How Homebuyers Are Caught In The Crossfire Of Real Estate Insolvencies And The Challenges They Face In Recovering Investments

Agama Law Associates


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The Indian real estate sector, a lynchpin of the economy, has witnessed a surge in insolvencies in recent years.
India Real Estate and Construction
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The Indian real estate sector, a lynchpin of the economy, has witnessed a surge in insolvencies in recent years. While developers face the brunt of financial distress, homebuyers, who invest their life savings in these projects, often find themselves trapped in a legal labyrinth with little hope of recovering their investments. This article delves into the challenges faced by homebuyers caught in the crossfire of real estate insolvencies and explores strategies that can help navigate this complex landscape.

International Considerations: Cross-Border Disputes and Strategies

Seeing the growing acceptance of international arbitration in resolving cross-border real estate disputes, it's important to acknowledge the increasing instances of cross-border investments in Indian real estate. Foreign investors facing insolvency should be aware of the applicability of bilateral investment treaties (BITs). BITs offer certain protections to foreign investors, including provisions on fair and equitable treatment and protection against expropriation. For instance, the India-Singapore BIT could be invoked by a Singaporean investor facing an unfair insolvency process in India.

Furthermore, international arbitration emerges as a potential avenue for dispute resolution. Several international arbitration institutions, such as the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), offer expertise in handling complex commercial disputes.

Risk Management Strategies: Proactive Steps to Mitigate Disputes

Developers can adopt a multi-pronged approach to minimize the risk of disputes and subsequent insolvency situations. Implementing robust escrow account management practices is paramount. Escrow accounts ensure that homebuyer funds are used solely for project completion, fostering trust and financial transparency.

Detailed Escrow Management

Escrow Agreement: A meticulously drafted escrow agreement, vetted by legal counsel, should clearly define permissible uses of funds, disbursement procedures, and consequences of non-compliance.

Multiple Signatories: Mandating the involvement of a representative from a reputable bank, alongside the developer, as a signatory to the escrow account adds a layer of accountability and oversight.

Regular Audits: Implementing periodic audits by independent chartered accountants provides assurance that funds are being utilized as per the agreement. This instills confidence in homebuyers and reduces the likelihood of disputes arising from alleged financial mismanagement.

Beyond Escrow

Conducting thorough due diligence on land titles and securing necessary approvals before initiating projects safeguards against future legal roadblocks. Developers should also consider obtaining performance guarantees from contractors to mitigate risks associated with project delays or substandard construction.

Business Regulatory Advisory

The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA), 2016, established regulatory authorities and mandated the setting up of escrow accounts. However, challenges remain in ensuring efficient implementation and speedy dispute resolution within the RERA framework. Industry professionals must stay updated on regulatory changes and adapt their practices accordingly.

One of the key challenges associated with RERA is the burden of proof placed on homebuyers in dispute resolution proceedings. While RERA empowers homebuyers to seek redressal for delays, defects, or non-completion of projects, proving their claims can be a cumbersome process. Legal representation can be instrumental in navigating these complexities and ensuring a fair outcome for homebuyers.

Furthermore, the timeline for dispute resolution under RERA has been a point of contention. While the Act mandates speedy resolution, delays often occur due to overburdened regulatory authorities and complex legal procedures. Advocacy efforts aimed at streamlining dispute resolution mechanisms within RERA are crucial to protect homebuyer interests.

Another emerging aspect of the regulatory landscape is the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016. The IBC provides a framework for resolving insolvency situations across various sectors, including real estate. While the IBC offers a potential avenue for revival of stalled projects and eventual recovery of investments, navigating the legal complexities of the code can be challenging for homebuyers. Understanding the interplay between RERA and the IBC and their respective implications for resolving real estate insolvencies is crucial for industry professionals.

Case in Point: Jaypee Infratech Limited Insolvency

The Jaypee Infratech Limited insolvency, one of the largest in the Indian real estate sector, serves as a cautionary tale. Thousands of homebuyers invested in Jaypee projects that faced delays and ultimately stalled construction.

The ongoing insolvency proceedings prioritize reviving the company as a going concern, with potential implications for timelines of project completion and potential haircuts for homebuyers

Lessons Learned: Homebuyers should exercise caution when dealing with developers facing financial constraints. Scrutinizing project timelines, financial health of the developer, and adherence to RERA regulations is crucial. Diversifying investments and opting for developers with a proven track record can further mitigate risk.

The Supreme Court's verdict in the case of IDBI Bank Ltd. vs. Jaypee Infratech Limited & Ors (2017) highlighted the plight of homebuyers caught in the crossfire. The Court directed the initiation of insolvency proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016. However, the focus on reviving the company as a going concern has led to delays in resolving homebuyer claims. This case underscores the need for a streamlined process within the IBC framework that prioritizes the interests of homebuyers while ensuring a fair outcome for other creditors.

Adapting to the Needs of Industry Professionals

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) often face different challenges compared to large corporates. Limited financial resources may constrain their ability to implement robust risk management strategies. Industry bodies and legal professionals can play a vital role in providing SMEs with cost-effective resources such as standardized escrow account agreements and templates for conducting due diligence on land titles. Additionally, workshops and seminars can be organized to educate SMEs on navigating legal complexities and implementing best practices in risk management.

The real estate sector caters to a diverse range of projects, from residential complexes to commercial spaces and hospitality ventures. Dispute resolution strategies need to be tailored to the specific sector and the nature of the insolvency. Understanding the unique needs of each segment is crucial for legal professionals to provide effective solutions.


The rise in real estate insolvencies poses a significant challenge for both developers and homebuyers. While legal frameworks like RERA offer some protection, homebuyers must remain vigilant and adopt a cautious approach when investing. Developers, on the other hand, can mitigate risks through responsible financial management, robust project planning, and transparent communication with homebuyers.

Industry professionals, including legal counsel, can play a critical role in navigating the intricacies of real estate insolvencies and advocating for the rights of both developers and homebuyers. By staying informed about the evolving regulatory landscape and adopting proactive risk management strategies, all stakeholders can work toward a more secure and sustainable real estate sector in India.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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