The Karnataka Real Estate Regulatory Authority (KRERA) has held that flooding in an apartment complex cannot be considered an "act of God" and ordered the builder to pay Rs 1 lakh in damages to homebuyers at a Bengaluru project as compensation.
"The materials on record prove as evidence that the developer has opened a temporary gate in the backside of the apartment complex of Sterling Ascentia next to under-construction Tower 3 and 4, thereby flooding basements of Towers 5 and 6 (out of a total of six towers)," the KRERA order dated March 17 said.
The residents of Towers 5 and 6 suffered mental agony because the promoter Sterling Developers failed to take quick action, the authority’s order added.
Additionally, it held that several amenities like the clubhouse have not been completed as per the sanctioned plan and asked the developer to pay Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 to homebuyers a month until the clubhouse and other promised amenities like basketball and tennis court are completed, respectively.
Last year in the first week of September, after unprecedented rainfall, water gushed into the basement of the apartment complex, damaging 30 cars, about 20 two-wheelers and electrical equipment.
Prannay Srivastava, one of the members of the Residents Welfare Association (RWA), said, "Besides damaging more than 30 vehicles, the water had rushed into the elevators and electrical systems, including the STP (sewage treatment plant) in the basement."
On September 19, the homebuyers filed a complaint at Marathahalli Police Station after they incurred a loss of at least Rs 4.3 crore due to the waterlogging.
"Though the water was drained within a week, the repair of electrical equipment like the water treatment plant (WTP) and STP took two to three weeks," said Amit Pankaj, who is also one of the complainants before KRERA.
Pankaj said that in the absence of the WTP, homebuyers for days had to use the swimming pool water and often carry it to the top floors. "And when we ran out of the pool water, we used to bring in tankers to fill up the same," he added.
The homebuyers argued before the KRERA court that the developer illegally added a back gate along the rear compound wall, violating the sanctioned plan. This eventually led to the flooding of the basements and also caused structural damage, they added.
However, the court noted that both the developer and the homebuyers have failed to provide enough evidence to prove that the flooding caused structural defects, quashing the homebuyers' plea.
In its defence on the flooding issue, the developer said that it was an "act of God" and not caused to due structural defects. "The STP and WTP have been located the lower and upper basement as per the sanctioned plan. The developer is coordinating with local authorities to remodel the stormwater drains so that the water can flow smoothly without further flooding," the advocate representing the developer told the court.
Apart from the clubhouse, basketball and tennis courts, the homebuyers claimed that the developer has failed to provide and other amenities like rainwater harvesting as promised.
Among several pieces of evidence, KRERA took note of the photos depicting the illegal opening of the back gate.
"The developer submits that the back gate was opened to allow the movement of construction materials to the under-construction Tower 3 and 4," the order mentioned.
The court added that the homebuyers faced "mental agony" not because of the flood but also because of the developer's failure to provide quick relief.
"Though the water was drained out, the problems caused to the homebuyers cannot be ruled out. Additionally, the developer has not provided the promised clubhouse or other amenities," the order mentioned.
KRERA ordered the developer to pay Rs 1 lakh to each of the 28 homebuyers and the monthly compensation until the clubhouse and other promised amenities are completed.
Homebuyers wait for justice
For Amol Raj, another homebuyer in this project, the order was passed on February 1.
"The 60-day timeline lapses on April 1. However, I am yet to hear back from the developer for a compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh (including the compensation for the delayed amenities)," he said.
Raj said that he communicated with the developer twice in February and March, but did not receive any response. "I plan to move the KRERA court again if the developer fails to comply with the order," he added.
A list of questions has been sent to the developer and Moneycontrol will update the story after receiving a response.