforts. It’ll help the lawyer present your case with a clear objective.

Also, legal processes take time. Thus a clear objective helps. Additionally, you need to understand what will be acceptable to the builder and the fastest way could be an out of court settlement.

There are only two options for you to look for:

  • Get your money back with interest for the period
  • Get the possession of the apartment

If the builder disputes the judgment of consumer court, he’ll try to go to the higher court, which creates a time-gap before a final decision. Therefore, try to understand the builder’s perspective for both if you’d like a quicker settlement. And your real estate lawyer will be the best person to consult for the same.