When Sulja Homes didn't begin contruction of Hem Verma's home, months after the contract had been signed and thousands of dollars were paid, Verma approached Consumer Affairs Victoria and VCAT, and received favourable rulings from them. Despite VCAT ordering Sulja Homes to pay Verma $10,500 back, nothing has happened - no monies have been returned and the house construction hasn't even begun. And as SBS Punjabi found out, the Verma family isn't alone at the receiving end of this.
Hear SBS Punjabi's interview with Hem Verma:
For Hem Verma, it all began in October 2015, when he signed a contract with Sulja Homes in Melbourne, to build a double storey dwelling in Tarniet for a total cost of $263K. He paid $18,337 up front, which included a 5% deposit and $5,200 in upgrades.
By mid-2016, no construction had begun on Verma's block of land - even soil test reports and final plans had not been sent through. Verma approached Consumer Affairs Victoria, who asked Sulja Builders to pay back the $5,200 of upgrades to Verma. Verma was further advised to lodge a case at Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to claim the rest of the money.
in November 2016, Verma managed to strike a settlement with Sulja Homes with the help of a VCAT mediator. The owner of Sulja Homes, Ondrej Sulja was present at the settlement, and "agreed to pay me $10,500 by 25th November 2016, in the presence of his lawyer and a VCAT mediator".
When Verma still hadn’t received the money early this year, he approached VCAT again in February 2017, which enforced the terms of settlement and ordered Sulja Homes to repay Hem Verma.
Ondrej Sulja didn't appear at the hearing on Feb 14 and till date, has not settled the monies, as adjudicated by VCAT.
Hem Verma has spoken to SBS Punjabi about the immense hardship he and at least 30 other families have suffered, because of Sulja Homes. "I'm repaying instalments for the block of land I had bought two years ago, am paying the Council, but after all of this, not even a brick has been laid on my land. Perhaps I'm luckier than those who are living on rent in small houses, with extended families. This has been a nightmare for all of us".
In some cases, construction was begun, but the sites have been deserted for many months now. In Hem Verma's case, contruction didn't even begin.
"My advice to everyone out there is, do your home work before you sign up with any builder. For the sake of saving some money, don't go with a small builder. And make sure your lawyer reads the contract before you sign it - I've now found out from another builder that the contract signed by Sulja with may not even be valid. All the points in the checklist have not been ticked off. So please, take care when you sign a building contract," says Hem Verma.
SBS Punjabi has contacted Sulja Homes numerous times on the phone, but it has gone unanswered. We are still awaiting a response to our email request.
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