How to deal with construction gaps

Building a house rarely goes according to plan and deviations from the approved layout plan are very common. But this can be a major problem if the changes are significant and have not been ratified by the authorities. Besides the penalties, there is also a risk of demolition of the building.

Why are there discrepancies?

Prior to construction, builders submit a plan to the approval authority – for example, the company or the municipalities, depending on the location. When construction begins, there may be inevitable technical and architectural difficulties or glitches. For example, depending on the availability of materials, some modifications may need to be made and lead to unintended deviations.

The deviation can also be intentional. For example, the construction may exceed the allowed floor space index (FSI) ratio, so as to obtain a larger built-up area. In some cases, there may be illegal construction with the addition of additional floors or apartments or the construction of parking spaces.

Why should a buyer check for deviations from the approved plan?

Any changes to the plan may have financial implications for a buyer. First, you can get less carpet area with more space allocated to common areas. This would reduce the resale value.

If there are large gaps and you are buying a property under construction, the project may not get a certificate of occupancy. This could lead to not getting services such as water and electricity. The building or at least the deviating parts of it can also be demolished by the authorities.

Is it easy to check the gap?

Once the project is completed, a licensed architect will check the actual against the plan to certify whether the building has been constructed according to the plan. This is necessary to apply for an occupancy certificate, which is issued after verification by the authorities.

However, to be on the safe side, buyers can hire an expert such as an architect to estimate the percentage deviation. This is not easy to do as builders usually only share indicative artwork and not the approved layout plan.

What measures do the authorities take in the event of deviations?

After the actual completion of the project, the builder must notify the authorities of deviations. If the changes are minimal, these are noted and a new approval is given. As a general rule, a size deviation of five percent from the approved layout plan is permitted.

If this limit is exceeded, but the deviations are still considered safe, the authorities can impose a sanction and give their approval. If the project has larger violations or variations that may pose a risk to public safety or are illegal based on existing rules, they cannot be corrected with an adjustment fee.

There have been instances of courts ordering the demolition of various buildings due to illegal construction. The most recent is that of the Emerald Court project in Noida. Supertech, the builder, was asked to demolish its 40-story twin towers for violating construction standards.

What is the recourse if you have purchased a property without authorization?

At any time, you can ask the authorities concerned to regularize the discrepancies. This can be done through an application form and submitting all the required documents, including the original approved plan.

Besides the normal process, different cities often introduce special regularization schemes from time to time. These also cover the change of intended use – say residential purposes in the approval plan to commercial occupancy. For example, Telangana introduced a development and construction regularization program in 2016, covering construction on unapproved land development and construction gaps.

Are there discrepancies that cannot be regularized?

Yes. Constructions carried out in parks, green spaces and open spaces for development are not eligible for regularization. Likewise, if the change in the use of the building does not comply with the zoning laws of the area, it cannot be approved. Constructions made in the ground on piles are not eligible and the structures of the parking area may have to be removed. Also, if the building falls into the widening portion of the road, it will not be regularized.

Can Gram Panchayat give his approval?

Plans sanctioned by agencies such as the Gram Panchayat are not valid – they are not empowered to approve, as per Delegation of Authority without prior technical approval from HMDA/UDA/DTCP as per Gram Panchayat Building Rules , 2002.

The author is an independent financial consultant

Sneaky Changes

Homebuyers should be mindful of discrepancies as authorities and courts may take a tough stance

Published on

February 19, 2022