In perhaps the first case of its kind, the police have registered an FIR against a builder for allegedly cheating flat owners on the carpet area of their homes.

Last week, the MHB police station in Borivli (W) finally lodged the FIR after persistent efforts on the part of residents of one of the Cooperative Housing Societies, who complained that their builder who had short-changed them by giving them less carpet area than promised.

The society was redeveloped a couple of years ago and the builder constructed a new wing to re-house the existing residents and another wing which he sold to new flat buyers. The occupants of the Society approached the police after they realized that the builder had "tricked" them by giving them less carpet area than mentioned in the agreement.

To strengthen their case with the police, the residents appointed an architect and valuer’s firm to measure their flats. The results shocked them; the carpet areas arrived at in the independent survey was totally different from those quoted in the agreement signed with the builder as shown in the BMC record.

One of the flat owners on whose complaint the police registered the FIR, said, "I purchased flat and executed an agreement for sale with the builder for a carpet area of 720 sq ft for Rs 24.50 lakhs in March 2006 when the building was still under construction. However, when I measured the flat later, I found the carpet area was only 599.59 sq ft—a shortfall of 120.41 sq ft. If want to sell the flat, I will have to suffer a double loss as the agreement is for 720 sq ft." The builder has short-changed the entire society by providing about a collective 1,800 sq ft less than the agreement.

The builder, when questioned by a Newspaper, claimed it was "an error". "The agent who went to register the agreement documents entered the figures wrongly," he said. "I have explained this to the police." The Builder said he was willing to compensate the old residents if there was a difference in the carpet area and to "resolve the issue" with new flat buyers.

The police generally do not entertain complaints against builders and tell the complainants to go to court though this kind of cheating is a cognizable offence and the police are duty-bound to register an FIR. As for agreements signed with builders, buyers have little choice but to sign on the dotted line but not even one per cent of the agreements are drafted as per the Maharashtra Ownership of Flats Act.