Housing societies are not always the safe and trouble-free utopias we imagine them to be and do have their own share of woes and travesties, as does everything else in life. Some problems have a way of appearing, reappearing and recurring in the life of an average housing society resident. Loud neighbors, tyrant committee members, careless service staff, irresponsible builders… the list goes on. But for every problem, there is a failsafe solution, provided some foresight and a lot of proactiveness is applied.
The common problems in the co-operative housing society and their solutions.
- Problem 1. High Maintenance Charges: There are predefined components for which the member has to pay maintenance charges, such as water, service, common electricity, etc. However, in many cases, it has been observed that the managing committee bills members randomly and illegally for surplus charges under false pretexts, such as charges for keeping pets, using elevators for transporting new furniture, etc.
Solution: While getting into an agreement with the developer, check the calculation of maintenance charges, i.e equal distribution, per sq feet calculation or hybrid charge. Also, check your society’s model bye-laws to be aware of the components to be legally paid, and if you are being charged incorrectly, bring it to the notice of the managing committee immediately. In case if the MC refuses to cooperate, you have the right to file a complaint to the Registrar and finally to the District Collector.
- Problem 2. Parking Woes: One slot is allowed per member to park their four-wheeler unless specific arrangements are made by the society, for which it charges extra. A member is allowed to park either a commercial or a personal vehicle. When there is a shortage of slots, a draw is used to determine the parking arrangements. If the owner does not have a parking slot and rents out his residence, it is his responsibility to make available a parking spot for the tenant. Visitors are also legally allowed to park their vehicles inside the society, except the percentage allotted to guest parking has been reduced from 25% to 5% now.
Solution: If you are facing parking problems, approach the managing committee with a written complaint to be granted your rights within the statutes. If no solution is found, approach the Registrar, Co-operative Court or Consumer Forum.
- Problem 3. Corrupt Committee Members: It is no secret that corruption runs rampant where power is centralised. In the case of the managing committee of housing societies, certain dishonest members or office bearers embezzle funds for personal benefit and some committee members pay no heed to such malpractice. Incidents such as misappropriating society’s funds and showing falsified statements, charging members with unnecessary bills, writing off pending dues from certain members, embezzling funds from redevelopment loans, bribing officials for fraudulent expenses, etc. are commonly registered as complaints. In many cases, managing committee charges massive non-occupancy charges from unsuspecting residents even when the apartment is occupied by a close relation or is locked.
Solution: As a proactive and vigilant member, you should be aware that you have the legal right to inspect any and all of the society’s financial books and statements. If your society denies this right, it is liable to pay Rs 25,000 in penalty. Attend the annual general meeting to take stock of the society’s financial transactions. Ensure that the Auditor who performs society’s annual audit is hired from the government-approved panel. Appoint an honest internal auditor from within the society. Finally, approach the Registrar or the court (as RTI action) to highlight unresolved cases of financial debauchery.
- Problem 4. Unfair/irregular Elections: Dictatorial behavior by the committee members is noticed in many Indian societies where the sitting Managing Committee refuses to conduct a fresh election (to be held every five years). Same members retain their position and misuse their authority to bully or manipulate members out of their rights. When they do conduct an election, certain votes are neglected and members favored by MC are given preference for qualifying rounds. Certain chairpersons/secretaries elect the entire managing committee by themselves, disregarding member votes.
Solution: A housing society operates on the laws of democracy, where the members have the right to contest in an election or nominate a candidate of their choice. One member has one vote. The Election procedure is to be supervised by unbiased govt authorities in larger societies. You should make a complaint to the managing committee, which should ideally respond to your objection in 15 days. If no remedy is found, you have the right to approach the local Registrar or the co-operative court.
- Problem 5. Encroaching of space/ illegal construction: This is a common conflict that is often faced by the managing committee. Many members occupy common spaces in the vicinity of the apartment/home, turning it into a shed, garden or parking slot. Illegal apartment extensions are also built from within the residence, occupying extra dimensions than allowed by society. This is a violation of the rights of the neighbors and flouting the rules of society as a whole.
Solution: Inform the violating member of the problem and educate them about the society’s rules after involving the managing committee who should ensure that the encroaching of space is immediately stopped. In case the builder or a member constructs an unauthorized structure within the premises of the society, the MC should notify the local municipal authority as legal action against him.
- Problem 6. Safety neglect: Some societies are careless about their security measures, due to which the residents become victims of theft, vandalism and occasionally graver crimes. At times, the security framework is lax or the security guards are missing/neglectful, resulting in the unnecessary nuisance to members by vendors and salesmen. Even in the case of the society installing CCTV systems, the equipment is not upgraded or repaired when it stops working. Additionally, in common areas such as the parking lot, staircase, swimming pool, community hall, garden, there are broken light bulbs, open manholes, structural damage, broken pipes, glass that often lead to accidents and injuries. Some buildings do not have up to date fire fighting equipment, emergency drill routines and are not earthquake resistant.
