Maharashtra close to setting up housing regulator

Three years after it announced the plan, Maharashtra has revived the proposal to set up a housing sector regulator and appellate tribunal.

The state would complete the formalities to establish a Housing Regulatory Authority (HRA) and Housing Appellate Tribunal (HAT) in a month, housing department officials said on condition of anonymity.

The Union government, which is setting up a national real estate regulator, has allowed Maharashtra to constitute its own.

In July 2012, the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government got the Maharashtra Housing (Regulation and Development) Bill, which provided for a housing sector regulator, passed by the assembly. It was meant to replace the Maharashtra Ownership Flats (Regulations of Promotion of Construction, Sale, Management and Transfer) Act, 1963. Key provisions of the bill involved the establishment of the HRA and HAT.

Maharashtra was then the only state to propose its own housing sector ombudsman. However, the bill required presidential assent since it had several punitive provisions to imprison builders found guilty of cheating home buyers. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre asked Maharashtra to put its bill on hold as it was coming up with its own bill to form a regulator.

After coming to power in 2014, the Narendra Modi government reviewed the UPA’s Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013, and proposed some amendments. The bill is now pending with the Rajya Sabha.

A state official said the Union urban development ministry, headed by M. Venkaiah Naidu, had given its go-ahead to the enactment of Maharashtra’s bill.

“Since the bill has already been passed by the state legislature, we only need to carry out the procedures to form the HRA and HAT. We have initiated the process,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said the centre’s bill is unlikely to be passed by the Rajya Sabha anytime soon since the Congress is opposed to the amendments made by the Modi government. “The legal situation on both these bills has not changed. Whenever the centre is able to convert its bill into a law, it will nullify Maharashtra’s Act. But till that happens, we have been allowed to implement our bill,” the official said.

Another official, also on condition that he is not named, said the state government had followed up with the centre for speedy clearance of Maharashtra’s Act after reports that the builders’ lobby had successfully managed to scuttle the move.

Under the Act, HRA and HAT would have quasi-judicial powers to regulate the real estate sector and hear grievances. Once the HRA is in place, it will be mandatory for all realty developers to register with the authority. They will need to submit all information about their upcoming projects to the authority. The same will be uploaded on the HRA website.

If a prospective home buyer is keen on conducting an on-site verification of this information, the HRA can direct the developer to arrange for this within eight days of the buyer’s request being filed. Any violation of the Act makes a developer liable for penalty or imprisonment of up to three years or both.

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