The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, was enacted to create an equitable and fair transaction between the seller and the buyer of properties and enhance accountability and transparency in the real estate sector. The Act also seeks to boost investments in the sector. Tamil Nadu Government Notified the Rules on June 22, 2017.
Tamil Nadu Real Estate Regulation Authority (TNRERA), established under the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA), is the regulatory body for Tamil Nadu and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It has been one year since RERA became operational in Tamil Nadu. While the takeoff was shaky, as expected, it is slowly steadying and progressing, with much happening in the last few months.
As an organisation upholding the rights of consumers, CAG identified certain areas for improvement, which, in our view, is essential for better implementation of the RERA in Tamil Nadu. Most of these came from the Maharashtra RERA experience, which has been very successful from the beginning. In this regard, CAG is interacting with TNRERA for the past few months and our suggestions include:
- Authority to have a dedicated chairperson and members: At present, the Principal Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development, holds additional charge. Being a new legislation and considering the complexity of the sector, it is important to have a full-time chairperson, and members who will play an effective role in the successful implementation of the law.
- Conciliation process: Section 32 (g) of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016, provides for the Authority to take necessary measures to facilitate amicable conciliation of disputes between promoters and buyers. During one of CAG’s earlier discussions with the RERA officials, it was revealed that the Authority was taking a conciliatory approach in dealing with complaints. CAG insisted that the Authority perform its role as mandated by law, and not resort to conciliation. At the same time, CAG, appreciating the importance of conciliation, suggested that RERA considered appointing conciliators from Registered Consumer Organisations of longstanding and Builders’ Association, to deal with complaints (as is being successfully implemented by MahaRERA). Conciliation could be the first step when a complaint is preferred before RERA. If the builder or consumer does not prefer or is not satisfied with the decision, the matter shall be heard by the Authority.
- Suo Motu action: Authority should take suo motu action against builders for violation of the law. Details of the same should be made publicly available
- Builders' associations: It is imperative for builders to be appreciative of the law and what it entails. Builders should recognise the fact that the main role of the Authority is to streamline the sector. In addition, they should be aware of the fact that registered consumer organisations play a crucial role by helping them resolve matters amicably. Therefore, it was suggested that the department facilitate periodical meetings/orientation programs with builders and consumer organisations on a common platform, to build their knowledge about RERA and mutual trust, and ensure compliance as well.
- Consumer awareness Consumers should be made aware of RERA and the existence of the Authority to deal with housing complaints. This should be well publicised through media and awareness programmes. Also, it is important for all stakeholders - consumers, consumer organisations, RERA officials, and builders' associations to take part in these awareness programmes as this will help in promoting transparency and trust.
- Website: TNRERA has a functional website which helps in direct civic engagement. Property buyers can view the list of registered projects, registered agents, rejected applications and defaulters in the website that will help them take prudent decisions. All ongoing and proposed projects, above 500 sq. mts., are required to be registered with RERA. Another salient feature about the website is that it gives details about owners/promoters of buildings who, in response to the Authority’s notice advising to apply for project registration, had replied that their buildings were meant for own use and not for sale to the general public. The Authority warns public to take note of the fact that the promoters/developers of these projects are not authorised to sell any space in these projects, under Section 3 of Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016.
There is scope for further improvement of the website and we suggested adding the following information, that would improve transparency and ensure wider reach:
Information in vernacular language;
Salient facilities/requirements (as under the Act) - for consumers and builders;
Cause list and case status;
Orders passed by the Authority, Tribunal; and
Statistics on number of complaints received; disposed of; and pending complaints.
In June 2018, CAG organised the first Consumer Guidance Seminar at Coimbatore, in association with Citizens Voice Club, where the TNRERA Secretary (Projects), consumer organisations, consumers, builders’ associations, and the media participated. The next seminar has been planned for July 2018 at Erode. To give due credit, TNRERA has made improvements to its website by posting judgments of the Appellate Tribunal and the Authority. It should be understood that the Authority has started posting information in vernacular language in the website even while writing this piece.
We sincerely hope that TNRERA will continue to progress in the right direction so that the spirit of the legislation is upheld and consumers' interests are protected.