Solution: The managing committee members who are in charge of hiring security guards should screen, vet them thoroughly or hire them from a recognized manpower agency and train them on how to perform their duties. They should also be regular in carrying out the necessary annual maintenance contracts with vendors for fire fighting equipment, lift maintenance, etc. Members should promptly notify the committee of broken or dysfunctional amenities that could cause serious inconvenience or injuries to the residents. As a home buyer/builder ensure the building is in compliance with safety laws, certified by inspectors, engineers, and local authorities. Instead of relying solely on manual security, it is highly recommended to install CCTV cameras and equipment and have it upgraded at regular periods. A structural audit is mandatory for buildings at regular intervals.
- Problem 7. Builder not doing his due diligence: You may have come across cases of negligence or profiteering on behalf of the builder/developer such as selling of empty parking lots, renting of common spaces within society premises without authorization, not procuring Occupation Certificate, Completion Certificate, not making available building plans to the society, not executing conveyance and property card in the name of society. At times, they do not share the profit accrued from selling hoarding spaces or mobile tower space on the terrace, unfairly using the building FSI/TDR for other constructions.
Solution: Before the builder handover, ensure every required document and certificate is obtained in due time. There are several authorities you could approach for such illegal actions. Based upon the type of violation, file a complaint with Urban Land Ceiling Department for Conveyance issues, approach the Consumer Court for service related defects, the Criminal Court for cheating or fraud, the civil/city court for an injunction against using FSI/TDR, the BMC to blacklist the builder.
- Problem 8. Fraudulent/Incomplete Audits: Some societies appoint morally dishonest Auditors who turn a blind eye to the misappropriation of funds by the managing committee, taking a cut from the funds. Even if the Auditor is honest in reviewing the finance, thousands of societies in Mumbai and other cities do not submit the audited accounts to the authorities, resulting in de-registration and penalties. Mismanagement of financial statements and cash books results in ineffective audits. Bad bookkeeping on behalf of the committee prevents the auditors as well as the residents from a clear and fair view of the society’s financial undertakings.
Solution: Elect reliable and conscientious committee members who manage the books responsibly. Appoint a clean internal auditor to oversee the finances. Accept the services of a certified Auditor who is empaneled with the Registrar in order to carry out an efficient annual audit.
- Problem 9. Nuisance caused by residents: This problem comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Check any complaint board websites of almost any state in the country, you will find members complaining about unruly neighbours such as loud music at ungodly hours, blaring stereos in cars, littering society premises, throwing food scraps from the pantry, feeding birds in balconies, children and sometimes adults playing cricket and other sports extremely noisily after prescribed play hours in gardens, members getting in scuffles with watchmen and other staff, tenants or even homeowners behaving in unsavory and disrespectful ways, smoking and drinking in society premises, among others. The list is seemingly endless and even renewed with new complaints describing strange and uncivilized behavior by the residents.
Solution: Silence is not the best approach. Confront politely the person causing inconvenience to you and voice your concerns. If the behavior continues, highlight it to the Secretary of the society or file a written complaint. But be sure to follow up on your grievance. The society usually lays down a code of conduct for its residents or at least puts up the list of ‘dos and don’t dos’ on its notice board which usually suffices for those of us who are more self-aware.
Uncivilised behavior is largely accepted in India as citizens would rather mind their own business, be apathetic and tolerate distasteful behaviour instead of taking real action. There are cases where repeat offenders have been reprimanded, penalised and even expelled from the society on account of cruel and intolerable behavior. The final legal remedy is to approach the Police in case of irresolution of the problem.
- Problem 10. Water shortage: There are a sizeable number of buildings that supply 24/7 water while in the case of others, the municipality provides water at fixed hours throughout the day. In such cases, the residents fix water tanks overhead to store water. However, only the specified size of the water tank is approved to be fit as per the rules of the society so as to not hoard. When the buildings do not have overhead tanks and the water supply is governed by the society, it has been observed that the managing committee cuts off the water supply throughout the day or during busy hours such as mornings and evenings without giving prior notice to the member. When the supply is given, in some cases, it is not enough for a family to go about their routine. Other issues that have been highlighted include water leakage due to improper maintenance and supply of unhygienic water due to lack of water tank maintenance.
Solution: Since societies are equipped with underground water storage tanks, if they refuse to provide adequate water or make unequal distribution, the member can approach the municipality or the co-operative court. The MC should be prompt to fix leaking water pipes and ensure clean water to its residents.
No one party is always to be blamed entirely when any conflict occurs. After all, a housing society is a collaborative endeavor that requires participation from both sides. It is the duty of the members to elect the right representatives who would be willing to resolve problems effectively for the sake of the collective. The committee members, in turn, should perform their duties without expecting any material or intangible privileges. Peaceful dialogue should be the first and foremost choice of both parties involved. Approaching authorities is the final and inevitable option.