Rera’s conciliation forums act as a short cut for aggrieved buyers5 min read . Updated: 03 Sep 2019, 10:39 PM IST
- Rera’s conciliation forums are helping bring homebuyers and developers to the negotiating table
- All types of complaints—related to refund, compensation or possession—can be filed with these forums
After about nine years of booking a flat in Greater Noida, Ravi P., a maintenance engineer at the Delhi Airport, is hopeful of getting possession or at least a refund, thanks to the conciliation forum run by the Uttar Pradesh Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera). He was part of the recent “Conciliation Forum Meeting" organized by UP Rera, which came up with amicable solutions to 11 out of the 16 cases it heard.
Ravi approached UP Rera’s forum for a refund—he had paid 90% of the value of an apartment at Supertech Eco Village I in Greater Noida upfront in July 2010. “I requested for refund of the amount paid; however, officials told that most developers are going through financial constraints and it would be better if you opt for possession. When I said I can’t wait any longer, they asked the developer to give possession of the apartment by 30 September 2019 or refund the money with interest," said the 42-year-old, who approached the forum in July this year.
Ravi is among thousands of aggrieved homebuyers, and conciliation forums are a ray of hope for them. However, not all real estate authorities in the country have conciliation forums yet. Maharashtra Rera and UP Rera are among the few state authorities that have launched such forums. In fact, Maharashtra Rera was the first to start a conciliation forum in February 2018. UP Rera launched its conciliation forum on 31 December 2018. We tell you what these forums are, whether they work and how you can approach them.
What are these?
Conciliation forums are like softer tools Rera is using to bring the homebuyers and developers to the negotiation table instead of initiating formal court proceedings. All types of complaints—related to a refund, compensation or possession—can be filed with conciliation forums.
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, allows respective state authorities to develop mechanisms that benefit stakeholders. Forming conciliation forums is one such initiative. “MahaRERA conciliation forum has been set up in February/March 2018, in accordance with the provisions of Section 32(g) of the RERA Act," said Gautam Chatterjee, chairman, Maharashtra Rera.
Officers are especially trained to moderate the negotiation. “A detailed two-day training programme was held prior to the roll out of the conciliation forum. There are close to 20 benches of conciliation forums spread across Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur. Though around 1,000 conciliation requests were raised, a little over 500 grievances raised by homebuyers were accepted by promoters to be taken up for conciliation. Till date, close to 300 cases have been decided by the conciliation benches. On an average, nine out of every 10 cases decided by the conciliation benches have seen successful resolution. The remaining 200 are in various stages of hearing," said Chatterjee.
UP Rera, on the other hand, has two benches of conciliation forums—one for the NCR region and another for Lucknow. “Right now we have more than 600 applications lined up to be taken for conciliation forum. More than 100 cases have already been heard and 80% out of these were settled," said R.D. Paliwal, conciliator, NCR bench, UP Rera.
Meetings organized by the forums, typically, have representatives from the homebuyers’ association, developer associations such as Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai) and National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO), the builder, the buyer or his representative and a Rera officer or the conciliator.
If the forum fails to find an amicable solution, the case is referred or registered with Rera for further proceedings.
Do they work?
It is a known fact that various state Reras still lack the teeth to adjudicate cases. Even when some of them have passed orders, execution of the order has been an issue (read here.)
“Once the order is passed, it has to be executed by our agencies. These agencies involved several departments such as the collectorate, district magistrate, tehsil and so on. It is a cumbersome process and takes times. Moreover, in case of a few lakhs of claims, it is difficult to put real estate projects worth millions on auction. Conciliation is a solution that suits both aggrieved homebuyers and promoters and is acceptable to both; so execution is not a problem," said Paliwal.
Conciliation forums also tend to give solutions to homebuyers over a shorter timeline compared to a case registered with Rera. “In case of bench proceedings, it takes about four or five hearings to pass an order, whereas in case of conciliation forums, it typically takes one or a maximum of two meetings," said Paliwal. Ravi, for instance, got a solution in the first meeting and will hopefully get possession or compensation in about three months of first approaching UP Rera’s conciliation forum.
Ravi is happy with his decision to approach the forum. It is sans an advocate, cheaper, speedy and most importantly helps to bridge the trust deficit between the buyer (consumer) and the seller (promoter), added Chatterjee.
Developers, too, seem to be in favour. “In most instances where there is a problem between a homebuyer and the developer, an informal conversation tends to sort out differences. An aggrieved homebuyer wants a simpler solution—and that’s what conciliation forums offer—instead of going in for formal proceedings. It not only reduces legal hassles but also helps the ultimate goal of completing the project and handing over the possession," said Niranjan Hiranandani, national president, NAREDCO.
Consumer activists have also given these forums a thumbs-up. “It is better for a buyer to approach the conciliation forum first. This will help in amicable and quick resolution of complaints. However, with the authority playing the role of a conciliator in many states, it may lead to delay in disposal of cases," said S. Saroja, an activist with Chennai-based Consumer and Civic Action Group.
How to approach it
If you have a complaint, log on to the website of the relevant state’s Rera. The website will give you two options—to opt for a conciliation forum, or to file a formal complaint. “On our web portal, whenever an aggrieved buyer decides to file an online complaint, he is given a pop-up message informing him of the benefits of a conciliation mode of grievance redressal," said Chatterjee.
Once a complainant opts for the conciliation forum, the authority approaches the promoter against whom the complaint has been filed to find out if it is acceptable to him. If the promoter accepts the offer to settle the case in a conciliation forum, the authority provides dates for discussions to both the parties.
The fee to file a complaint with the conciliation forum is ₹1,000 in Maharashtra compared to ₹5,000 for a formal complaint. UP Rera charges a fee of ₹1,000 for both. It is not necessary to have an advocate to represent you in either mode of complaint but it is advisable to do so.
For homebuyers stuck in projects, conciliation forums seem to be a more viable option as of now. Weigh your options before taking the plunge.