Legal Options For A Home Buyer Who Is Forced To Take Possession In A Project Without OC
Irrespective of their size, brand and reputation, several developers offer possession of homes even when the projects are yet to receive an occupation certificate (OC) - a document that states a building is fit for habitation. Growing impatience among buyers and perennial delays to get the documentation work done at public offices, are the prime reasons why even big builders resort to such illegal acts. What should a buyer, who is aware that taking possession of a unit sans the building getting an OC is not only illegal (your ownership of the property becomes questionable; you risk eviction, face penalty and can be denied utilities) but highly unsafe (the building might have structural or operational flaws) do when a developer arm-twists them into accepting possession of such a flat? There have been several instances in the recent past where builders have forced property possession on homebuyers without the latter willing to do so in the absence of project OCs. Amrapali, Jaypee, Unitech, etc., have done so. Here are some of the options available to such an aggrieved home buyer.
Under the provisions of the realty law, developers are obliged to obtain an OC before handing the unit over to buyers. Offering possession in a project for which, the application for an OC is still being processed is a breach of the real estate law and a buyer has every right to move the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) in his state to seek relief.
Note that all buildings that are yet to receive an OC, would be considered as under-construction. So, your plea would certainly be admitted in case your state has an operational RERA. Authorities in some states including Maharashtra and Haryana have also shown their willingness to offer relief in cases where a project is too small to fit under the purview of the law.
In case your state is yet to have a fully-operational real estate authority ─ West Bengal, for instance, has entered into a legal tussle to enact its own version of the central law and is far from having an authority that could work as yet ─ there are other platforms you could approach.
Move the consumer court
Recently, the Maharashtra State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission offered relief to a Titwala-based homebuyer who was pressed into taking possession of the flat without OC. State laws give consumer forums the authority to take up the matter and provide relief to the aggrieved party. Since the state commission works through a three-tier system, a consumer has to first move to the district level court and then approach the state and the national forums if he is not satisfied with the orders of the lower courts. Value of the property also determines whether or not you can approach the apex body directly.
Lodge an FIR
A homebuyer could lodge an FIR against the builder under Section 405 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with 'criminal breach of trust.' Following this, an arrest warrant could be issued against the developer and he could be tried in court.
“In case the police refused to lodge the complaint, the homebuyer can also seek relief from the court under Section 156(3) of the IPC which authorises courts to direct the police to lodge an FIR,” points out Prabhanshu Mishra, a Lucknow-based criminal lawyer.
You may like to read: All You Need To Know About Partial Occupancy Certificate