Housing society chairman holds Versova resident to ransom over dues

Aug 16, 2017, 18:17 IST | Gaurav Sarkar

A 43-year-old Versova resident's share of rental allowances amounting to Rs 2 lakh is being held back by the high-handed chairman of her housing society -- simply because he can

Unity Society in Versova was taken up for redevelopment in 2010. Pic/ Nimesh Dave

Tarranum Shaikh is, unwittingly, fighting a battle for all women. The 43-year-old Versova resident's share of rental allowances amounting to Rs 2 lakh is being held back by the highhanded chairman of her housing society -- simply because he can. The chairman has said he would hand over her dues only after she apologises for the "allegations" made against him and the society.

Shaikh and her husband bought a flat together in Unity Society on Gulmohar Road in Versova in 2001. She lived there with him from 2002 to 2003, after which she moved to Saudi Arabia to join him.

The housing complex went in for development in 2010, which entitled the couple to payments of R4 lakh a year as rental allowance by the developer, Lotus Builders. "I am the associate and co-owner of the flat. My name is on the share certificate as well as the flat agreement," said Shaikh, who separated from her husband after he remarried in 2014.

She said when the building's redevelopment began, she sent a no-objection certificate to the housing society, asking that her share (50%) of the rental allowance be handed over to her husband. "When he remarried in 2014, I wrote to the society members again, telling them that I would collect my own share."

She got her payments amounting to R2 lakh annually in 2014 as well as the next year. "But my cheque for April 2016 was stopped. When I enquired about it, I was told that the primary owner — that is, my husband — had stopped the payment. I wrote to the chairman of the housing society, telling him that withholding the allowance I was entitled to was against the laws of the society. Also, since the cheque had lapsed, I told him that I held the society responsible for its re-issue."

She got a reprieve in October 2016, when she finally got the cheque.

Never-ending woes
But, that wasn't the end of her troubles. "This year, the chairman has again stood against me and is not ready to give me my cheque," alleged Shaikh. "I have better relations with my husband now and he, too, has asked him [the chairman] to hand over the amount, but he has not done so."

She also alleged that in January this year, the chairman announced in the annual general meeting that rental allowance cheques will not be issued to associate owners or co-owners, but only to primary owners. "When I asked him for a clarification in writing, he refused to do so. To date, he has not been able to furnish any proof of such a rule in writing," said Shaikh.

In May, she wrote another letter to the society, stating that she hadn't received her dues. "In the first week of June, I approached the builder since the chairman didn't bother to reply to my letter," she said.

The builder apparently told her that he had sent a cheque for R2 lakh in her name to the society in July. Itself. "But when I went to the chairman's office to collect it, he refused to give it to me. I'm supposed to give an apology apparently. But, for what? For approaching the builders to get my due, or for the letters that I have written to the society demanding that my due be given to me? He (the chairman) cannot stop payments, nor has he made any attempt to explain my fault," she said.

Chairman says
When mid-day reached out to society chairman Ishad Siddiqui, he offered a rather oblique explanation: "She has written some letters to me and has made some allegations against me and the society. She needs to explain these things."

When pressed to elaborate further and questioned about the legality of withholding dues, he clammed up.

He confirmed that the cheque was lying in the society's office. "She is one of the co-owners of the flat; the other cheque has been given to her husband. There is some family dispute going on between them."

Legal recourse

Advocate AM Sodder, who is also the secretary of a 113-member housing society, said even if a person makes allegations against the chairman, he cannot hold back the money that is due to a member. "The money is given to him by the builder in good faith and by virtue of him being a chairman." He said Shaikh can either lodge a complaint with the deputy registrar or approach the cooperative court for help. "Since the cheque is only valid for three months, if, by virtue of the chairman holding on to it, it lapses, the action amounts to criminal breach of trust."

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