Take a ride down OMR IT Expressway and just 4kms off Kelambakkam junction stands a deserted set of buildings. No billboards. No advertisements. No indication that it is the project site of Savithanjali by MARG Properties in Chennai. Lured by advertisements talking of state-of-the-art infrastructure, hundreds of customers invested their life savings and today, nearly 3 years later, their dream homes are still mere skeletons.
Started in April 2010, Savithanjali was supposed to be a premium gated community with 678 apartments offering hi-tech facilities. Homebuyers, many of them NRIs, dreamt of these smart homes to be a perfect replacement to the condos they were living in abroad.
Three Years And Waiting
Marg Properties Ltd had promised handover of Phase I in 2013 but looking at a 40% completed stagnant project, customers don’t have much hope. Their website still states the revised handover date as 2015 and the firm’s sales team is actively involved in marketing these homes, despite of no work happening at the site. Rajesh who had invested Rs 45 lakhs in the project still regrets this decision, ‘I made this investment looking at all the facilities being offered. And the bank too told me it is an approved project and so I went ahead with it. Now, looks like I have been taken for a ride.’
Buyers Cry Foul
Homebuyers claim the list of fraud by the builder and banks is long
1 They allege the developer had received 85% of the cost of the apartments initially. After investigation, they found that though the advances were collected in 2011, it was not until 2013 that the builder obtained the statuary approvals like the Environmental clearance.
2 It’s already a long expensive wait for the buyers and to make matters worse, the builder sent out a mail in June 2016 saying customers will have to pay an additional fee of Rs 100/sq ft because prices of commodities have increased in the years since the project was initiated. This would be done in partnership with a local builder XS Real Constructions, which eventually fell apart. Managing Director of MARG Properties GRK Reddy denied having made such a claim though the official documents sent by the firm to customers clearly state the above.
3 Most customers are NRIs and though for some this is probably a second or a third home, for many others it is a long story of home loans, EMIs and the dream of owning a home in a city they want to settle in. Today without a home to call their own, the question they raise is that had the banks verified the builder’s track record, made sure he had all statutory approvals in place and constantly monitored the progress of the project, such a delay could’ve been averted. Also, even after the customers took this up with the respective banks the response was very dull.
4 Many homebuyers dread taking a visiting the project site as it is a deserted place. Construction work has been halted for 2 years now and when NDTV spoke to the locals in the vicinity, they confirmed the same. ‘’They are trying to figure out ways of getting the work done.. but there’s no work happening. If you go to the flat, it is a deserted desolate place. That you wouldn't even want to go there,’ says Karthik who still regrets having recommended this project to his friends and family. MARG Properties denied all the claims and said work was going on in full swing.
Determined To Fight
''In spite of the disappointment, a few determined customers are running pillar to post filing consumer complaints to FIRs'', says Ravishankar who is now wondering what can be the next step. Buyers such as him allege the builder has strong political links which is keeping the police from taking action against the culprit. Their consumer court complaints are also pending because the court hasn't had a judge for 8 months now. MARG Properties denied all allegations and assured, ‘We had monetary issues. But today we are at a point where we are closing deals, moving forward. We will deliver Phase I in 12-15 months.’ However, homebuyers believe this assurance is a mere eyewash and so they have decided to go legal.
What Next For Buyers?
So far, a few individuals have been pushing for legal route to remedy the situation, which has not been very fruitful. Tired of waiting, now the Savithanjali Buyers’ Association will strongly push this issue for justice. ‘When individuals take on large builders who have the authority and the influence, it's not easy to deal with them. But when the home buyers come together on a common platform as an association and take strategic legal action they will be able to see better results,’ says advocate Sai Srujan Tayi. Homebuyers are betting on the Real Estate Regulatory Act to come into being at the earliest for respite from such situations.