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What can a property buyer do to fix maintenance issues?

Real EstateBy Ayuni / 25/01/2021


What can a property buyer do to fix maintenance issues?

Maintenance issues continue to plague many high-rise societies. Poor building construction quality and faulty fittings are across many such societies in India. Buyers need to perform pre-possession due diligence before buying.

A high-rise society offers a bundle of amenities within its premises to residents. Be it security, lifts, uninterrupted water and electricity supply or other facilities such as a park or a gym to give a sense of comfort to residents.

For residents to continue enjoying these services, maintenance plays a vital role. Without efficient maintenance, it becomes difficult to sustain services for which one buys a house in a housing complex.

Across India, maintenance agencies are hired to take care of the upkeep of a housing society. A facility manager oversees and ensures that everything is working fine and services are not hampered.

However, the quality of maintenance often remains a key issue of dispute between the builder and buyers. In case a society fails to upkeep the maintenance what exactly can residents do?

Joseph Reddi, senior vice president (Operations), Knight Frank India, suggests, “Pre-possession inspection is very important. First time the developer checks it and then when it is ready for handover everything related to construction related defects, fire fittings and other installations need to be checked. Snags like small holes or cracks are bound to be there, but fundamentals related to construction quality cannot be ignored”.

“If the construction quality is not good or there is a design defect then even the facility management can’t do much. Because of that, there are tussles between the agency and residents. So, buyers should do due diligence before possession,” explained Reddi.

Completion Certificate and Occupancy Certificate are two important approvals that a society has to take before possession is offered to residents. However, residents of several housing societies complain of faults in the fire equipment, lifts, common area facilities and other issues.

Abhilash Pillai, partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas says, “Regulators are supposed to inspect the buildings and ensure it is fit for occupation before giving a completion or occupancy certificate. These certificates have a disclaimer that under law we do not have any liability towards this building. Hence, even regulators are not enforcing this properly. Consumers are forced to take possession as and when they are offered.

The RERA legislation talks about five years structural defect warranty but this still needs to be tested and evolved by the courts. Buyers should inspect the building before taking possession and ask the builder to correct any defect they find. Those who have taken defected possession can go to consumer courts and seek redressal of their issues”.

A south-India based company conducts home inspection during the buying process and prepares a report for buyers before the house is occupied or possession is accepted.

Sudhindra Naib, CEO, HomeInspeKtor, explains, “We prepare a 360-degree inspection report of the house and check flooring, blemishes, electrical and plumbing fittings etc. To determine the house quality, we have thermal cameras to check the moisture within the wall which cannot be seen with naked eyes. The house inspection report contains photos, issues and a to-do list which a buyer can take to the developer and ask him to fix it. Several developers in Bengaluru have welcomed this report and are ready to rectify the defects after seeing the report.”

A faulty inspection by regulators at the time of giving approvals lead to bigger problems at later stages. A faulty construction creates problems for residents who ultimately end up in legal forums to get these addressed. This is a common problem across many cities in the country. Buyers’ awareness is vital to inspect a building they are going to inhabit and get the same inspected before accepting possession. One can do it themselves or if possible, hire an expert to check the quality of the building.