Homing in on a gated villa?

The community living concept appears attractive, but check out the many issues

A home with land is an aspiration for many buyers — there are many advantages such as the ability to grow a garden, freedom to change or adding to the house.

But in an independent house, you miss out on the community and the ability to share services such as security. It is tempting to imagine a solution that brings the best of both worlds.

Enter gated villa communities that are gaining popularity in metros and tier-II cities. While the marketing content focusses on the positives, it is prudent to consider all the issues before deciding.

Not private

Developers can get permission to create layouts and develop houses. But the idea of restricting access to public with a wall is a violation of law.

This stand has been upheld by the courts as well. In May 2015, the Kochi High Court noted that a road or pathway dividing any large tract of private land into plots is a public road if it connects more than one plot, and it does not have any exclusivity. In short, there is no concept of a private road when two or more plots are involved.

There have been instances where different gated communities had to demolish their walls and open their gates, so the public could access the road. For example, The Bhruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) demolished the gate and compound within the layout of Classic Orchard in Bengaluru. Others include L&T’s South City villa project.

So the security that is said to come with the gated community may remain while the area is undeveloped and there is no request for access.

Amenities not exclusive

There are other problems, such as in the amenities promised. For one, parks are often part of the development. But these are mandatory open spaces that are meant to be open to the public as well.

For example, in Chennai, open space reservation areas in residential layouts (larger than 10,000 sq m) must be gifted to the local bodies or other authorities, prior to obtaining planning approvals.

These are under the custody of government authorities and considered public recreation areas. They cannot be exclusive to the residents.

Not just the residents from the neighbourhood, there may be others who can share the facilities.

There are cases where the developer may retain ownership of a club house, gym or other facilities. They may run a commercial operation and allow it to be used by non-residents. This may cause issues for residents.

Gated-community development involves not just building houses, but also civic infrastructure such as schools and shops.

These take long to come up. Others such as club houses take time and involve high costs to construct, and the builder may not prioritise them. As a result, it may take a long time to start enjoying the features that were advertised.

Some selling points such as a reputed school in the community may not materialise as the school may decide to pull out or take much longer to start operations. In these cases, as there may not be other choices available, you may have to change your plans or scramble for alternatives.

Also, as these communities typically come up in non-central locations, delays in infrastructure development may hamper your day-to-day life.

For example, the approach road may not have been built or there may be issues in sewage or garbage handling.

Your rights

Home ownership in a community often comes with many rules and restrictions. For instance, there may be some themes to be followed in the exterior. Add-on constructions may not be allowed or may have to abide by certain themes or norms.

You must also read and understand the long list of agreement terms that may state the conditions on ownership change or modifications to the house. Check the various charges and fees that you may have to pay, not just one-time, but on an ongoing basis.

Also, it is good to ensure that there are clauses that compensate you if the promised features are not delivered or there are undue delays in handing over facilities.

Newer developments that need to be Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA)-certified may not face such issues and you may want to consider these projects.

The writer is co-founder, Rana Investment Advisors.

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