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Three questions on the Chennai building collapse

Meera Siva BL Research Bureau | Updated on November 25, 2017 Published on July 01, 2014

As the rubble is being cleared from the 12-storey under-construction building ‘Trust Heights’ in Porur, Chennai, which collapsed last week, there are at least three important questions in the minds of home buyers. Given the pace of multi-storey home construction which has increased rapidly in the last few years, this is not the first such collapse this year. A newly completed five-storey building in Canacona, Goa gave way earlier this year.

The foremost concern on a home buyer’s mind is probably about how to check on the quality of a home he purchases. Agreed, there are very elaborate procedures laid by the government on soil testing, structural study and testing the quality of concrete before construction is undertaken. A lot of data and analysis is needed to ensure that the building's load is well distributed and a design is created based on the soil's nature says S Thayalan, a structural engineer. But the ground reality is that in the scramble for scarce land, the knowledge and analysis needed to pull off construction of multi-storey structures is given the short shrift.

One of the prerequisites of getting a Multi Storeyed Buildings (MSB) approval is a certificate from a Chartered Engineer or Soil Mechanics Engineer to certify if the soil has enough load bearing capacity for the proposed height of the MSB. Approval was granted by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority in this case (Trust Heights), to the builder Prime Shristi in June 2013, to construct two blocks with 11 floors each, says G Shyam Sundar, an advocate, based on information from the CMDA website. He notes that “CMDA would not have sanctioned approval without obtaining the soil test certificate”.

The second important question that pops into the mind of a home buyer is the financial protection he has when the home is under-construction. Builders can cover their liability through insurance policies such as the all-risk insurance policy. But the proceeds of a claim, if any may not be passed on to a home buyer. “While some developers buy insurance for their under-construction projects, most of them avoid this additional cost," says Ganesh Vasudevan, CEO of IndiaProperty.com. For a home buyer, standard fire and earthquake Insurance Policy would not be of any help since normally the policy excludes faulty construction and only takes effect after project completion.

Finally, if a home buyer is indeed caught in a situation such as this, what is the recourse? When the property is under construction, if the undivided share of land (UDS) had been registered in favour of the individual buyer, then owners can form an association to fight a case against the builder and Government agencies, says Sundar. But the process will be a long drawn one, due to the backlogs in the system.

Published on July 01, 2014
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