Thursday, 26 April 2018

How Lodha Group exploits flat-buyers with crooked Terms & Conditions -- Case Study #1

Mumbai, 27 April, 2018: Here is a live example of how Lodha Group traps unwary flat-purchasers by imposing unfair terms and conditions. Kavita Shinde booked flat no. A401 in Casa Treetop in Lodha Upper Thane, located on Mumbai-Nashik Highway, and has been receiving extortionate demand letters to pay late-fees for a delay in payment, although she had not delayed any payment. 

Kavita booked her flat on 11th May, 2017 by paying Rs 90,000/-, and followed this up by paying Rs 3.17 lakhs on 5th June, 2017. As per the application form, the next "milestone" was executing the registered agreement. The third installment could become payable only after the registration.

Example of  Lodha Group's payment schedule, mentioned in the
Application Form. Quite often, these schedules mention
deadlines such as 45 days between consecutive payments.
Lodha Group delayed the registration until November. And then, just as Kavita was preparing to pay her next installment, she was surprised to receive a demand letter seeking late fees of Rs 40,000/- for delayed payment from July!

Such demand letters plainly show that
Lodha Group does not honour its customers
but treats them like slaves!

At first, Kavita thought that this was a genuine misunderstanding and tried to sort it out by communicating with the sales office and customer relations desk. But, despite all her communications, the customer relations desk continued sending her repeated demand letters. Only then did Kavita realize that this was a deliberate action, and not a misunderstanding.

Issue no. 1: Even while verbally accepting the delay from their side in registration of agreement, Lodha Group's office insist on payment of late fees first. They argue that the late fees may be adjusted later if their higher-ups permit. Kavita realizes that if she pays first, she will be at the mercy of Lodha Group. "Why should I pay late fees?" asks Kavita. "The registration delay was from their end! Whenever I called to enquire, they said they were waiting for some approval." But if she doesn't pay late fees soon, Lodha Group threatens to cancel her booking and forfeit her booking amount!

Issue no. 2: Kavita feels that she was overcharged. The rate that she paid was Rs 10,000/- per square foot, based on the market rate in Thane. However, the so-called Upper Thane project is located in Bhiwandi district, where the market rate is Rs 7,000/- per square foot. 

Issue no. 3: Despite false assurances by the sales team, Kavita hasn't till date received a xerox copy of the Application Form that she signed. Without a copy, she is unable to independently refer to the terms and conditions that the Lodha Group is holding her hostage to! (To understand how Lodha's onerous application forms are like traps for customers, read this article.)
Issue no. 4: Lodha Group is very eager that a loan company should start paying the installments, rather than Kavita herself. But Kavita is afraid of landing up in situations like this one, where a Lodha Aqua buyer was compelled to pay late fees due to the loan company's unwillingness to disburse loan installments without commensurate progress in construction.

As the higher-ups of Lodha Group cannot be approached by flat-buyers like Kavita, she struggles helplessly with sales managers, customer relations managers, etc, who keep passing the buck to their superiors.

Even in the post-RERA era, Lodha Group continues to follow rampant malpractices and unfair trade practices. Will flat-buyers like Kavita Shinde get justice?

Krishnaraj Rao

Other articles on Lodha Group

1) Lodha Group is defrauding flat buyers in Carpet Area

2) Lodha Fiorenza – Misleading RERA, Blindfolding Flat Buyers

3) How Lodha Group's "Application Form" Traps Unwary Customers

4) Measure your flat, Lodha Group has cheated you

5) Warning! Lodha Flat Buyers may face Income Tax Nightmare

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Taaza khabar! How Bhagtani Horizon allotees are fighting for their flats

Mumbai, 17th April 2018: Many significant developments are happening in the case of Bhagtani Horizon in Goregaon, which shows that (1) Mukesh and Lakshman Bhagtani are continuing to play an active role through RERA and courts although they are absconding from Indian law-enforcement agencies and courts (2) they are organizing their allottees through WhatsApp groups (3) they are registering Agreements of Sale where it suits them, and (4) RERA recently passed an order upholding the right of Bhagtani allottees to enter into registered agreements, and directing Bhagtani to do so.

Bhagtani Horizon's 8-storey frame.
Construction stopped in June 2016.
These developments should be studied by other Bhagtani projects, especially the RERA-registered ones like Serenity and Krishaang, as they have implications for them also.
NOTE: There are discrepancies between what the RERA website shows and what the ground realities are. The RERA website shows only 27 flats, whereas Jaycee Homes list submitted to RERA shows 28 flats. It seems this is only the sale component; 15 rehab component flats are not shown on RERA website.

