The dream of owning a house of their own in Bengaluru has turned into a nightmare for many families, a majority of who are middle-class. Not only has their hope of owning a home come under a cloud, they are getting sued for defaulting on their loans for a home that does not exist.
In 2014, Mantri Developers, a known name in the real estate sector, had published advertisements of a scheme where buyers had the option of paying a down payment of 20% with the remaining 80% paid through a bank loan serviced by EMIs.
The project, named Mantri Webcity and located on the Hennur Main Road near Southern Asia Bible College in north Bengaluru, was marketed as a web themed township.
What lured the buyers was that Mantri promised to pay back the EMIs for the first three years before the possession of the flat as part of the agreement after receiving 20% of the cost upfront from the buyers. Moreover, buyers also had the option of choosing to sell their property at the end of three years and get double the amount invested. However, buyers were told that the home loan for this project should only be availed through Punjab National Bank (PNB), to which the buyers agreed
As promised by Mantri, the first group of apartments were set to be delivered by mid-2015, but much to their distress, buyers allege that even in March 2019 there has been little progress in the work.
Abhineeta Raghunath, whose father is one of the buyers, said, â€śNo work has happened since 2016. We often do not get a timely response from Mantri. Then there are customer care personnel who speak with us and give us assurances that the project will be completed by so and so date. But when asked to give it in writing, they never do that. This means that we are holding onto a hope which is constantly being shattered.â€ť
Abhineetaâ€™s family, like many of the buyers, took a loan of Rs 62 lakh to pay for the house and is now struggling to pay the EMI of Rs 60,000 upwards. There are many more such families, Abhineeta said, who have bigger loans and are now being held hostage with unaffordable EMIs.
She added, â€śNow after three years, 200 of us buyers have united and organised ourselves. We have filed 59 RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development) Act, 2016) cases. Some of us have filed cases against PNB too for paying the entire amount to Mantri against the Reserve Bank of India guidelines.
The latest date promised by Mantri for the project completion is March 2020, but the buyers claim that it is practically impossible for that to happen as there has been no progress since 2016.
As many of the buyers struggle to pay PNB the EMIs apart from having to pay rent for their current residence or make alternative arrangements elserwhere, they have been served legal notices.
â€śWe have been issued legal notices and threatened that our houses will be auctioned to recover the loan amount,â€ť Abhineeta said.
Ashish Gupta, another buyer, said that he has now been forced to engage a lawyer in Delhi to fight an arbitration case initiated by PNB against him.
â€śI, along with a couple of people, have launched a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. But Mantri is delaying the proceedings. At least now they have admitted that they have acknowledged our agreement and stated that they will eventually fulfil it,â€ť Ashish said.
Bengaluru-based lawyer Faizan Asad said the buyers can seek relief from the court. â€śAll the 200 consumers should file a police complaint against the builder and approach the High Court for relief by filing a writ petition based on these numerous complaints,â€ť he said.
He also said the buyers can approach the Competition Commission of India if the builder is a dominant entity in the market and is using his dominant position to the detriment of the buyers.
Snehal Mantri, director of the real estate company, admitted that there has been a delay of two years.
She said, â€śIt is nothing like that the project is not getting completed. It has got a little delayed as you know everybody in the industry has got delayed due to various factors. So now we are handing over in phases, which we have already committed. And it is nothing that the delay has gone beyond. But definitely, as per RERA, we will adhere to the dates as per RERA that we have already committed. This is the only project that has got delayed, tomorrow onwards you will see that the project is going in full swing.â€ť
She added, â€śI know the customers have got little irritated. But ultimately we have to complete the project as their dream home. The compensation will be as per our agreement which we anyway give it if there is a delay.â€ť