Mumbai: The Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (MahaRERA) has declared that property web portals which go beyond advertising and facilitate and negotiate the sale or purchase of properties for developers and homebuyers must register as real estate agents. The MahaRERA Coram comprising Vijay Satbir Singh and Bhalchandra Kapadnis, in an order passed on October 3 has ruled that property web portals engaged in deals should register themselves in the next two months.
Leading property web portals like Magicbricks, 99acres.com, Makaan.com and Housing.com will now have to register their portals with MahaRERA.
The Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) had raised this issue before MahaRERA in a letter, stating that the activities of property web portals like Magicbricks, 99acres.com, Makaan.com, Housing.com fall within the definition of a real estate agent as defined under real estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016. The MGP was represented by senior counsel Advocates Darius Khambata and Dr Abhinav Chandrachud and the MGP chairman, Adv Shirish Deshpande, who sought clarification from MahaRERA.
Considering the seriousness of the issue, the authority treated it as a suo motu complaint and issued notices to all four property web portals. Moreover, it also sought suggestions from the promoters’ bodies like the National Real Estate Development Council, Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry and the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India.
Interestingly, all the four web portals claim they are not real estate agents as defined under RERA, on the basis that they are not providing any service to the promoters or homebuyers. Besides, they argued, they do not facilitate or negotiate the sale of properties and hence are not required to be registered as real estate agents with MahaRERA. They also vehemently contended, they were merely advertising properties, like other print media did.
The matter was extensively heard by the MahaRERA Coram and on October 3, 2019, it upheld the MGP’s main contention in its 279-page judgment that these property web portals clearly fall within the definition of a real estate agent. The MahaRERA bench has also observed that there is a sharp difference between advertising and the activities of most of the property web portals, which go beyond merely advertising the properties and in fact, promote, facilitate and negotiate on behalf of developers or homebuyers. Moreover, dealing with the issue of property portals that operate in many states, the bench has observed that such portals need to register with the respective state RERA authorities.