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It’s a long drive home

The dark clouds hovering over NCR’s home buyers now have a silver lining, as some of their issues are being resolved in court. But by and large, possession is still not visible on the horizon

“It is nothing less than robbery,” says Raj Jha, an IT professional who was promised possession of his dream home by 2012. Six years have passed, he is still paying the EMIs but there are no signs of possession. He, like many other homebuyers in Delhi-NCR, is trapped in the cycle of an endless wait and false hopes.

He had a dream of having a house of his own but he had no idea that it would turn out to be a nightmare. For a lower middle-class family like that of Jha’s, transitioning from a two-bedroom rented apartment in Gurugram to owning a personal house in Amrapali (Dream Valley, Noida) at nominal rates proved too good to be true.

“A common man is lured with the promise of getting a finished possession at affordable prices. For someone like me who is the only earning member in a family of two school-going girls, paying the monthly rent and EMI (with no surety of getting the house) is a mental distress,” he says.

Jha feels hesitant whenever his colleagues or family members talk about how people got duped by the Amrapali group. He tries to evade such conversations because he does not want them to know that he too was tricked. He says that the Amrapali directors have defrauded people intentionally, adding that he is not expecting much from the government as Amrapali is being represented in SC by BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia.

In August, the Supreme Court warned the Amrapali Group of dire consequences if they fail to raise the money required to complete the unfinished housing projects. The bench directed the group to explain the diversion of funds and threatened to sell all their property to recover the cost of construction of its pending projects. Amrapali submitted details of all encumbered and unencumbered properties to the Court with its affidavit, claiming the value of the realisable assets at Rs 5,647 crore.

ENTER NBCC
The government, which committed to the mission of providing houses to all by 2022, has tried to solve the problem by handing over the work of construction to the public sector undertaking NBCC. He says, “The Amrapali group needs to comply with the court orders and NBCC have got to take up the projects to ensure completion. Money can be easily arranged for the completion of the projects from balance payments of the buyers and the control of that money should be with NBCC.”

Chetan Kapoor, after waiting for four years, wants his booking amount back. He booked a Supertech flat in Noida, which he was supposed to get within three years. The Subvention Scheme is a big catch, where if the builder doesn’t deliver, buyers will end up paying 100% to the bank since the loan is sanctioned under their names. But Kapoor did not know such minute details of the scheme and it was not even disclosed when he bought the house.

He was just content with the fact that builders had to pay the EMI on his behalf until he gets possession. Later, he found out that the flats were built on the green area, violating the sanctioned plan and so when asked about the refund, builders advised the buyers to swap their apartments with other sub-standard units, promising them possession by 2019.
Arora says he booked the ground floor apartment because of his elderly parents but clearly, builders left him with no other choice but to take whatever was available. Blaming India Bulls for financing the plan, he thinks it is the duty of the housing finance companies to ensure that the money they are lending goes in the right hands.

Buyers like him have already knocked at the door of NCDRC (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission) seeking a refund with interest. But apart from issuance of notices, nothing has been done at the ground level. So, he along with 250 other buyers are waiting for the implementation of the court’s judgement — asking Supertech to keep paying the EMIs, so that the homebuyers do not get a notice from the banks., But Arora says, “If the situation doesn’t improve, the buyers will undoubtedly approach the banks and make sure they are not paying for a property which doesn’t even exist.

TEMPTING OFFERS
Home buyer G Khan, who booked a Supertech (Ceyane) flat in March 2010, says that he was attracted by the Return on Investment scheme which was supposed to give him assured returns of Rs 28,500 after tax deductions, every month for 100 months.

After holding back for a few months, hoping that the situation would improve, he talked to the builders asking them to pay him half the amount, if not full, when his son was flying to Europe for education. But when they turned a deaf ear, he decided to file a petition.

As the exhausting judicial process came to an end on February 20, he managed to get half the refund after almost a decade. “Justice may have been delayed, but it hasn’t been denied. I have full faith in the judicial system and I believe that I will get the remaining amount with interest at the earliest,” he says.

Abad Miyan, a teacher at Jamia Millia Islamia recalls the day he reserved his flat under the Amrapali Adarsh Awas Yojana in December 2015. After coming across the Subvention plan where EMIs were to be paid by the Amrapali builders until they handed over the possession to the buyers, he was very sure of getting the possession latest by 2017.

But he realised he was misled after getting reminders from the bank to pay monthly interest since there was no agreement between the bank and Amrapali for the same. On the recent SC order for the seizure of Amrapali’s bank accounts and assets, Abad Miyan says, — “Jab inke bank a/c mein paisa hi nahin hai toh Court seize kya karega. (What will SC seize when there is no money in their bank account?)”

GROUP ACTION
Whenever he passes by the Amrapali building, he feels sad, thinking of the day he planned to get one of his own houses in the Leisure Valley which even after three years is under construction and has no floor plan. After giving up, he approached NEFOWA (Noida Extension Flat Owners Welfare Association) which is already representing 2,200 buyers and explained them his situation. Getting their hard-earned money back is a priority for buyers like Abad who have given up all hopes of acquiring possession of a house which hasn’t been constructed yet. He believes nothing will happen until the culprits are punished.

Now that the SC has come to their rescue, they believe that justice will be served. “Don’t play smart or we will render you homeless,” SC warned the Amrapali group, giving a sense of relief to the buyers. Some of them are still waiting for possession, while others are hoping to get the refund. Even after the turmoil they had to go through, there are homebuyers who have not lost hope in the judicial system.