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RERA or consumer forum, where does one get relief?


A settled and well-oiled dispute settlement mechanism is the crux for restoring buyer and investor's confidence in the real estate market.

Till about mid last year, people had to mostly bank on consumer forums at the district, state or national level to get relief in cases of cheating. Since the consumer forums also deal with cases other than real estate, the time taken to arrive at a decision was not fixed.

Also, segmentation meant that only those cases where the relief sought exceeded Rs 1 crore could be referred to the National Consumer Forum. Those below Rs 1 crore but above Rs 20 lakh got the state consumer forum's eye and below Rs 20 lakh had to be referred to the district forum.

Though these forums, more often than not, have ruled in favour of the consumers, developers often challenged it in higher forums or even the Supreme Court. As the consumer forums were saddled, a dedicated real estate authority was conceived and the Real Estate Regulation Act came into existence.

Some states are yet to adopt the Act and in those cases, the consumer forum continues to be the only remedy. However, Maharashtra was among the first states to implement the RERA Act on May 1, 2017.

Though a progress as it clearly defines a lot of often looked over area, its scope is limited. For instance, the RERA authority will not deal with projects that got occupancy and completion certificate before July 1, 2017. In such instances, people will have to rely on consumer forums.

"RERA scores over the consumer forums as it is a dedicated authority and the disposal rate is better,"

RERA, however, hears all the petitions only in Mumbai and is in the process of establishing several benches in various cities.

"It will take another 1-2 years,"

The consumer forums, on the other hand, are present in all district headquarters and also have the track record of giving consumer-centric judgments.

Mumbai-property lawyer and RERA expert advocate Sashikant Kadam feels that the (RERA) authority is also quickly gaining experience as it has given over 500 judgments since coming into effect.

"RERA also provides consumers' insights into the developer's past 5-year track record and outlines all parameters such as saleable area and specifications. It arms the consumer with the knowledge not available before,"

Also under RERA, an agreement-for-sale has to be registered once a developer receives 10% of the initial (application) money. The law also provides for conciliation between parties before the matter is litigated. In cases, where RERA assistance has been sought and is applicable, the method of conciliation has been much sought after.

"The authority has been swift in handling complaints and delivering verdicts. But it was observed that many complaints were finally withdrawn after the complainant and respondent reached an agreement," RERA states in its website.

But when one feels that RERA verdicts need to be challenged, they have done so by going for an appeal or approaching the high court.

The national forum, on the other hand, is one but last step and matters adjudicated by the it can only be challenged in the Supreme Court. Also, the consumers can make a


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