Published On : Tue, Mar 21st, 2017

Builders in Maharashtra can’t refuse flats to buyers over eating habits

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government will notify rules for a housing regulator in the state by next week after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis cleared the final draft on Tuesday with several changes after protests from housing activists.

For starters, the state government has included the key anti-discrimination clause, which will prohibit developers from discriminating against buyers on the basis of religion, caste, food preferences and so on, in its final rules. Violating these rules would amount to penalty.

The clause featured in the model rules published by the Union government, specifying that developers registering their projects with the housing regulator should submit a declaration stating that the promoter will not discriminate against any allottee at the time of allotment of any plot or building. However, the state’s draft rules, published in December, under the Centre’s Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, had no mention of such a non-discrimination declaration.

A housing department official said, “We had decided against including the clause in the rules initially, as the Constitution anyway provides for it. According to the Constitution, no person can discriminate against anyone on any grounds. However, there were objections to leaving out the clause from the rules, so we decided to include it.”

He said, “We will take the opinion of the law and judiciary department and then publish the final rules. After that, we will have to wait for the Centre to notify certain sections of the Act, after which the housing regulator in Maharashtra can come into force.” The Union government has given all states until April end to notify their rules.

Discrimination while renting out or selling a house is a major issue in Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai, with scores of people being denied houses because they are non-vegetarians, Muslims, bachelors, single working women or even on linguistic basis. In 2014, the general body of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) also passed a resolution, saying the civic body should stay construction of any residential project if the builder refuses to sell to any particular person based on caste, religion or food preferences. However, the BMC ultimately could not implement the resolution saying it is not part of the city’s development control regulation.

Besides introducing the anti-discrimination declaration, the state government has also made the rules more buyer-friendly in certain aspects, including rehabilitation buyers under the ambit of the Act in case they have a grievance with the developer. Even as a majority of development at least in Mumbai’s island city is through redevelopment, these buyers were originally left out of the draft rules.

Similarly, the state government in the final draft has made it mandatory for a developer to serve a 15-day notice to a buyer who defaults on an installment to terminate a flat purchase agreement, as against seven days specified in the draft rules. Also, as per the final draft buyers will have to pay Rs 5,000 to file a complaint with the housing regulator, while the draft rules set this fee at Rs 10,000.

After criticism about the registration rates for developers being too low, the state government has hiked these too, while lowering registration rates for brokers. While the Centre’s model rules call for a registration fee of Rs 10 per square metre for residential projects for land less than 1,000 square metres and Rs20 a sqm for land over that, the state’s draft had reduced this to one rupee and two rupees, respectively. The government has now brought it nearly on par with the Centre at Rs10 a sqm, with the amount varying from a minimum of Rs50,000 to Rs10 lakh.