Maharashtra Real Estate Appellate Tribunal (MREAT) held that delay in approvals from government agencies cannot be considered as force majeure (unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract) for builders, and ordered builder T Bhimjyani Realty Pvt Ltd to pay interest for an extended period to 29 home-buyers in Neelkanth Woods Olivia project on Ghodbunder Road for delayed possession

Advocate Tanuj Lodha, who represented the 29 home-buyers under Olivia Buyers Association in MREAT, said the 29 had paid a total of around Rs 52 crore, which was about 90% of the price, for apartments ranging from Rs 1.10 crore to Rs 2.40 crore in the project in 2014-16. They approached MahaRERA in December 2017, after a delay in possession, as 25 of them were assured possession in November 2017, and four in May 2018. Possession was delayed as the builder submitted a proposal with change in plan in the project, initially meant to be 26 floors, after a change in TDR policy. The builder sought approvals for constructing an additional six floors.”

MahaRERA’s order granted interest from May 2019, instead of November 2017, as demanded by the home-buyers, granting an interest-free period of 18 months to the builder after he cited lack of approvals and things beyond his control for the delay. The allottees appealed against the MahaRERA order in MREAT.

On April 12, MREAT member Sumant Kolhe ordered the builder to hand over possession on or before May 31, and pay interest from April 2018 to 25 of them, and from September 2018 to four, on the amount paid. The order stated that the interest will be adjusted against the balance price of flats of allottees, if any to be paid by the allottee, and if the possession was not given on or before May 31, the promoter must pay compensation of Rs10, 000 a month plus interest for delay in possession for every month from August 1 till possession

Though the promoter cited reasons such as a stay restraining Thane Municipal Corporation from issuing an occupation certificate, and change in TDR policy, fire policy and permission from the highrise committee, the tribunal said these circumstances cannot be treated as force majeure as, the definition of force majeure, as laid down under RERA Act 2016, pertains to stopping construction due to flood, drought, fire, earthquake, cyclone and natural calamities.

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