Bottom Line: Even when the law of the land does not grant any constitutional teeth to homebuyers’ associations, Ravi Sinha finds that they thrive with their clout due to cozy relationship with the media.
The journalists covering real estate news are always on the lookout for the grey areas and these buyers’ associations feed them. In exchange, they are always in the news and that lends them credibility in the given market.
But the question is why do the builders entertain them? Is there something more than what meets the eyes? Are these associations proxies of the builders to bail them out? The developers maintain that by and large they too have their own compulsions to entertain what could be called as necessary evil. The more the number of members with the given association, the more they command the clout in their areas of operations.
Requesting anonymity, a builder in Greater Noida West admits that whenever there is any issue with the buyers, he gets the unsolicited message by one or the other associations. A formal meeting is asked for which is not meant for understanding the buyers’ concerns or mediating for the common meeting ground but for negotiating on behalf of the association.
“If their demands are met, they withdraw themselves from the issue. They even offer to convince it to the buyers that the demands are not legitimate and would not sustain the legal scrutiny. But if the demands are not met, a protest and media trial is what we have to face. So, we are left with no choice but to entertain them,” says the builder.
All for media limelight?
Financial modeling and people behind the associations indicate genuineness
Beware of associations that hijack the core agenda & grievances for their media limelight
Builders too have their proxies in buyers’ associations
The builder’s version is just one part of the story. The experience of the homebuyers suggests some of these associations are definitely the veiled proxies of the builders to shield them and divert attention. The smart builders more often than not use these associations to infiltrate among the protesting buyers and break the unity.
The harassed working class homebuyers looking for someone to represent their grievances, mostly due to lack of time, end up playing into the hands of one or the other associations. The collective consciousness of the homebuyers, more often than not, fails to differentiate legitimate consumer activism of harassed homebuyers and consumer blackmailing of buyers’ associations.
“I was approached by some of these activists and since I didn’t have time and resources to settle with the builder, I thought as if it is a divine intervention that has come through my way. But soon I started realizing that the actual game plan was not to take up my legitimate cause but to get legitimacy before the builder and media for having harassed buyers as complainants before them. I regret my decision to have thought that someone else would fight for my rights,” says Raman Parashar, a dejected homebuyer in Noida.
There definitely is a method into the madness of the buyers’ associations across the major property markets of India. Track2Realty got into the financial modeling of some of the most pro-active and vocal consumer associations operating in the housing market to understand how such constant activism is sustained in terms of financials and other logistics.
The research suggests most of the leading torchbearers of these associations have no other known source of income and this supposedly free voluntary service is often their full time occupation. Some of them are even nursing the local level political ambitions through this channel.
This clearly indicates that there is an urgent need for homebuyers’ education in India. They must be conscious of the fact that all the associations thriving in the name of protecting their interests are not that trustworthy. Unless the buyers are convinced with the association, its funding & functioning and people behind it, they should better stay away from these holier-than-thou high profile groups.
It is better to fight along with the fellow buyers who have the same set of grievances with the builder. Of course, that won’t be the easy way out; not someone will come forward to offer the free advice and legal help. The builder could even win over or buy out some of the fellow homebuyers. But then at least the buyers will be safe than sorry and fight their own battle without the vested interests infiltrating, hijacking the agenda and then compromising it.