Below are the recent developments:

1) Public notice in TOI. Last Saturday (14th April), a public notice was issued in The Times Of India on behalf of allotees of Bhagtani Horizon, in Goregaon. Horizon is a RERA-registered redevelopment project of Jaycee Homes Pvt Ltd. The public notice reaffirms the rights of those who purchased flats from Bhagtanis, and refutes the legal rights of Udayachal Goregaon Cooperative Society to cancel its development agreement with Jaycee Homes and hand it over to another builder (reported to be Asmi Builders & Developers Pvt Ltd). 

The background for this public notice were the two public notices issued on 20th and 25th January on behalf of Asmi Builders and Udayachal Goregaon CHS, cancelling the development agreement signed with Jaycee Homes and subsequently with Oyster Living/Tarun Bharti Constructions of Tejas & Tarun Vyas, who are Bhagtani's associates. For more details, read this previous article.  The implications of these two notices was that Bhagtani's allottees would have been left high and dry, as the new builder (Asmi) was unlikely to recognize their rights and claims.

2) WhatsApp group started by Mukesh Bhagtani. Seeing Bhagtani Horizon slipping out of his grasp, Mukesh Bhagtani appears to have made a WhatsApp group of his 23 allottees, some of whom were his community or family members, and taken them into confidence. It seems none of these allottees have filed FIR against Bhagtanis, and it is possible that Bhagtanis may be anxious to keep it that way! Though this WhatsApp group, Mukesh is evidently organizing the legal efforts for retaining his grip on the Horizon project, and for this purpose, he is using the allottees (who have mostly come to Horizon by transferring their investments from non-starter Bhagtani projects like Sapphire, Serenity, Riyo, etc.) 

3) Letter by Jaycee Homes to MahaRERA: On 28th February, Mukesh wrote a letter to RERA (possibly signed by their representative in Mumbai) highlighting that they have a development agreement with Udayachal Goregaon CHS, and giving a list of 23 purchasers of the 28 sale-component flats. Clearly, Mukesh wanted RERA to pass an order in favour of any allottee who made an application for seeking execution of a registered agreement. He was probably anxious that such an application should not be rejected on any technical grounds, or even delayed for seeking response of the builder! He wanted the order without any delay! Read Mukesh Bhagtani's letter to RERA. Also read the list of allottees given as annexure with that letter.

4) MahaRERA order to Bhagtani to execute Registered Agreement of Sale. Barely 5 days after receiving the letter from Mukesh Bhagtani, MahaRERA chairman Gautam Chatterjee passed a lucidly worded order directing Jaycee Homes to "execute and register Agreement of Sale with the Complainant", namely Shyam Sundar Kedia.

5) Agreement of Sale was promptly executed and registered. It is learned that MahaRERA's directions were carried out with exemplary speed. Of the 23 allottees, 12 reportedly had registered agreements even prior to the RERA order!

6) Further complaint/application being filed before RERA by allottees. It is learned that the allottees are together approaching MahaRERA in an effort to secure their own rights, and of course, that of Bhagtani also. The reliefs sought are as yet confidential, but it can be reasonably assumed that they will seek to retain the project in the hands of Bhagtanis. In the current battle, Bhagtanis and their 23 allottees are on one side, and the rehab component of Bhagtani Horizon, namely the 15 original flat-owners of Udayachal Goregaon CHS, and their recently-selected builder (Asmi, whose directors are Shalini Annasaheb Gulhane, Yogita Sanjay Dhole and Waman Sakharam Akre) are on the other side.

What is the way forward?

Currently, the proposed solution is that Udayachal Goregaon CHS should not give the development rights to anybody other than Jaycee Homes and/or their proxy Oyster Living. Completion of this half-finished structure is unlikely to happen before the declared completion date i.e. 31st July 2019, but at least Bhagtani's allottees will not be immediately dispossessed! 

At a later stage, if Bhagtanis fail to recommence construction or fail to make substantial progress, allottees may invoke section 18 or RERA Act, take over the project collectively and complete the project by engaging a contractor. Until such time, the destiny of the allottees is tied to the Bhagtanis.

Santosh Karande

Krishnaraj Rao