Seventy-three-year-old KR Shetty purchased a 2.5 BHK flat in Runwal Infinity – now known as Runwal Sanctuary – in Mulund in 2005. He had paid 60 percent of the total Rs 34 lakh flat cost at that time and was to receive possession in 2008.
There are around 100 buyers like Shetty who booked their dream homes in the planned Runwal complex, which was conceived as two residential buildings of around 24 floors. However, possession has been delayed after the project got into legal trouble due to a dispute over the land on which the building was being constructed, which the authorities claimed was private forest land.
“If the possession year as per MahaRera is considered, then there is a delay of 20 years. Along with this, the court case is ongoing and we hope to get a favourable order from there. Let us wait for a little more if we have waited for so long," Shetty had told this writer on June 7.
Despite the long wait, he could not realise his dream. Shetty passed away from a heart attack on June 22, 2022.
Home buyers’ plight
According to the buyers, many of those who booked their flats between 2005 and 2009 had put their life savings into purchasing the flats when they were in their late 50s or 60s and have now crossed the age of 70 and 80.
“The purpose for the purchase is to reside in this flat after my retirement,” said 65-year-old Sudhir Ray. “But we have not got the possession and the developer is now asking for Rs 90 lakh as escalation cost. We cannot pay this as we have an agreement where the flat cost mentioned is Rs 36 lakh, and we expect the court to give us justice.”
Halim Iqbal, who lives in Hyderabad, said, “I am 60 years old now and desperately waiting along with my family to shift back to Mumbai.
“But now I am being unprecedentedly asked for escalation after which my flat cost will turn to around Rs 90 to 95 lakh. I will not pay for this escalation considering we have already agreed on Rs 49.94 lakhs for which I have paid 50 percent and registered the flat in 2007 (as per ground law). The RERA tribunal in 2018 had directed the developer to give the possession in 18 months along with 10.5 percent interest applied from February 2014. However, the hearing of the case is now ongoing in the high court and we hope that things work out in our favour.”
“We also have a RERA tribunal order in favour that was passed in 2018, but it is of no use as the developer has challenged the same in Bombay High court where the hearing is ongoing,” said 83-year-old Sriniwasan Sundereshan, another buyer.
Arvind Nair, a Mumbai resident, was eight years old when his father booked an apartment in Runwal Infinity – now known as Runwal Sanctuary – in Mulund. Now he has turned 23 and the family still hasn’t got possession of the apartment.
“My flat cost is around Rs 50 lakh but now the developer is asking for Rs 95 lakh,” said 57-year-old Kailasnath Nair, Arvind’s father. “In my case, the agreement was not signed but the cost was agreed and I made 50 percent payment. However, the developer has returned the cheque, citing the termination of the deal. However, I have not accepted the cheque and want him to give us the possession at the earliest.”
The family ended up buying an apartment in Bhandup about 10 years ago after failing to get possession of the Runwal Sanctuary flat.
The Runwal Group maintained it does not comment on ongoing legal matters and said it has a reputation of resolving all genuine grievances of customers and will continue to ensure that this never changes.
Problems plaguing the project and case progress
According to the RERA tribunal order passed in 2018, the project that was launched in 2005 got a stop-work notice from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the Tahsildar in 2006, claiming the land was a private forest. Following this, the developer approached the Bombay High Court, which dismissed the petition in 2008. The developer then approached the Supreme Court, which set aside the order of the Bombay High court in January 2014. In 2018, the project was issued a notice by the BMC to stop work on the grounds that it no longer had valid environment clearance.
According to the MahaRERA website, possession of Runwal Infinity (now known as Runwal Sanctuary) will be in July 2028, while the original proposed date was December 2009. The developer has maintained that the work could not gather pace due to the forest land dispute and the stop-work notices.
Legal route for buyers
After the RERA Act came into existence in May 2017, the Runwal Infinity home buyers had also approached the MahaRERA, alleging that the developer had wilfully delayed construction of the project. They further requested the MahaRERA to ask the developer to pay interest and commit to a reasonable timeline for handing over possession of their apartments.
However, considering the lapse of environmental clearance for the project and the BMC’s subsequent stop-work notice in 2018, the RERA, in its order of May 2018, said that the period that can be attributed for the delay in handing over the possession cannot be ascertained and neither could the date for handing over the possession be determined at this stage. The MahaRERA directed the developer to recommence work on the project at the earliest by getting the required permissions and to complete construction in a time-bound manner.
The buyers further challenged the order of the MahaRERA in the RERA Tribunal, which ruled in favour of the buyers and ordered the developer to pay interest to them at 10.05 percent effective from February 2014 till the project is handed over. The developer was also asked to complete the project in 18 months from the date of the order.
Subsequently, the developer approached the Bombay High Court, citing delays in getting approvals from government agencies that could not be considered a breach on its part. In submissions to the Bombay High Court, the developer said, “Owing to the ensuing forest litigation that affected the property since 2005-2006 and which went on till 2015, no significant work could take place.”
The developer challenged the RERA Tribunal order and the hearings in the high court are ongoing.
What remains to be done
The developer has got environmental clearance for the project now. According to the buyers, the developer is sending letters to them asking for an escalation fee for the flat purchase in the form of a supplementary agreement. Many buyers told Moneycontrol they were not willing to pay the escalation amount. However, some buyers signed the supplementary agreements last year and agreed to the escalation, adding the buyers.
In an email response to Moneycontrol, a spokesperson of the Runwal Group said, “The progress at Runwal Sanctuary continues at a good and steady pace and we thank all our customers for choosing to be a part of the Runwal Sanctuary family. We pride ourselves in delivering great value to our customers. We do not comment on speculative stories or ongoing legal matters. We have a decades-old reputation of resolving all genuine grievances of our customers and will continue to ensure that the same never changes.”Project Timeline
2005: Project is launched
2005 to 2009: The majority of bookings are received
2006: Mumbai civic body issues a stop-work notice, saying the land on which construction is taking place is a private forest
2006: Developer challenges stop work in Bombay High Court
2008: Bombay High Court dismisses developer’s plea
2008: Developer approaches the Supreme Court
2009: Original possession date was in December 2009
2014: Supreme Court permits the developer to construct the project
2017: Buyers approach MahaRERA for compensation and alleged delayed possession demand
2018: MahaRERA disposes of the complaint asking the developer to speed up the project
2018: Buyers approach RERA tribunal challenging MahaRERA order
2018: RERA Tribunal asks developer to give possession in 18 months and pay interest to buyers
2018: Developer challenges RERA Tribunal order in Bombay High Court.2022: Hearings are ongoing in Bombay High Court.