An owner of a flat is not entitled to recover the cost of repairs to his flat from the society, the Bombay high court has said. Justice Ramesh Dhanuka struck down a 16-year-old order passed by the secretary, cooperating department of the state and the deputy registrar, cooperative societies directing Maitri Park housing society in Chembur to reimburse repair costs incurred by a member. The society had claimed that it was not liable to reimburse the costs of repairs to the terrace and the flat.
"It is the case of the society that the member has not only claimed for the repairs to the terrace and other structures but has also got his flat repaired... In my view, such demand by the member for repairs allegedly carried out in his flat from the society even otherwise was totally untenable," said the judge.
The court said registrar could only decide on administrative issues like maintenance of accounts and not disputes between parties. The judge pointed out that the provisions under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, the registrar is empowered to look into issues relating to the maintenance of accounts, filing of returns, but had nothing to do with the "obligations of the society to carry out repairs in respect of the tenements occupied by the members."
The society set up in the 1960s, comprises 32 buildings of ground plus one storey and 12 buildings of ground plus two to four storeys. In the ground plus one storey structures, the lower floor flats have exclusive access to individual gardens while the first floor flats have exclusive use of their respective terrace.
In 2000, the society passed a resolution refunding the amount collected towards repair funds to its members. The flat owners on the ground floor and first floor were given the responsibility of maintaining their gardens and terraces and carrying out repairs.
A dispute was raised by a member on the first floor asking the housing society to carry out repairs to the terrace. The deputy registrar in 2002 ordered the society to carry out repairs. Subsequently, it appointed the member itself as an agent of the registrar authorising him to carry out repairs. The member carried out repairs and submitted a bill of around Rs 1,82,000. The society said that following the 2002 resolution and refunding of the repair fund, it was not liable to carry out repairs. The high court agreed and struck down the orders of the deputy registrar which was subsequently upheld by the secretary.
"The resolution passed in the General Body Meeting of the society was admittedly not impugned by any of the members and thus binding (on the members)," said the judge. "In my view, the society was thus not required to carry out repairs in the block/building in respect of consisting of ground plus one structure. The repairs, if any, were thus required to be carried out by the members themselves at their own costs in view of the resolution passed by the society. Even if the society would have carried out such repairs such amount was liable to be reimbursed by the concerned members in a particular ratio."