When 'ready for occupancy' is nothing but a come-on
By Tessa Salazar Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--The advertisement says it's "ready for occupancy." The graphics show a spanking new and completed house. Enticed, you immediately make a downpayment, the developer claims that the house is ready and finished with all the utilities properly working and the necessary papers filed. But when the time comes that the developer should have completed the project and what you still have is just the copy of the deceiving print ad and nothing else, what do you do? If there's an alleged violation of the housing project, buyers can report it to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board monitoring group and request for an inspection of the said project. Complaints Mike Denava, legal officer of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, said buyers can get in touch with the HLURB to lodge their complaints. They could even write a letter addressed to the developer and copy furnished to the HLURB. Denava added that a complainant should also be able to establish that there was an agreement between the two parties of the actual scheduled date of moving in. If it has been proven that the developer reneged on its promise, whatever rental expenses and other related expenses that were incurred as a result of the unfulfilled promise could be claimed against the developer as actual damages. Denava admitted that his office has received calls from buyers complaining that they had to wait one more year from the actual date that was promised by the developer. Some of these buyers were then forced to rent in another house as they waited word from the developer. There have actually been cases "when they arrived at the site, and saw that their house was still unfinished. They had no choice but to rent. They can claim that against the developer as part of the actual damages," he said. The complaint should be supported by receipts of the expenses of rents. Upon filing of the complaint, the aggrieved party can include attorney's fees and other related legal expenses against the developer. 'Pauper litigants' HLURB also entertains what it calls "pauper litigants." If the aggrieved party can establish that he or she cannot financially shoulder the costs of the complaint, he or she can file the complaint free of charge. "They can also be assisted by the public attorney’s lawyers." He said many have availed of such benefits. HLURB employs its own legal team to assist complainants. It has regional offices, but if the project is in a province but both parties are based in Metro Manila, the HLURB allows filing of complaints at the HLURB central office in Quezon City for convenience. Denava said buyers should not readily believe in photos of finished houses that look good on billboards or advertisements. "There are many incidents like these. The buying public should be aware of this." How? Conduct an actual site inspection on the housing unit first before making any payment. A prospective buyer should first do actual inspection of the house. Some buyers have the habit of going only to the project on the day when they are scheduled to move in.
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