THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It has been a year since the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act came into effect but Kerala is yet to finalise the rules and constitute the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), a product of the Act. The delay has rendered the legislation meaningless, and the government receiving flak from the stakeholders, including home-owners and builders, for its failure to clean up a sector which often sees dubious players cheating the customers, bringing bad name to it. As per the Act, the government should constitute a multi-member RERA and an appellate authority in the rank of a High Court judge. But the government has not even held deliberations with the stakeholder organisations including the Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Associations of India (CREDAI) and the Apartment Owners' Apex Association on finalising the rules despite the fact that it is a rare piece of legislation which both the sides welcome. They allege that the government does not show the importance it deserves.
It is pointed out that the delay in operationalising the Act is due to technical issues as the state had earlier passed a state Act in this regard (Kerala Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act - 2016) and also framed rules. But the central Act came into effect afterwards and hence the state Act had to be repealed and fresh rules need to be framed on the basis of the central Act. Though the state had appointed the previous local self government secretary B. Ashok as an interim chairman of the Authority a few months back, the body remained defunct as not members were appointed. But Mr. Ashok was transferred from the post, though he is continuing as the chairman by default. The previous government had appointed S. Ajayakumar, the former chief town planner, as RERA chairman and the customers took the body as a legitimate platform to raise their grievances. The authority was inundated with complaints from the consumers which proved the need for such an authority.
Both customers and builders are positively looking forward to the formation of the authority to become legally empowered. While the consumers feel that once the authority becomes effective many fictitious builders would not be able to fleece customers, builders' associations say that once the authority becomes functional the genuine builders would get more credibility. "Unfortunately the Left government is neither serious on implementing the Act nor forming the laws as the stakeholders have never been consulted," CREDAI secretary-general S.N. Reghuchandran Nair told DC. "They have really not applied their mind. We met the local self government minister K.T. Jaleel's office but he directed us to the Chief Minister's office. No favourable action has come from any of the offices."
Once the authority is legally empowered, all builders have to register with the authority and all new projects would also have to be registered with it. This would make the builders more accountable. Recently a leading builder belonging to Thiruvananthapuram duped 194 flat owners at Paippinmoodu where it was officially launched in 2010. One of the flat-owners revealed to DC the shocking news that the alleged builder had pledged the 194 flats without their knowledge. "We wonder how is it possible for the builder to pledge it before Kerala State Financial Enterprises once he handed them over to its owners," said the flat owner on condition of anonymity. "None of the flat-owners is keen to go for civil case against the builder as it will take another 20 - 25 years for them to get justice. The long time courts often take to decide such cases in fact has given the builders an escape route leaving little hope for the customers."
Another flat owner in the same apartment complex told DC that none of them is able to avail loan from banks for their children's education or marriage requirements as the builder has already pledged their deeds. C.S. Vinod, working president of Apartment Owners Apex Association, says the governments show little concern for the customers. "The government has never bothered to call a meeting of the stakeholders under the RERA ever since the State's Act became null and void. More than a dozen builders in Thiruvananthapuram have sunk without a trace with many of the projects being stopped," he pointed out.
Mr Vinod also said the only option left for the common man is legal route, which caused further delays. "The government must take up the issue in right earnest and establish the regulatory authority and ensure that the relief the legislation intended for the customers must be delivered." Unfortunately, all that one can see of the Authority are the name plate and board of the previous authority then headed by Ajayakumar that still hang outside at the Swaraj Bhavan office complex at Nandthencode here. Mr Ashok, who currently heads the Authority, also wants the rules should be formed at the earliest. "Builders are keen to have the Act implemented as that will help them to serve the consumers better," he told Dc. "We don't have the expertise in forming the rules which is causing the inordinate delay."