The Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (MahaRERA), the watchdog for the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016 (RERA), is finally on the move. The Authority penalised Chembur-based property broker Sai Estate Consultants for advertising unregistered residential project.
The authority has put a fine of Rs1.20 lakh for the violation and has asked the broker to stop advertising any unregistered project immediately. They have also been directed to put their MahaRERA registration number on their hoardings.
The MahaRERA has taken elaborate steps to ensure that every type of violation of regulations committed by the builder carries a penalty. For example, non-registration under RERA by the builder holds him “liable to a penalty which may extend up to ten per cent of the estimated cost of the real estate project”, where the penalty would be increased on a daily basis. “On continued violation, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to three years or with fine which may extend up to a further ten per cent of the estimated cost of the real estate project, or with both.”
Moneylife Foundation recently conducted an event to educate the general population on the implications of RERA. The speaker for this event was Mumbai Grahak Panchayat's head of advocacy and a prominent consumer rights activist, Varsha Raut.
Interestingly, the action under MahaRERA against Sai Estate Consultants, was initiated on the basis of a complaint filed by a group led by Ms Raut’s on a misleading advertisement by them.
“RERA is a gift to the consumer. Now the ball is in our court and we can make the most out of it by keeping a watchful eye,” Ms Raut says. But, she warns, “People should not be hasty in purchasing flats. Wait for two months (which is the time given for registration under RERA), and if you see any malpractice or anything suspicious then one must not hesitate in approaching the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat or just complaining to MahaRERA.”
Ms Raut also emphasised that the least people could do was to educate themselves about the Act. One of the most important points that was highlighted during the event was that RERA will remain effective for the builder till the buyers of the property receive their completion certificate.
Ms Raut explained the difference between the occupation certificate (OC) and completion certificate (CC). An occupation certificate is a document issued to certify a building's “compliance with applicable building codes and other laws” indicating that the flat is in a suitable condition for occupancy. A completion certificate attests that the new building is “constructed and completed” according to all the regulations set by the municipal authorities.
Usually, the CC is confused with the ‘Commencement Certificate’ (which is also necessary) and many buyers are not even aware of the completion certificate document. This provides a loophole to the builders as the completion certificate is a mandatory legal document, which certifies that the construction has not violated any of the rules laid down by the authorities.
Ms Raut urges people to not immediately occupy their flats and to wait till all three documents, commencement certificate, occupation certificate and completion certificate are in their possession.
“There is a difference between a consumer and a customer. A customer does not necessarily have knowledge about their rights, but a consumer is supposed to be aware and should fight for their rights,” she added.
Two dozen House Democrats have sent a letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn, warning that digital security holes at the Trump Organization's clubs and hotels are risks to national security and the secrecy of classified information.
"The White House must act immediately to secure the potentially sensitive information on these systems," said the letter, which was signed by 24 Congress members and went to McGahn last week.
Their concerns were in response to an article published last month by ProPublica and Gizmodo that documented the cybersecurity vulnerabilities at properties the president has frequented since being elected. Our reporting found unencrypted login pages, servers running outdated software, accessible printers, and Wi-Fi networks that were open to anyone close enough to access them.
We were able to detect vulnerable networks at Mar-a-Lago — Trump's "Southern White House" — from a small motorboat about 800 feet from the club on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway. We also found open Wi-Fi networks at the grounds of the Trump golf courses in Bedminster, New Jersey, and accessible Wi-Fi-enabled printers at Trump's course in Sterling, Virginia.
"To leave these networks unsecured undermines our national priorities and the trust the American people place in the Office of the President," the letter warned.
The White House and the Trump Organization did not comment on the letter.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the letter's author, said the vulnerabilities revealed by our story demand immediate action, but he's received no response from the administration so far. "It needs to be addressed quickly. Potentially every minute something is leaking," he said. "It is too late to close the henhouse after the foxes come in."
Since becoming president, Donald Trump has spent time at his clubs on most weekends and has met with foreign dignitaries like Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.
In February, members of Mar-a-Lago posted pictures of a dinner meeting between Trump and Abe on the patio of the club. Cybersecurity experts warned that sophisticated hackers could turn guests' cellphones into clandestine listening devices if they gained access to the networks at the club.
Hackers may not need to travel to each of the Trump Organization's clubs and hotels in order to gain access. We found that the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., was hosting a server running software that is more than a decade old and is still accessible from the internet.
After we notified the company that administers the Trump clubs' websites about our findings, they disabled an insecure login page that lead to a database of sensitive information that we found on Mar-a-Lago's website. However, the company, called Clubessential, has not locked down its customer documentation website, which includes usernames and passwords to internal accounts and is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Clubessential did not respond to a request for comment.
"Cyber-criminals and nation states have both the incentive and the ability to hack these networks to obtain sensitive information critical to our national security and international diplomacy," the Congress members' letter said.
Since our visits to Trump's properties in early May, the president has spent four weekends at his clubs.
"He's the president of the United States," Engel said. "We should make sure he's secure wherever he is."
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