Monday, February 27, 2012

Entangled and entrapped

What does a customer do when after 5 or 6 years of booking an apartment he/she finds out-
1. possession is delayed beyond agreed date?
2. The project specifications, features and designs as shown in the brochure are totally different on the ground?
3. The super area of the flat has been increased by the builder without giving any justification of calculation of the increased area, as the carpet area is still same or less than what was shown in the brochure?
4. Costs that were never part of sales consideration have been priced in at the time of the possession and the builder is not willing to give any justification of how he arrived on those costs?
5. Not only is the builder charging extra he is not even paying any penalty on delay in possession?

This happens every day in Real estate industry. They would not reply to any phone calls, they would not write back to emails, if they do it would be about everything that you did not ask in your query. When you go to their office they will say sorry actually it is humanly impossible to write back to every customers query as we have 6000 customers or 10000 customers.....but these very people would be able to handle all paper work related to demanding installments from all 6000 customers and even send reminders....so basically they have human capacity for one way communication, but no capacity for answering our queries, another reason for this is actually they do not have answers...!!
If we take a closer look at the above situations you will see, that the builder even after the date of possession has elapsed advertises in the local or regional newspapers that the possession is going to be offered shortly. Thus giving customers false hopes. The customer when tries to reach the customer care department, he is given a standard reply that within a month or max two months the work would be complete and exaggerates the number of work force employed to execute the project. since this is verbal assurance the customer does not have any proof of the number of times the customer care lied to him. Tired and exasperated when the customer finally distraught by the false claims reaches the head office of the company he is shown in to a manager who volleys a number of excuses as to why the delay is happening....and no....some are really good...sir, the delay is cause there was flood in Thailand and we are importing the bricks from Thailand that is why the work got delayed......sir, you must have heard of the farmers agitation they are almost every day campaigning to stop development work at site.....Sir, as you would know there was earthquake in New Zealand and we were importing faucets and sand from there.....over and above sir, we know we have to pay penalty for delayed possession so we do not want to delay and want this project to finish so that we can fulfill our commitment.....these are some of the excuses you all will find the highest, middle or lower management of the builder would give you.....yes, thinking the final installment would incorporate the amount that the builder would have to pay as penalty for delay in possession and with the assurance that this would be a matter of max 6 more months only , again with verbal assurances the customer comes back home and starts to recalculate his present situation in which he is paying rent and bank EMI...hoping the trauma would end soon as the manager had said.
On expiry of the given assurance for possession, instead of the letter for possession the customer gets a letter that announces for the first time the increase in SUPER area and also the subsequent additional money that the customer has to shell out towards the booked apartment ( as all costs are build in on the super area). When the customer asks for answers on this subject, he is again given standard and stern reply to quickly deposit the said amount or the interest would get compounded on it. with each passing day the customer is left with no choice but to pay this additional demand, knowing that already he has paid everything and now if he cribs he might loose every penny that he has invested in his dream home. the risk of loosing his apartment and the high interest cost weigh heavy on his mind and to avoid any risks to his investment, even though he has not logical answers from the company he pays for the fear of loosing his home.
As the slow ground work continues and the possession keeps being deferred the project evolves to look at what it would be, the parks are turned into parking area, or school sold to third party, even better DG stations etc, the fountain and gazebo simply disappear as it is site for newly launched 4 bhk in the same township. The kids playing area is converted into nursery school compounds or club area. As all the money is already deposited by the customer to the builder, the customers questions on change in design etc are all brushed aside with disdain and the Agreement is shoved at every drop of the hat...the agreement is drafted to take care of this certainty with clauses that clearly say that all plans are tentative and subject to the discretion of the builder and the civic regulatory authority. The fact is in the plans that the builder has sanctioned from the regulatory authority, these are the ones he is following the ones that were shown and formed the part of the brochure were all sales pitch....they were never going to constructed as the builder always had other plans which he submitted for approval.
Finally the Possession is offered and it is now that another set back takes place in the shape of the final settlement before handover of flat is going to happen. The final statement does not show any penalty that the builder owes to the customer for delay in possession, it has all cost heads that were in the agreement or were not included in the agreement but came into effect cause of the will and desire of the builder but no mention or hint of the penalty that was suppose to be given by the builder for delay in possession. In most cases the customer has already learnt from previous experiences of trauma that he had been encountering since becoming a helpless buyer of the apartment, quickly gives whatever amount is asked of him by the builder to get speedy possession. where the customer has still some energy left, he is made to run around from one executive to another, from one department to another, days and days, with no respite in sight, either he understands and pays the amount demanded or finds interest accruing on his last demand.
The only recourse that a customer in Indian real estate industry can hope is through the consumer courts that have been established to take care of interest of customers who pay for services and product. The consumer courts have been very effective in coming to the rescue of the helpless customer. The consumer courts have been established at all levels, District, State and National commission. Already a lot of consumers have found consumer courts helping them in seeking justice and that too at a faster pace then any other courts. The only hope for the entangled and entrapped consumer....the consumer courts!!!!!!!!!

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