The Telegraph
Thursday , January 17 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Office space sale to be out of real estate bill ambit

New Delhi, Jan. 16: The real estate bill is likely to be tabled in Parliament during the budget session, but with changes. Sale of space for commercial purposes, such as offices or shops, will not come within the ambit of the bill.

The changes are the result of a tug-of-war between Ajay Maken’s housing ministry that is piloting the bill and Kamal Nath’s urban development ministry that is staking claim on it. The ministers met today to iron out differences.

The bill was placed before the cabinet a week before the October reshuffle but had to be deferred because of Nath’s protests. He said the bill could not be unilaterally finalised by the housing ministry — Kumari Selja was heading it then — without consulting his team. He also wrote to the Prime Minister.

The bill is the first effort to regulate the real estate sector and will act as a safety net for buyers. It proposes a real estate authority for each state that will decide on consumer complaints.

Under the bill, developers will have to disclose the carpet area, lay-out of apartments, structural design and plans for other on-site development. Builders cannot change plans or insert charges after the sale agreement is signed.

Builders also cannot provide false information in advertisements. If there is any deviation from the information, buyers will have to be compensated. If a builder pulls out of a project, money has to be returned with interest at not more than the prevailing market rate.

Last week, the Prime Minister had called Maken and Nath for consultation. Sources said Manmohan Singh told Nath the bill would be piloted by the housing ministry. At the same time, he told Maken to ensure Nath’s concerns were addressed.

“The PM said there should not be any difference of opinion whenever the bill comes to cabinet next,” an official said.

Following Singh’s suggestion, today’s meeting was held. Members of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India, Confederation of Indian Industry and others attended the meeting.

Nath’s main demand was that the bill should apply only to housing and not commercial properties. He also insisted that the Real Estate Authority for Delhi should come under the urban development ministry alone.

Maken has agreed to both his demands. “We will take the bill to the cabinet soon after making the changes,” an official said.

The government is eager to notify the bill before the 2014 election to court urban voters, who helped the Congress sail past the 200 mark in the 2009 poll. Strategists are worried that the Anna Hazare and Ramdev campaigns have slackened the party’s hold on voters. The idea is to use the bill as a poll plank.