Online Property Portals Will Now Have To Be Registered With MahaRERA
Property portals offering services such as buying and selling to customers in Maharashtra will now have to register with Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority within the next two months.
A two-member bench of MahaRERA comprising Vijay Satbir Singh and BD Kapadnis ruled that property portals which go beyond mere advertising of real estate projects fall under the definition of real estate agents. Section 9(1) of the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act mandates registration of all real estate agents.
“Those portals which want to indulge in the activity of agent will have to discharge these functions provided under law. If they do not want to discharge those functions, then it is up to them to confine their activities as advertising agency namely to give information about the real estate project for offering it for sale or inviting persons for purchasing it and not more than that,” the order read.
This came after Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, a consumer rights body, wrote a letter to MahaRERA Chairman pointing out the activities of real estate websites like Magicbricks, 99acres.com, Makaan.com, Housing.com, etc. come within the definition of ‘real estate agent’. The consumer protection group sought clarification from MahaRERA as these portals were not registered with the regulator.
“Considering the gravity of this important issue, MahaRERA treated this letter as suo motu complaint and issued notices to all these four property web portals and also sought views from the promoters’ bodies like Naredco, MCHI, Credai,” said Shirish V Deshpande, chairman of MGP.
Magicbricks declined to respond to BloombergQuint’s questions. The story will be updated when comments from other portals are received.
Meanwhile, counsel representing the web portals argued that they were merely advertising the real estate projects of their clients and hence don’t need to be registered as real estate agents. The portals also argued it is not possible for them to discharge the functions provided under Section 10 of RERA which deals with maintaining and preserving books of account, facilitating the possession and the documents.
The portals also claimed that their activities are spread across the country and hence it will be difficult for them to register with the real estate authority of one state. The bench, however, ruled, “portals will have to register themselves with real estate regulatory authority of a state where their activities are going on until the registration at national level is made permissible.”
The bench has concluded that mere advertising of the properties does not need registration and it is mandatory for those web portals who go beyond the activity of advertising. “We hold that the portals whose activities are simply confined to advertisements defined by Section 2(b) of RERA, need not register themselves as real estate agents, provided in disclaimer they declare that they are simply advertising agencies and advise the viewers to cross-check the information from other sources including RERA websites.”
The 279-page order also highlights the grievances of builders with regards to the operation of property portals. “Before parting with this order now we shall refer to grievance of builders. They contend that the digital portals provide incorrect information of their project without they being informed. We find that it is necessary for the digital portals to maintain self-imposed discipline for the fair practice, so that wrong information of no listed properties is not disseminated by them which ultimately may result into prejudicing the interest of both the buyers and the promoters.”