A society office-bearer? Bear these in mind

Being a member of a resident welfare society comes with a set of rights and responsibilities

Rosie, a cheerful real-estate enthusiast, said she plans to run for a post in her housing society. Lousie, who is always ready to find problems, said that it is not a good idea.

“Being an office-bearer in a housing society comes with a lot of responsibilities. For instance, figuring out the monthly maintenance fees for the residents, based on the expenditure, is their job. They must also ensure it is collected, keep record of the money received, generate receipts and deal with defaulters,” he said.

Aisha, an auditor, added that besides monthly maintenance, a sinking fund is also to be collected. “This is a fixed rate per month to cover for future structural maintenance costs of the building. There is also the responsibility of doing an annual audit, plus tracking inventory and assets,” she said.

“All owners are members of the general body of a housing society; they elect management committee members and pick the president, secretary and treasurer. The president has the authority to defend legal notices against the association and approve contracts. The treasurer manages collections and expenses and has the duty of maintaining documents,” said Housie, a young techie.

“The secretary is responsible for conducting general body meetings, keeping minutes and ensuring member participation. If you want to make any alterations to your flat or face service issues, it is the secretary you reach out to,” he said. The elected members also set up various committees to do various tasks — maintenance work, arranging events, setting rules, etc.

Lousie said that besides regular work, emergencies add to the burden. “For example, there may be service issues such as lift failure or water shortage. Plus, there is the headache of playing arbitrator when there are issues — between residents, with service providers or with the builder.”

Legal action

“Did you know that office-bearers of a society can get arrested?” Lousie asked. “A few years ago, the police in Thane sent notices warning that throwing water balloons could get residents and the office-bearers of societies arrested. The Madras High Court has ruled that the secretary of a housing society is a public servant and can be booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act,” he warned.

Housie said that office-bearers also have many legal powers. “For example, if a resident is involved in illegal activities or causes any damage, they can take legal action. They can also take on a builder and seek compensation if promises are not fulfilled, by lodging a police complaint or filing a case.”

Lousie added: “Societies are legally empowered to make by-laws that restrict the type of tenants on the premises. That said, such decisions were found to be against the fundamental rights and have caused legal trouble for office-bearers.”

Members’ role

“There are three main types of members — regular, associate and nominal. Regular members are flat owners, while associate members are joint owners of a flat. Nominal members are typically tenants. Members have the right to receive a copy of the registered by-laws of the society, and inspect the books, registered documents of the society and meeting minutes. A member can also complain to the registrar if the society is not functioning properly. There are also rights on use and undivided interest of common areas,” Housie said.

“There are also many restrictions,” added Lousie. “For instance, associate and nominal members have limited rights. Plus, a member cannot sublet a property without the permission of the committee. Every apartment owner is obliged to be a member and is bound by the by-laws.”

“Tenants cannot vote or really have a say in the association’s decision-making process,” Lousie said. “But they have the right to get receipts, see the by-laws, use common area, get parking stickers, and get service help from apartment staff such as plumbers.” Housie added that an owner can authorise a tenant to be made an associate member and to attend the association meeting on his/her behalf. It must be in writing and agreed by the managing committee.

The writer is an independent financial consultant

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