The Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) complained to MahaRERA in July 2018 claiming that numerous portals were promoting real estate projects to aid the sale and acquisition of residential projects. According to MGP, these portals must register as real estate agents since they come inside the legal definition of real estate agents. MGP requested directives from MahaRERA to all such sites in order to register as real estate agents. As a result, MahaRERA sent hearing letters to a number of websites that deal with activities linked to real estate ads.
MahaRERA issued an order in October 2019 requiring internet portals acting as real estate agents to register with MahaRERA after concluding hearings on the issue in February 2019. “To conclude, we hold that the portals whose activities are simply confined to advertisements defined by section 2(b) of RERA, need not register themselves as real estate agents, provided in the disclaimer, they declare that they are simply advertising agencies and advise the viewers to cross-check the information from other sources, including RERA websites," read the order issued by the MahaRERA in October 2019.
The additional instruction, "Registration is required for other websites that serve as real estate agents, as was described above. If the operations are extended over these digital portals' geographical authority, they must register with MahaRERA within the following two months."
The real estate portals challenged the order at the tribunal. Their contention was that the order was vague in nature, adding that online portals follow diverse business models under which they undertake only advertising the projects. They contended that the portals neither 'introduced' parties to sale transactions nor 'facilitated' sales of real estate units and did not receive any 'remuneration' as observed by the Authority.
During the hearing at the tribunal, the MGP, the original complainant in this matter, argued that technical issues should not be raised at this stage and the order was not based on technicalities and real issues would be side-lined. MGP argued that if the matter was remanded back to MahaRERA, it would cause further delays and risked prolonging the 6-month delay in delivery of the order.
In its ruling dated January 6, 2023, MREAT noted that it found merit in the preliminary objection submitted by the appellants and that it was unable to accept the MGP's reasoning. "In light of this, we believe that the contested order (MahaRERA's ruling) cannot be upheld. Therefore, it is appropriate to remand the case to MahaRERA for a new hearing and decision, with enough opportunity for the parties involved "The tribunal made a decision. Setting aside the order, the tribunal said the matter should be heard and decided as soon as possible in accordance with the law.
According to the RERA Act, 2016, the definition of a real estate agent "means any person, who negotiates or acts on behalf of one person in a transaction of transfer of his plot, apartment or building, as the case may be in a real estate project, by way of sale, with another person or transfer of plot, apartment, or building, as the case may be, of any other person to him and receives remuneration or fees or any other charges for his services whether as a commission or otherwise and includes a person who introduces, through any medium, prospective buyers and sellers to each other for negotiation for sale or purchase of plot, apartment or building, as the case may be, and includes property dealers, brokers, middlemen by whatever name called."