The new regulatory Act being the game-changer for the real estate industry, the ‘R&M RERA Reality’ held in association with PHD Chamber turned out to be a grand affair. The presence of diverse stakeholders, experts and top Government officials mainly contributed to the success of the event. At the end of the day, many contentious aspects of the legislation were raised and sorted post-marathon discussions and fruitful interactions.
‘Bringing Realty Closer to Reality’, reads the tagline of Realty & More magazine. The attempt this time, however, was to bring realty players closer to a new reality called RERA (Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act 2016). And no one would differ when we say the attempt was largely successful. RERA being the new reality that dawned upon the real estate industry from May 1 this year, an R&M initiative
on the path-breaking legislation was able to clear many a doubt and make stakeholders better informed about it.
‘RERA Reality’, a conference organised as part of Reality & More’s knowledge platform R&M Podium, on June 15 in New Delhi,succeeded in achieving its objectives in almost every conceivable way. The attendance at the event was impressive, the dais boasted of eminence, the discussions were knowledgeable and the volley of questions from the audience was answered with utmost patience and conviction.
It was for the first time that the R&M Podium was held in association with premier industry body PHDCCI. R&M Podium, as the readers are well aware of, is a knowledge platform where issues concerning the industry are discussed and developers get an opportunity to interact with senior Government officials. PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a dynamic multi-state apex industry body, has been in existence for the last 112 years. The coming together of the two ensured that R&M RERA Reality Podium is not just power-packed but also brings value for the participants.
Reputed developers and channel partners had made it a point to be at the LaxmipatiSinghania Auditorium in PHD House, the venue of the conference, well before the start. A bevvy of legal and realty experts, eminent CAs, senior executives and aspiring professionals were there in good number. The officialdom, which had a critical role to play, was represented by DilbagS Singh SinghSihag, ED, RERA, Haryana and VivinAhuja, Director RERA, NCT of Delhi.
The most prominent face from the real estate industry was, of course, Rajeev Talwar, the CEO of leading realty firm DLF Ltd. and the Vice-President of PHDCCI, the co-host of the event. Real estate body Naredco President Parveen Jain, who is also the CMD of Tulip Infratech, was present throughout the event and also took part in a debate. Salil Kumar, Director, Assotech Realty, Arjunpreet Singh Sahni, Director, Le Solitairian, Pankaj Jain, Director KW Group,AnkurDhawan, Business Head, PropTiger.comand DigbijoyBhowmick, Head of Policy, RICS, were among the other notable participants who took part in the proceeding enthusiastically.
Though there was a conscious decision to keep political class out of the discussion forum, senior BJP leader RP Singh, who has not only been a well-wisher of Realty & More but who also has lot of first-hand experiences to share, was invited as the Chief Guest.
With an involved audience among the gathering, eloquent speakers on dais, knowledgeable debaters unwinding RERA strands and top Government officials forthright in providing clarity, the R&M RERA Reality Podium had to be an engrossing affair. And that’s what it turned out to be! The invitees sat with rapt attentionand the Q&A Session offered so much food for thought that nobody wanted it to get over.
The day’s proceedings were kicked off with a solemn lamp-lighting ceremony in which the dignitaries present on the dais participated. Afterwards, DLF top honcho Rajeev Talwar came on the stage to deliver his keynote address.
Hailing RERA as a “big step forward”, Talwar said the Act can do a lot for the industry if it is implemented with a positive approach. Saying that there are many laws which have been passed and implemented in the country, Talwar said, “We find the failure of those laws because of the attitude with which they are implemented.
Admitting that some black sheep have given the sector, an industry like housing, construction and real estate a bad name, he said the real sufferer is the buyer, the citizen. Coming out harshly on such unscruplousplayers, the DLF top boss said, “if somebody misuses the buyer’s money then there should be no forgiveness” The need for RERA, he said, arose because from 2008 onwards projects have been delayed, sometimes not even started, and the buyers have suffered. The law was deliberated for well over a decade and the first few drafts were made by the present L-G of Delhi Anil Baijal, he informed the gathering.
Talwar said his sole request to RERA authorities in various states would be to ensure that they can get stuck projects restarted. “The intention should not be that how many people can we catch and how many people can we put in jail. That is not the way to solve a problem”, he emphasised. He said the Government should come up with a policy to kick-start loans so that the projects get started. “Let us see how we can give, maybe an interest rate of only 6 per cent, to the buyers who have already committed their money so that their liability of repayment to the banks goes down. Let the incentive be to the buyer not the builder and then give a kick-start loan to the builder which must go to an escrow account to restart a project which is stuck”, said Talwar.
The advantages of this, he said, would be three-fold. The firstwould be that the project would get restarted and the GST revenue would start flowing into the Government coffers. “As soon as the apartments are completed, the state governments also gain, not only from the GST revenue but also from registration & stamp duty revenue”, Talwar asserted. Secondly, it will lead to large-scale employment and, lastly, the growth of GDP. Real estate, he said, can give an immediate rise to the GDP of the country.
Talwar concluded his address with a fervent hope that with RERA in place, buyers will be able to get their apartments and “rogue builders” culled out from the industry.
Haryana RERA ED Sihag, who took to the stage next, called RERA a “beautiful legislation” and said he was confident that it would be a game-changer. “It will give a new direction and dimension to the growth and promotion of the real estate sector”, he said.
Talking about Haryana, Sihag said the sector has given substantial contribution as far as providing housing stock and job employment is concerned. More than 35,000 acres of land has been, or is being, developed through private participation in various towns of this state and most of the developers are professional. They can compete in providing housing infrastructure to any company which has a pan-global reputation, but he said, there is also a dark spot. “Some of the developers are involved in malpractices and I don’t have any hesitation in calling them looters or looteras of public money”, he said. They collected public money and ruthlessly misused it, he said, and added that RERA is there “to check such malpractices”.
