It’s been more than a month since the real estate regulator was set up in Maharashtra. How has the experience been so far in terms of establishing the authority, and addressing the issues of developers and agents?
Bringing in something that has never been under any regulation, to a regime of regulation, would certainly have the pain of transition. Especially because in the transitory phase you have projects that have been continuing in the previous unregulated regime and in the new Act they have been defined as ongoing projects; so they will have to make the necessary changes so that they can get into the regulatory regime. So there would be a gestation period required for this adjustment. By and large, my interactions with various stakeholders have shown that they are gearing-up for this. Obviously, one feels that especially for ongoing projects there is a window of 90 days, but then if you put yourself in their shoes, you would realize that it may not be that easy.
You were in a situation prior to 1 May 2017 where there was absolute information asymmetry. As a homebuyer, you used to struggle to get whatever information you rightfully should have got, because you are the buyer. From that sort of situation you are moving to a situation where all that information, and much more than what homebuyers usually used to get earlier, is going to be available for everybody to see. That can be quite a disquieting feeling for a person (Developer). And then you start becoming extra cautious in trying to share that information; in the sense that you require huge amount of preparation before you actually go out for registration with all that information. So that is well understood.
How many projects and agents have come forward for registration?
If I compare Maharashtra with the other states in the country, we are way ahead. As of 8 June, more than 1,200 agents have got registered. Projects are presently moving at the rate of one per day; so about 27 projects have applied and about 20 projects have been cleared. Information on them is available on our website www.maharera.mahaonline.gov.in. My expectation would be that this goes up to 10 per day soon and then 100 per day, so that we have the database with us.
Once all information is made available on the RERA website, how will it help homebuyers?
An empowering mechanism will come out of this. When all the projects get registered, a buyer can go to the website and check out all the available projects; see the credential of the developers and their 5 years performance; see what type of tenements, facilities and amenities are available in each project; and then take an informed decision. And thereafter, monitor the progress of project from the regulator’s website, without having to visit the site. So, it is an empowering mechanism.
And thereafter, right from the decision to enter into a project to signing the agreement on a format—which has also been laid down—to the completion of the project, everything gets monitored by the buyer, by the whole world, and by the people who are interested in the project. And at any point of the time if there is any deviation, any violation or any contradiction on the averments made by the developers, then any aggrieved person has the facility to make a point on this.
This will bring huge improvements in the sector. Therefore, it is not merely a regulation of the sector, it’s actually, as the Act suggests, a development Act too. And history has shown that whenever a sector is brought under this sort of regulation which is facilitating, bringing in transparency and efficiency, the sector has certainly improved. And that’s my conviction also that this sector certainly would improve. And actually we have always maintained that real estate is an industry, but it has never been an industry; we are actually now moving towards making real estate an industry.
Apart from providing information to homebuyers, how will RERA help policymakers?
At any point of time, you can see how many projects are going on, how many tenements will get delivered and in how much time. All this information used to be collected by various agencies and consultancies—authenticity of which was not sort of verified. Here, all that information will be available. Overall, how will the sector perform? Is the supply slowing down, improving or maintaining its level? How is the industry responding to various incentives of the government towards affordable housing? Are these measures enabling the private sector, which is the major contributor to housing, but has not contributed much to the affordable segment? Are they moving to affordable segment from the luxury segment? Such information would be there for analysts and people who suggest measures to government on what more can be done. These are some of the by-products, apart from bringing in transparency in the sector.
What is your advice to developers and agents who are coming up for registration?
No, we are not advisers. We are here to guide them through the process of registration. If someone has any difficulty, they can come down to our office. We have people here with scanners, we will help you upload the things that you are required to upload. But the data, information and documents that you are required to provide is yours. We can’t help you there. I can’t tell you what is your name, address, details of projects and various other details.
From homebuyers’ perspective, by when can they explore the regulator’s website to find the out details of registered projects and agents?
The Act is in effect from 1 May. So it applies to new projects since then. For an ongoing project, there is a 90-day window. From 1 August, both ongoing and new project be registered. So, if a homebuyer complains that a particular project should have been registered with the regulator, but is not, that complaint can only be entertained after 1 August. So a person can bring such cases to our notice but it will not be treated as a complaint. It will be treated as source of information about violation of a provision of the Act . We will then take action accordingly. For now, one can visit the site and register complaints or collect information about registered projects—all these services are active.
Recently it was reported that MahaRERA imposed its first penalty on an agent. Can you briefly tell us about that?
In the initial part of this whole thing, there will be lot of issues that will come out of ignorance. But then, unfortunately in our country ignorance is not an excuse for any person. The case was brought to us by someone and after going through it, we observed that it could have swayed the people and they could have made a wrong decision based on it. So we have asked them to be extra cautious about the Act, and as per the provision of the Act we passed the order. We are also circulating that order to all the registered agents so that they are also careful. I am sure it will serve as an example for others.