“People are very skeptical and scared while facing housing-related issues. They should, in fact, be confident while approaching their problems. The major reason for fights in housing Societies is the fact that people don’t know their rights and duties. They should keep themselves informed about the various acts, rules and laws in the housing sector, to make proper use of the same and avoid conflict,” said Advocate Vinod Sampat, at a seminar on Housing Society issues held by the Right To Information (RTI) Union and Co-Operative Societies Residents Users and Welfare Association (CSRUWA) on Saturday, May 5, at Goregaon, in Mumbai. The speakers on the panel were Advocate Vinod Sampat, RTI activist J B Patel, CA Ameet Israni, Ramesh Prabhu, RTI activist Krishnaraj Rao, and Advocate Dr L B Tiwari. Ameet Mehta hosted the programme and also participated in during the question ‘n’ answer round with the audience.
The panel primarily debated the credibility and use of the Maharashtra Housing Bill, 2011 as against the existing Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act (MOFA). The event saw people from across the spectrum —society members to builders, lawyers, activists and residents of various Societies.
Ironically, the ‘Co-Operative’ Societies are the ones facing non co-operation from its members. There are differences between the members and the Society. The members stop supporting the Society. They don’t pay their monthly contribution and quarrel with others. The Society on the other hand, tries to push for changes that they want and ignore suggestions from other members. “If someone has any grievance, I suggest they go to the Managing Committee, sit and explain the problem and try to find a solution collectively. If this doesn’t work out, then the person should form a committee of three people from the Society, preferably comprising one managing committee member, one old person, and one woman. Make them the arbitrators to help solve your issue,” suggested J B Patel.
“The Maharashtra Housing Act (MHA), 2011, is like a cross between RTI ‘the Sunshine’ Act 2005 and MOFA 1963. I feel that it has the potential to force builders to reveal all their cards in the public domain, thereby curbing the undue gains that builder-lobby currently enjoys under cover of darkness,” said Krishnaraj Rao. He added on a cautionary note, “It is an open secret that many builders are duping investors by doing ‘jugaad’, announcing and advertising projects without even gaining proper title over the land, leave alone permissions and plan approvals. Although this is widely known, such builders get away unpunished as no authority is empowered to take notice of such wrongdoings and initiate proceedings. MHA 2011 creates the Housing Regulatory Authority, which can take notice of such wrongdoings, issue warnings and show-cause notices, issue penalties and also initiate legal action. And in case of disputes, MHA 2011 creates a Housing Appellate Authority.”
There was also a lot of criticism for the new Act from the panel. Another panellist, Ramesh Prabhu, chairman of the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association said, “There was no public consultation held before tabling the bill. It was only since January 2012, that the bill has been debated and dissected in the media. The MHA goes easy on builders, as there is no prison sentence for them, in certain cases, which the previous Act had.”
“MOFA had no teeth to implement its own mandates, and it essentially left everything between the builder and the courts. If you read the provisions of MHA 2011 and MOFA 1963 side-by-side, you will see that actually, MHA 2011 is nothing but MOFA with teeth added,” added Rao.
The discussion was followed by a fizzy interactive session. Questions and answers flew back ‘n’ forth as three hours proved too little to debate on contentious issues.
Someone from the audience asked, “The property card of our society still has the builder's name. How do we transfer the ownership in the Society's name?” Sampat and Mehta answered, “A property card is the most important document that the CHS needs to have. As soon as the building is complete and the Society is formed, the members should focus on getting the property card on the name of the Society,” said Sampat. “Major problems in the housing sector can be solved if the property card is in the name of the society. The builder v/s society issue won’t exist to that great an extent anymore,” added Mehta.
Sampat elaborated, “The Society should focus on getting the building completion certificate from the builder and the property card. In terms of the provisions of Section 10 of the MOFA 1963, as soon as a minimum number of persons required to form a Cooperative Society have taken flats, the promoter has to take steps for the registration of the cooperative society.”
The questions from the people kept coming even after the event, as many people didn’t get a chance to voice their problems, due to time constraints. Yet another question focused on the issue of encroachment in housing Societies. “Encroachment of common areas by members using them for storage is a common issue amongst many Societies. No common areas can be encroached upon by any member of the society and the electric duct and fire duct can never be put to any use by any member on any floor of the building of the society,” said Patel.
Issues related to parking spaces and their selling have also been hot button topics amongst Societies. “No member, including the chairperson or any other office bearer of the Society, can hold parking slots contrary to the provisions of byelaws and no one can sell the same. The Society has to follow the byelaws for the allotment of parking slots,” said J B Patel.
The members of the Society are also empowered under the byelaws to have free of cost inspection of the documents, registers, books, minutes etc. and to obtain the copies of the documents, as per the provisions of Section 32 of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act. “You may, therefore, exercise your right and ascertain the actuality of the statements of the chairperson and treasurer from the records of the Society,” said J B Patel
“People should be proactive when it comes to redevelopment of their Societies. They should double check everything and always take legal advice before signing any contract with builders,” said Sampat. He mentioned a few pointers to keep in mind while going for the big ‘R’, redevelopment.
w Focus on getting the building completion certificate from the builder.
w Take into note the height of the flat. The builder should provide storage area above the toilet.
w Agreement and drafting should be done very carefully. Focus on starting every clause/line with ‘Not withstanding any____’.
w Arbitration Clause: The arbitrator should be a retired high court judge or a reliable person. The builder should be the one paying him/her.
w Make one representative amongst building members, to represent the Society in front of the builder.
w Don't rely on project management consultants blindly.
w Keep a track record of all events of redevelopment.
w Consumer forum can be approached for redressed to grievances and solutions to problems and issues.
w Get the property card on the Society’s name.
w Be transparent in all your dealings.