Sihag said the Act is a big legal tool which the Centre Government has come up with. Agreeing with Talwar, he said, “GST and RERA are the two big gifts from the Government of India to the general public of India”
Saying that there is still confusion regarding the provisions and legislative nature of the Act, Sihagvirtually turned the conference hall into a classroom and gave a clause-by-clause presentation regarding various provisions of RERA. He painstakingly went through different Sections of the Act and kept the audience fully engrossed for well over half an hour. The presentation elaborated on key aspects like, how to handle the ongoing projects, how much to charge as registration fee and what will constitute the 70 per cent component for the escrow account mandated by RERA.
Seconding his Haryana counterpart’s description of RERA as a “beautiful law”, NCT-Delhi senior official Ahuja said it took almost 10 years and eight drafts were prepared before it was finally approved by Parliament and notified. The Act, he said, will help in the revival of the real estate industry for the simple reason that due to certain malpractices, one there is trust deficit between the buyer and the builder and two, there is a general recession in the sector”.
Going further, the NCT-Delhi RERA Director said, “If we have a right intention, a fair-play platform, a win-win situation for both, the builder and the buyer, transparency will automatically come in”. RERA, said Ahuja, “provides a level-playing field between the vendor and the vendee, the seller and the buyer, as it has reciprocal provisions in terms of penalties”. For non-compliance of the orders of the regulatory authority, there is a penalty of 5 per cent of the cost of the project on either side whether it is a promoter or it is a buyer or allottee, he elaborated. Similarly, he said, even an appeal can be made against the orders of the regulatory authority before the real estate tribunal and for non-compliance of the orders of tribunals, the penalty is equal on both the parties, that is 10 per cent.
Therefore, he said, if we follow the law, disputes may not arise. “The intention must be honest from both the sides. Let there be little interference by real estate regulatory authority. We only act as a regulator and if everything is fine, and if there is no dispute, perhaps our role will be limited to as a regulator only, and not as a tribunal or adjudicator”, said Ahuja. Stressing further, he said, “We’ll provide a level-playing field to both and without prejudice or bias”.
Describing RERA as “a wonderful creation of the Modi Government to secure the rights of the consumers”, BJP leader RP Singh said people had frequently been coming to him with problems related to the real estate sector. “It’s a burning issue, particularly in the NCR region”, he emphasised. Sharing an anecdote, Singh said once a small builder had come to him complaining about frauds in this industry. “Today his name is counted among the top builders of Noida”, he said to the amusement of everyone.
RERA, he said, had been framed to secure the interests of both parties, buyers as well as the developers. “Now developers will not make false promises to the consumers and ultimately right commitment will create a good impact about that developer on consumers as well as on the business world. Hence, the developer will gain profits for his business for a long term”, he concluded.
Before the beginning of the power-packed panel discussion, Realty & More Editor Palash Roy came on the stage to explain the rationale of hosting an R&M Podium on RERA at this juncture. Admitting that whenever something new comes up, there are teething problems, Roy said in the case of RERA, it is more than the teething problems. He informed the audience that during his frequent interaction with various stakeholders, he has observed that there are many apprehensions, and lack of clarity on many aspects. To arrive at a better understanding of the new law and assuage various concerns, R&M thought of creating a platform, where all these could be discussed with the regulatory authorities. He expressed hope that the panel discussion and Q&A session at the R&M RERA Reality Podium would be enriching enough for all present.
As the panelists readied themselves to kick off the discussion, a meaningful interregnum was provided in the form of a power-point presentation by Housing.com CFO VivekWadhawan. The half-an-hour presentation stressed that the focus of RERA will be on trust, transparency and the need to enforce financial discipline in the sector. It explained how the new law will improve Housing.com’s ability to offer innovative tools for decision-making. The presentation also highlighted the slow progress regarding RERA implementation with only a few states having appointed regulators. It also stressed the need for clarifications on certain areas to help prepare the sector better.
The panel discussion, which everyone had been anxiously waiting for, followed soon thereafter. RERA expert VenketRao moderated the discussion in a highly professional manner impressing everyone with his deep knowledge of the subject. Besides the two RERA officials, who turned out to be star performers, it was a cross-section of realty stakeholders who took part in it. There were representatives from the developer community, brokerage firms, on-line player, a legal expert and a chartered accountant.
The discussion was conducted in a free and frank manner and many contentious aspects of RERA were debated threadbare by the participants. The issues that got highlighted mostly revolved around timelines for setting up of regulatory authorities and framing of final rules, project registration process, status of on-going projects, licences validity and completion certificates etc. The participating developers were upfront in voicing their concerns and it goes to the credit of both Sihag and Ahuja that they too were honest in their replies and displayed utmost patience in handling all queries.
A Q&A session followed the panel discussion and it was during this one hour that that the intensity of doubts and concerns that people nourish over RERA came to the fore. Questions were lobbed from all across the hall, and again, one must give credit to the RERA officials who maintained cool throughout and never even once shied away from answering any question. The shower of questions was so intense and unending that moderator Rao had no choice but to announce an abrupt end to the session, which had already exceeded its scheduled time slot.
Post-four hours of serious deliberations over a law that is meant to bring about a revolutionary change in the real industry, it was time for dinner. But once again, whether it was someone holding a glass or some other person making choice for his food plate, the conversation still centredon RERA. The dinner session turned out to be an extended opportunity to grab more and more on this game-changing legislation in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. At the end of the day, everyone headed for home, better-informed about RERA. That’s what the R&M Podium had intended—bringing them closer to the RERA reality!