The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that builders cannot demand maintenance charge from the buyers without OC.
The apex consumer forum held that homebuyers will be liable to pay maintenance charge for their flats only after the builder gets Occupancy Certificate from the civic authority and it is not proper for builders to demand it even though the flat buyers start residing in their flats after taking over the possession. It said if the builder fails to get OC then it means that the project is not yet fully complete and it would be considered only as “paper possession” if the flat is handed over to the buyers.
The NCDRC allowed a plea of a batch of 15 homebuyers from Benguluru led by Harinder Singh who were compelled by a builder to pay maintenance charges after taking possession of their flats without OC. Their lawyer Chandrachur Bhattacharya contended before a bench of S M Kanitkar and Binoy Kumar that the buyers were forced to pay two year maintenance in advance while taking possession of the flats for which the builder failed to get OC despite a delay of six years.
Opposing homebuyers’ plea, the builder VDB Whitefield Development Private Ltd contended that maintenance charge was being charged as it was providing all facilities to those who have shifted to their flats. It said that delay in the project was caused because of Covid-19 pandemic and it was the buyers who had forced it to give them physical possession of their units without OC.
The NCDRC, however, was not convinced with the submission of the builders and allowed the plea of homebuyers by relying upon a recent judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in January and an earlier verdict of the Commission.
“Regarding the issue of maintenance charges, it is a fact that the complainants have taken physical possession of their respective units. It would be logical that there would be an expense on the maintenance of certain common services. It is also a fact that the Occupancy Certificate has not been obtained yet. It means that the project is not yet fully complete and that not all services promised are being provided. No maintenance charge should be levied before obtaining the occupancy certificate,” it said.