By I C Naik
In every one out of two housing societies in Mumbai there is a constant quarrel on who attends water leakage in the ceiling of a bathroom. In every such society residence of one flat out of every four flats faces this problem with no solution.
Now this issue got a recognition as a deficiency in service by housing societies managements and is no longer allowed to persist.
This is a fit case to insert a new Bye Law in the Model Bye Laws expected to come up shortly from the Commissioner and Registrar of Cooperative Societies based in Pune in the State of Maharashtra
Recognising housing societies as service providers, a consumer forum has ordered one such housing society in Chembur to cough up an almost Rs 1 lakh in compensation to a member for the damage caused to his flat by renovation in the flat above.
The forum held the society guilty of deficiency in service because neither did it take any action against the flat owner who caused the damage nor did it make any attempt to recover costs from him. “There is no doubt that since the complainant was a member of the society, he was its consumer and the society was a service provider. It is responsible to pay the complainant,” the forum said.
Mithul Enclave Housing Society Ltd will have to pay Bhimrao Jogdand Rs 55,000 as repair costs and Rs 44,500 for litigation costs, mental harassment and as interest.
Absolving the flat owner on upper floor, the consumer grievances forum has held a housing society liable for damage to the flat of one of its members and made it clear that there was no service provider-consumer relationship between the two flat owners.
Chain of events culminating in to a complaint filed before the Additional Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum on May 27, 2009.
1. Bhimrao Jogdand alleged that member above his Bhalchandra Patil flat began extensive renovation inside his flat in 2006 resulting in leakages in his flat below. ( of Bhimrao Jogdand)
2. On August 24 2006 Bhimrao Jogdand wrote to the society about the problem. With a copy to Patil and sought reimbursement of the repair costs.
3. In May 2007, the society told Bhalchandra Patil that he was responsible for the damages and had to pay Jogdand.
4. Patil did not do anything
5. The society did not act against Bhalchandra Patil.
6. Jogdand finally sent registered notices to both in 2009, but got no response.
7. Aggrieved, he filed the complaint on May 27, 2009
8. The society and Patil filed independent replies, denying the allegations.
9. Both claimed Jogdand’s flat was damaged because it had been lying unused for long.
The forum took into consideration photographs of the damaged flat submitted by the complainant along with copies of the correspondence and accepted that the renovation had caused the damages. It also observed that despite notices, the society made no attempt to stop the work in Patil’s flat and neither did it complain to civic authorities.
The Bye Laws of housing societies governing internal matters of housing societies have not taken care of this issue all that seriously which compels the members to go to courts, a situation does not augur well for peaceful community living in housing societies.
1. The Bye Laws – Model 2009 has a Bye Law No 160 which provides a list of repair jobs the housing society is to pay out of its funds. It’s clause (a)(xiv) reads “ all leakages of water, including leakage due to rain water and leakages due to external common pipe line and drainage lines” on the face of it this is the view taken by the forum resulting in deficiency in service.
2. The Bye Laws- Model 2013 (Proposed) as posted on the web-site of the Commissioner and Registrar of Cooperative Societies has shifted the list of repair jobs from Bye Law No 160(a) to Bye Law No 69.
a. Item “O” in A-Z list of repair jobs also practically identical viz : “Leakages of water including leakages due to rain water and leakages due to external common pipe line and drainage line”
b. Bye Law No 70 providing for basis of apportioning society outgoings under various heads (i) to (xvi) has clarified that All the repairs, not covered by the bye-law No. 69(a) shall be carried out by the members at their cost. The expenditure of the internal leakage due to toilet, sink etc. should be borne by concerned flat holders, with the consent of the society.
3. If one interprets a. and b. in 2 above, carefully there is a retrograde step towards clarifying the issue. “Concerned flat holders” is a unclear term and a source of dispute. Since the Model Bye Laws 2013 are not yet finalized (As confirmed by office of District Housing Federation Mumbai) there is still an opportunity to recognize the views of Consumer Forum. The Bye Laws should state clearly that “The member renovating the bathroom can be permitted to conduct repairs against a prior written undertaking and a deposit of an amount refundable 3 months after the completion of leakage free repair as certified by the member occupying the flat below that flat on the immediately following lower floor.
4. Such bye Law can also address the following proposition as it is likely to inspire members to be negligent towards fellow members’ concerns.
“The consumer grievances forum has held a housing society liable for damage to the flat of one of its members and made it clear that there was no service provider-consumer relationship between the two flat owners.”