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Dos & Don’ts for Fresh Flat Purchasers & Flat Owners

1. DON’T ACCEPT ANY UNLAWFUL DEMANDS OF THE BUILDER E.g. part payment in black-money, payment for parking space or common amenities, lock-in period during which you cannot sell the flat, transfer-fee payment to builder if you sell the flat before cooperative society is registered, and any payments where no receipt will be given. [If you knowingly engage in illegalities, you may not be able to protect your rights by going to Consumer Court or High Court if you are cheated by the builder.]

2. EVEN IF YOU DON’T NEED THE MONEY, APPROACH A BANK FOR A LOAN BEFORE YOU MAKE ANY PAYMENTS TO BUILDER. Even if you have the financial ability to purchase the flat by making full payment, please don’t do that. At least take some amount of loan (say Rs 10-15 lakhs) from a reputed bank, so that the bank uses its vast resources to check the credentials of the property. There is a greater chance that any shortcomings in the property such as litigation, property ownership, Occupation Certificate etc may be revealed (although not necessarily so, because in the case of big builders, banks are willing to overlook many shortcomings).

3. FILE RTI APPLICATIONS TO THE LICENSING AUTHORITIES. Get to know the status of construction and details like number of floors approved or FSI sanctioned from the local authority. This will save you from any major headaches in the future. [For example, if your flat is declared illegal and the court orders its demolition, then you will suffer a heavy loss. In an alternative scenario, you may have to pay the penalty which is one-third of the project cost.]

4. GET THE APPROVED PLANS AND MEASURE THE AREA. If you procure the approved plans from the local authorities, then you can ascertain the exact area and layout of the flat, instead of relying on the glossy brochures of the builder. Many flat purchasers find that their flat is considerably smaller than the area they are paying for!

5. DO NOT PAY FOR YOUR PARKING SPACE OR ANY OTHER COMMON AMENITY in the building as it has to be provided free of cost.

6. PAY STAMP DUTY. Always, without fail, get the sale deed promptly registered with stamp duty duly paid. Do not try to save money, even if you are thinking of re-selling this flat to someone else.

7. TAKE INITIATIVE TO FORM COOPERATIVE HOUSING SOCIETY IMMEDIATELY. When you move into a new building, minimize the duration of time that the builder is charging maintenance and managing the affairs. As soon as you have the minimum of 10 members in the building, please register a cooperative society, and start charging maintenance and collecting property taxes. Also, write formally to the builder try to get conveyance of the land at the earliest. For this, you do not require an NOC from builder. [If you don’t do this, the builder can take advantage by doing all of the following unlawful acts: (a) Charge monthly maintenance at exorbitant rates, often with inflated expenses towards lift maintenance, clubhouse etc. (b) Charge transfer fees from investors who wish to sell their flats at exorbitant rates e.g. Rs 15 lakhs, although the stipulated maximum in Maharashtra is only Rs 25,000 (c) Charge for sale of parking spaces etc. which lawfully belong to the Cooperative Society (d) Allow some flat-owners to build unauthorized structures such as garages in the compound, or enclose their parking spaces by building walls and partitions between stilts (e) Encroach on the compound, common amenities like clubhouse, passage, terrace, etc. and sell these spaces as extra-large flats, penthouse etc. (f) Set up a puppet managing committee by his own people, who will then take over your building’s affairs for years to come.]

8. NIP ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES IN THE BUD. After you move into a new building, if you see unauthorized structures being built in your compound, terrace etc, don’t wait for weeks and months before taking action. Approach the court immediately and get a stay order on such activities. Once the illegal structures are complete, it is easy for the builder to get a stay order on their demolition, and to eventually get it regularized.

9. PROMPTLY RESIST EFFORTS TO MAKE SURREPTITIOUSLY COMMON AMENITIES USABLE BY NON-OCCUPANTS IN THE BUILDING. Quite often, builders deliberately blur the lines between common amenities such as that belong to building cooperative society and those that belong to other buildings in the same compound but which are really independent plots. [For example, a single playground, clubhouse and swimming pool may be shown as exclusive amenities of several buildings, thus inflating the Super-Built-Up area of each flat. Such clubhouses etc. are managed by contractors appointed by the builder directly, who hires out these amenities as birthday parties etc. Later on, the builder may even close down the clubhouse and appropriate the land.]

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Also Read: Before you pay any money to a builder for a new flat, get copies of these documents

Posted in Activism, Governance & Administration, Right to Information, RTI Act 2005.

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