The extent of apartment society’s power and consumer rights: a blurred line?

In today’s world Consumer Protection Act has become one of the most important laws due to increasing fraudulent activities, misinterpreting the consumers who are also misguided. Thus, one of the major issue which stands in front of the consumers are that they aren’t even aware of their full-fleshed rights. Therefore, the provisions of Consumer Protection Act are made to protect the consumers from fraudulent dealings by providing them with their suitable rights. It helps the consumer to know the correct procedure for making safe transactions and aid them with justice, when any of their rights are frustrated. Herein, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is an act of Central Government which has applicability all over India, to provide aid to the consumers for settlement of any disputed matter in question.

Coming to the topic in question that is “apartment societies power and consumer right: a blurred line” we can see a huge increase in demand and sales of apartments in housing societies, resulting rise in the number of frauds associated with it and this is where the CPA,1986 comes into the frame. The housing department comes under the ambit of ‘service’ in the CPA,1986, through these services the members of the Co- Housing societies get safe guard measures and have an option of getting their grievances addressed, the members face a lot of challenges and stumbling blocks before them with respect to the services related to possession of house, allotment of the same and last but the most talked issue of maintenance services of the housing complex/society. Such grievances by the consumers can be easily be handled and acknowledged, if the consumers knock the doors of Consumer Forum demanding damages and compensations of any sort against the apartment society, Co- Housing societies and builders for furnishing deficiency in services.

Talking about housing societies they are not always unchallenging and prudent as people think before investing, there are number of things one must keep in mind before steeping into becoming a buyer or owning a property, decision should be made by keeping in mind about every aspect associated with it, as a glass sculpture may look very beautiful and attractive to you but at the same time it has the property of being very fragile and risky which will lead to high maintenance, same happens with buying a property or house in an apartment it may attract the consumers at first but it is important for the consumers to know about each and every facet of it before investing huge amounts of money. Here listing a few problems faced by the consumers where they are suppressed by the Apartment societies power.
1. High Maintenance Charges: There are predetermined elements for which the member needs to pay maintenance charges, for external services such as water, cleanliness of common area, etc. However, it has been observed frequently by the members that in many cases the managing committee alleges to imposes extra charges of maintenance on members randomly and illegally by misinterpreting them by claiming false excuses for forcing them to pay expenses for having pets, use of elevators and charges for
transportation of new furniture in the society.

2. Adversity of Parking – Generally in Co- Housing societies/Apartments the rule of one parking slot (four-wheeler) for one house is been followed which leaves the owners of single houses having more than one, four-wheeler in misery as extra money is been charged to them and in some cases where the particular residence is on rent, the owner as well as the tenants both faces a lot of challenges in getting a slot for parking as the owner needs to make sure that whether there is a vacant slot in the apartment which an be provided to the tenant and even after all this the tenants are asked to pay some extra
amount to reserve the slot if there is more than one vehicle, therefore this problem of parking adversity becomes major at the festive times as some apartment societies allowthe visitors to park their vehicles at the society itself and this leads to shortage in parking area which creates unfulfillment and dissatisfaction of needs of the owners. However, the percentage of parking slots allotted for the visitors parking has been reduced from 25% to 5%.

3. Committee Members corruption conspiracy: As we all know corruptions prevails in each and every sector where the power is known to be centralized in few hands. As our matter in question is housing apartments and societies it is observed that if not all but one or few members of the managing committee may procure a dishonest and unfaithful behavior against the residents and are severally caught in the issues of embezzling of funds for their personal benefits and the rest may not be dishonest but also raise no objection in the prevailing situation of such malpractice and becomes the party to conspiracy with others, indirect funds are charged in form of members with worthless bills, claiming pending dues from certain members, embezzling through excuses of redevelopment loans etc. are the complains commonly registered.

4. illegal construction/ invasion of space: This is a common ground of conflict among the apartment/ Co- Housing as many residents have the tendency of occupying common area of the apartment, turning it into a personal shelter, plantation of own gardens or illegally occupying parking slot. Residents also extend their apartment illegally and capture the extra dimensions which they are not allowed by the society. This violates the rights of the people living in the neighborhood and breaking the rules of the society as well.

5. Builder/Developers not keeping due diligence: Negligence on part of the builder or the Developers is a common sight for people nowadays, as they have the tendency of inside trading with the sub-contractors and are alleged to make profit through ultra-vires methods by making excuses such as delay in material suppliers, late approvals from the governments side and delay in getting local.

6.  Faulty and fraudulent Audits: Some societies pays no heed in appointment of the Auditors for the society and this amounts to appointment of dishonest Auditor who may not look into the work passionately and also turns a blind eye on to misappropriate use of funds and also may be taking a percentage of cut from the fund. It is also viewed that even if the Auditor is honest with handling the finance, the careless behavior of the managing committee may land the society in façade by not submitting the audited documents to the concerned authorities which results in huge penalties and de registration at the office, mismanaged accounts or financing results in effective audits and the residents of the society can’t have a fair view of the financial records or may not be able to understand were the actual cashflow is going. So, these are the major problems which are faced by the Consumers and we can also see the powers which are been misused by the Co-Housing Apartments/societies. Now, further we will talk about how the consumers can get aid and where such grievance can be registered against Co- Housing societies which are in misuse of their powers.

Instantly after a consumer is cheated and wants to address any grievance, he/she can knock the doors of the Consumer Forum, as per section 2 (1) (d) of the Consumer Protestation Act, 1986 empowers the consumers to address their complaints and grievances. The owner of property or the buyers are known to the consumers here and the forum helps the consumers to seek aid and protection under it, with the help of the ‘Consumer Courts’ , the buyers have an option of getting their money back and in some cases also with interest if any, or are financially compensated for any kind to delay by the side of builder beside the allotment of the flat.

Generally, there is a meeting settled between the Consumer and the builder where the consumer can put his/her problem forward and can ask the to carry out the services in deficiency or have an option of asking the compensation for the same, and even after the addressal of the grievances if, no response or action been taken from the builders side, then the Consumer is free to go to the ‘Consumer Court’ with their problems. In cases where there was a delay in the possession of the flat from the builder the Consumer has an upper hand because this can amount to breach in the contract and the builder will be liable to refund the amount for the period of delay with interest. Incase of the problem of high militances charges the Consumers much be well versed with the by- laws of the society to be aware of the legal amount which should be paid and through this you can eliminate the unnecessary charges and if anything is charged beside the correct model the Consumer can challenge the Co-Housing societies in the court, moving forward with the issue of the adversity of parking issues one must first give in writing their problem for which the solution is asked from the managing committee, and it is not solved then the Consumer can straight away go to the ‘Co-operative Court’ or ‘Consumer Court’.

So, these are some of the issues and remedies of the Consumers which they face and solutions, how they can get rid of it, now we can get to the conclusion by stating that there is a concrete law for helping the consumers for any kind of issue which they generally face in the corrupt worlds or have the feeling of getting suppressed by the local authorities, a sincere piece of advise to them that government and the authorities, if have delegated the powers and have empowered the local bodies such as Co- Housing societies/ apartments, have also provided the consumers with equal amount of rights which they can use to safe guard them, only the consumers should keep themselves properly informed about their rights and should seek aid through it and not use them to manipulate anybody.

Adv. R.P. Rathod, Can members approach consumer forum against their grievance?
(Sept,5,2020) 12:15
My Gate, 10 Common Problems Faced in Cooperative Housing Societies and Their Solutions
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-Simran Singh