Together we live better

Together we live better

Together we live better

Housing societies are there to help residents make the most of their stay in an apartment complex, writes Bindu Gopal Rao.

So you have bought your dream apartment and have moved into it. Have you given a thought to its daily administration and whom you can approach if something goes wrong? This is exactly where housing societies come into play. Given the huge investments in real estate today, it is extremely important to have a housing society in every residential community. 

For the uninitiated, a housing society is formed by a group of house owners in the apartment complex. An elected managing committee - which typically includes a secretary, treasurer, president and other stakeholders - takes care of the society’s needs. It not only addresses the day-to-day problems, but also bring in a sense of order in the society. 

The specifics

Typically, a Co-operative Housing Society (CHS) or Residents Welfare Association (RWA) is a group of residents coming together to form an administrative entity for smooth functioning of the society’s affairs, payment of taxes, maintenance of security and also conducting of social events for a cohesive living environment. 

A society can be formed only after the builder completes the construction with all amenities and facilities mentioned in the sale agreement of every resident. 

“They form a legal entity that can help members of residential communities to  address concerns and issues that relate to them vis-à-vis the outer world of government agencies as well as of the builder entity, which created the project,” says Chandrashekar Hariharan, executive chairman and co-founder of BCIL ZED Homes. It is important to have a registered housing society to ensure the optimal use of available resources. 

“Housing society committees take decisions pertaining to issues faced by the entire complex and these decisions must be made by the elected members of the society after discussing everything in detail with all stakeholders. Housing societies  manage, maintain and administer the properties in the complex, raise funds for achieving various objectives, undertake and provide social activities also,” says Om Ahuja, CEO, residential services, JLL India. 

The housing society is an entity that ensures all owners contribute towards the common facilities, adhere to certain rules and regulations towards physical and legal security of the community. “These societies are important in the sense that they ensure camaraderie, form a close-knit community for its residents,” says Harinder Dhillon, senior VP, sales and marketing, Raheja Developers Ltd.

Doing it right

Today, most residential complexes come with lots of amenities provided by the builder . However, in most cases, after the property is handed over to the residents, it is the duty of the residents to maintain it. “This calls for the need to have a proper housing association that acts as a kind of governing body within the society to ensure that matters run smoothly,” says Ramesh Nambiar, co-founder and MD, Nambiar Builders. 
He further adds, “A housing society looks after the society’s common areas and facilities such as the garden, pool and gym, implements maintenance procedures and organises functions and celebrations. It can also charge maintenance fees, formulate rules for living within the society, take action against troublemakers and, if matters get serious, go to court over issues related to the same.” 

A housing society should be a non-profit entity formed by a due electoral process involving all society members. There should be no scope for mismanagement of the society’s funds and the society must be registered with a government entity. 

The society must keep centralised records of all residents, owners and tenants and periodically publish a directory with these details for the benefit of all members. The choice of office bearers for housing societies is critical and they must all be persons of character, high conduct and integrity. They have to be people who are willing to offer time for addressing the daily   concerns.  

The rule book

The activities of housing societies in various states are regulated via the respective Co-operative Societies Act and Rules administered by the Registrar of Co-Operative Societies appointed by the government, and by the organisations and multi-state Co-operative Societies Act and Rules.  Accounts are regularly are audited and transparency is ensured with the provisions of such Acts that offer information to members regarding the methods of governance.

 R Ramachanthran, chairman and MD, Omshakthy Agencies Pvt. Ltd, is of the opinion that even though the government fixes maintenance charges for housing societies, individual societies are free to adopt these by-laws in totality or modify them as per their requirement. “Some individual societies flex charges and levy exorbitant amounts citing various reasons. Hence, better regulation is required in this regard,” he says.

Adds Pawan Jasuja, director, Finlace Consulting Pvt. Ltd., “Firstly, apartment owners’ association is usually initiated by the builder. In case of non-cooperation from the builders, the residents of the society can take the initiative. Secondly, get a copy of the by-laws for housing societies and follow the procedure. It is also advisable to keep a property lawyer on behalf of the society.

 Thirdly, the association should be registered with the local registrar of societies, as mandated by the local authorities. Post the submission of application, the association should open a bank account in the society’s name, where the share capital and membership or entrance fees will be deposited. Lastly, after completion of registration, conveyance of the society should also be done from the builder’s name to the owners’ name.”

 Arun Kumar, MD and founder, Casa Grande Pvt. Ltd. adds, “The basic regulation that ought to be followed by all housing societies is that they cannot charge non-occupancy charges beyond 10 percent of the service charges. Within the housing society, there is a board of elected members who give a set of regulations to the residents present in the housing society. These rules vary for every housing society.”

“Don’t allow commercial activities in the societies, except for some shops in designated areas and professional services such as medical practice, tuition and so on. However, there should be strict guidelines defined for the purpose to avoid any inconvenience to the residents. Don’t allow any internal, external or structural changes, unless it is approved by competent authorities and professionals ensuring no damage or harm to the structure,” advises Gaurav Mavi, director of sales, Better Option Propmart Pvt. Ltd.  

Ground zero

Housing societies have long played the role of governing multiple activities within housing colonies. 

K N Murthy, president, Mantri Greens Residents Association explains, “Like others, our housing society too has a managing committee with two block representatives from every block. Only owners can stand for these elections and  voting is held in case there is more than one candidate. The elected members select four office-bearers. From time to time, sub-committees are formed bycalling interested residents who report to the managing committee.”

Housing societies in the current context of urban crisis vis-a-vis resources have to play a more important role towards greater understanding, efficient management of water, energy and waste. There has to be an active role that housing societies can play with expertise that they secure from the outside or from within their own communities to see that they bring down consumption of energy and water by 30-50 percent with simple new-age technological solutions that are available at affordable costs. 

“Don’t get bogged down by the work entrusted to you. Actively seek volunteers among residents, hire the right staff in the society office and use the right tools. Give highest priority to keeping the residents well-informed and encourage transparency at every level.

 Most disputes in societies occur due to lack of communication and bridge-building between society and residents,” says Sangeeta Banerjee, Co-founder, Apartment ADDA. Housing societies can really be instruments of change in the future if they play this role effectively, while continuing to manage with efficiency the conventional needs of facilitating the management and housekeeping of every housing colony.

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