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What is Occupancy Certificate? Why Occupancy Certificate is a very important document? Who issues the Occupancy Certificate? What if the same not obtained?

These are the questions occur in mind of a flat buyer while buying a flat either in a building constructed by the Developer or in a redeveloped building.

Occupancy Certificate evidences the completion of the building as per the approved plan and compliance of local laws. Local bodies like MCGM issue Occupancy Certificates. Without the Occupancy Certificate, it is difficult to get the water and sanitary connection. The Banks and Financial institutions do not sanction loans against the flat unless the Occupancy Certificate is not issued by the concerned authorities.

Obtaining Occupancy Certificates is an essential requirement under the MOFA (Maharashtra Ownership Flat Act) and the flat buyers cannot legally occupy the same, unless the Occupancy Certificates is obtained by the Developer. If the flats are occupied by the buyers without Occupancy Certificate, the Mumbai Municipality can ask for eviction of their flats or have heavy penalties levied on them.

There are instances where the Occupancy Certificates are delayed or not issued on account of violation of building laws which are increasing day by day. Though the buyers have spent their life time hard earned money on the project with a dream of owning a flat, they could not occupy the flat for want of Occupancy Certificate. They suffer for none of their faults and the Developers dilly dally the satisfactory explanation for failure to procure the Occupancy Certificate.

Developers having soft connections easily manage to escape through various loopholes in the law. Having invested precious money in such buildings and after waiting for many years to get an occupancy certificate, the buyers occupy the houses for fear that they may lose the property. Instead of losing their long awaited property, they prefer to occupy the flats without power, sewerage connections and pay twice the water charges and a higher property tax.

The ill-observance of MRTP/MCGM/DCR rules and guidelines are overlooked by the sympathetic officials of the MCGM and the plans so submitted, are sanctioned without verifying the eligibility or its conformity with the Development Agreements.

At times, the Projects are completed and the Occupancy Certificates are issued without the proper inspection carried out by the MCGM officials or taking pains to verify whether the actual measurement of the constructed areas tally with the final plans submitted.

The only solution to this negligence, the Ward Officer and Building Proposal Officials should be held accountable when buildings are occupied without Occupancy Certificates. Also, on grounds of criminal negligence by a Public Servant, the Officials can be made to compensate from their pockets.

Obtaining the approval of the plans has become just a casual affair. During the boom period, one of the Developers constructed several houses and flats with no fear of violating building rules and regulations. He grossly deviated from the approved building plans and went on to construct. The Civic Authorities refused to give Occupancy Certificate despite best efforts of the Developer.

The flat buyers on the assumption that things were happening to their satisfaction, performed house- warming ceremonies and took possession of the flats. When they were about to move in, the scandalous Developer revealed the shocking news that even though he had constructed the apartments and houses to their liking, the Civic Authorities were not issuing Occupancy Certificate on one pretext or the other.

Another Developer constructed small flats aiming the middle income group. However, the Civic Authorities refused to issue Occupancy Certificate due to blatant deviation from the approved plans. In this case, the Developer got the plan approved for construction of 4 dwelling units – 2 on the ground floor and 2 on the first floor whereas he, Instead of constructing 4 dwelling units, constructed 6 dwelling units. The buyers who have invested in the flats are now desperate, as they would lose their money and the flats if the Civic Authorities decide to demolish the unauthorized structure.

The Authorities issue Occupancy Certificate only after completion of the entire construction as per the rules. The Financial Institutions are refusing to lend in absence of Occupancy Certificate or No Objection Certificate from the Civic Authorities.

The net result is that not only the Developer is losing money as many flats remain unsold but also the buyers who have purchased the flats, have to pay interest to the Financial Institutions. The Financiers too face difficulties in getting back the loan installments.

The Civic Authorities are to be blamed as their Inspecting Officers do not carry out periodic and surprise checks at the construction site. In case of deviation they should take the Developer to task in the beginning itself and not at the end of the construction.

Few of the reputed Developers follow the rules and regulations; but majority do not. They dishonor all the laws framed by DCR, MRTP, MMRDA, MCGM etc.

The ill fate of Mumbaikers is that the MCGM has recently admitted its ignorance about how many buildings in the Mumbai possess an Occupation Certificate and how many do not. A Senior Civic Official confessed that Corporation does not have any up-to-date data. He further added that the Country's Premier Civic Body does not have a system in place to track the Developers who violate rules and hand over possession to buyers without first procuring the mandatory Objection Certificate.

The buyers are also to be blamed as they do not check the background of the Developer and his track record, nor they check before taking possession whether the building is according to the sanctioned plan and the amenities provided are according to the Sale Agreement. As per the law, one cannot enter a flat or building without receiving an Objection Certificate.

As per the norms of Building Proposals Department, action can be initiated against such occupants by slapping a notice under Section 350 (A) of the BMC Act for occupying premises without an Objection Certificate. It is must for any flat buyer to inspect and verify all the required documents or else, face various problems at a later stage.