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By Staff Reporter

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has directed Tata Housing Development Co Ltd to refund a homebuyer’s principal amount after deducting earnest money, according to a recent order. The complainant, Dinesh Kumar Lakhanpal, expressed disinterest in taking possession of the property and instead sought a refund.

The NCDRC bench, consisting of Justice Ram Surat Ram Maurya and Dr Inder Jit Singh, acknowledged that Tata Housing had fulfilled its obligation of offering possession within the agreed timeframe. However, as the complainant desired a refund, the commission ruled that Tata Housing should refund Rs79.38 lakh, deducting only Rs15 lakh as earnest money forfeiture. The remaining balance of Rs64.38 lakh would be refunded with a simple interest rate of 9% per annum from the date of the refund.

Mr. Lakhanpal had booked a 3-bedroom hall kitchen (BHK) in Tata Housing’s Primanti project, with the agreement specifying possession by October 2017. When the developer sent a letter requesting the remaining payment in March 2018, Mr. Lakhanpal demanded a full refund, which Tata Housing refused. They eventually agreed to a minimal forfeiture of Rs10 lakh, but mutual agreement on a refund did not materialize.

Tata Housing argued that cancellation of the apartment would entail deductions and pointed out that the construction was completed within the grace period mentioned in the agreement due to force majeure circumstances. Despite possessing the occupancy certificate and offering possession in March 2018, Mr. Lakhanpal declined the offer and persisted with his demands.

The NCDRC considered the delay of approximately four and a half months as not unreasonable. Therefore, they determined that Mr. Lakhanpal was obliged to accept possession, but if he preferred a refund, Tata Housing could deduct reasonable amounts for earnest money forfeiture.

The commission instructed Tata Housing to refund the principal amount of Rs79.38 lakh within three months, deducting Rs15 lakh as earnest money forfeiture. They also mandated a simple interest rate of 9% per annum on the refund amount, calculated from the date of each payment until the date of refund. If Mr. Lakhanpal had taken a loan, the refund would first be utilized to repay the outstanding loan amount.

(Consumer Case No1636 of 2018 Date: 11 May 2023)

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