A housing society in Andheri stands to gain over Rs 63 lakh with the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission asking the builders to compensate the residents for the steep water charges and property taxes they had been paying for the past 20 years because the building lacks an occupation certificate (OC).
A panel of presiding member PB Joshi and member Dr SK Kakade also held Jyoti Developers and Builders and Harishchandra Construction Pvt. Ltd guilty of deficiency in services since 1998, when the flats were handed over to the residents of Jyoti Avenue Co-operative Housing Society (CHS), located inside the famous Sher-e-Punjab Society.
Jyoti Avenue CHS will get Rs 50,03,967 for the property tax they have paid till now; Rs 6,56,805 on account of water charges; Rs 1,15,522 collected for formation of society; Rs 5,00,000 as compensation; and Rs 25,000 litigation cost. The builders have been also asked to obtain and hand over the OC and building completion certificate to the complainant.
In its complaint, Jyoti Avenue CHS claimed that the flats were handed over to the purchasers in 1998. But the builders didn’t form the society, forcing the flat buyers to form one on their own. Moreover, the flat buyers argued that the builders failed to obtain an OC and the building completion certificate, and didn’t provide them the conveyance deeds (the process of transferring the title, ownership and rights of the property).
While the Maharashtra Ownership of Flats (Regulation of the Promotion of Construction, Sale, Management and Transfer) Act, 1963, says it is the builders’ liability to pay property taxes till the conveyance is done, the society members also had to pay steeper water taxes (at commercial rates) to the BMC as their building doesn’t have an OC.
The builders, however, argued Anand Patwardhan that the firms had been dissolved. While they did not dispute the execution of agreements with the flat purchasers, they said that the complaint is time barred. They also contended that their liability to pay property taxes was only till the time they were in possession of the property and they were unable to obtain an OC as alterations were made by flat purchasers in violation of rules.
But the forum rejected the argument. “In most of the cases it is the defence of the promoter that the flat purchasers have taken the possession for furnishing or fit-out possession and continued in possession and have done some alteration which is not allowed and hence, Corporation is not giving occupancy certificate and building completion certificate. However, the promoter cannot take such defence for the simple reason that the law mandates that, he should not hand over possession to the flat purchasers unless he obtains building completion certificate,” the commission observed.
The forum further said that even after dissolution, the directors of partnership firms continue to be liable and therefore have to pay up.
Rough estimates suggest that around 56,000 buildings in the city don’t have OCs.