Housing Society Problems and Solutions: Garbage Thrown From Balcony, Guidelines for Restaurants in CHS
Shirish Shanbhag 29 March 2024
Although there are fines and penalties levied for each act of littering across cities in India, there are still situations where residents living in a cooperative housing society  (CHS/Society) simply chuck their garbage out of their balcony windows. It is often difficult to trace the culprit, as all residents would deny any wrongdoing. Catching them in the act is only possible by installing a closed-circuit TV (CCTV) camera system. Complaints made to the managing committee can also be ignored if the garbage is thrown onto the footpath, with the Society claiming it to be a municipality issue.
 
This week, I will address one such problem, providing a simple and effective solution. We will also look at the guidelines for a restaurant that wishes to operate within a housing society's premises and the different methods with which one can follow up on their complaint to the deputy registrar. 
 
Residents Throw Garbage from Flats onto Footpath
Question: I am a shop owner in a CHS. Recently, some members of the Society have been throwing garbage, diapers, and water from plant pots onto the footpath in front of my shop. Although I am not entirely sure which flat owner is the culprit (as they all deny any wrongdoing), I am sure one of them has been creating this nuisance. 
 
I have verbally complained about this to the managing committee, who say that I need to approach the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for this because whatever is being thrown is on the footpath, which is owned by BMC. As such, BMC also maintains its cleanliness. The managing committee says that since the footpath is not part of the Society premises, they cannot help me. Please guide me as to what can be done in this situation. 
 
Answer: You should first give a written notice to all the flat owners who have a road-facing flat on each floor of your Society's building, stating that you will put a video camera at a discrete place in front of your Society's building to capture the culprit on camera. 
 
In this notice, you should say that you will also file a complaint against such a person at the BMC ward office, which will fine the person responsible for causing such a nuisance to the residents or shops on the ground floor. 
 
Before sending this notice, go to your municipal ward office and find out to whom you can make such a complaint and how much would be the fine that they charge when there is video evidence of the nuisance created by residents. Mention this amount in the written notice that you give to the residents. 
 
With this notice, surely the residents will stop throwing their garbage on the footpath in front of your Society's building. If the nuisance continues, you may install a video camera with the help of a professional. Then, once you have video evidence of the act being committed, file a written complaint with the BMC.
 
In your complaint, you should mention that video footage of the person throwing garbage onto the footpath is available, and the recording can be shared with them. Also, mention that you have already given the residents a written notice, a copy of which should be attached to your complaint. You will have to be persuasive in your complaint to the municipal ward office so that the officers can take action against the culprits. 
 
Such nuisance will certainly be stopped, the moment the municipality fines a resident.
 
Guidelines for Restaurant Operating Within Society Premises
 
Question: Our Society has given a no objection certificate (NOC) to a restaurant that wishes to operate within the premises and as we understand it, it will use at least 6 to 8 burners. Our managing committee has mentioned that the shops operating within the Society are already marked off as commercial areas within the residential Society, so there is nothing wrong with the Society giving a NOC to the restaurant.
 
The restaurant owner has now started working on a chimney duct inside the premises. Can you clarify whether the expenses for this chimney duct are to be borne by the restaurant owner or the Society?
 
Answer: A separate chimney for removing burnt fuel gases should be built at the cost of the restaurant owner. Also, a separate garbage disposal bin with segregation and disposal by an independent garbage disposal system (not part of the regular Society's garbage disposal) should be built and followed by the restaurant owner.
 
If this is not done, or if the fuel gases from the restaurant on the ground floor of your Society's building are causing heat and suffocation, then you can make a complaint against such a restaurant to the municipal ward office, stating how the restaurant is operating by flouting municipal guidelines. 
 
NOTE
We will not be answering queries posted in the comments. Only questions sent through the Moneylife Foundation's Legal Helpline will be answered. If you want to seek guidance or ask questions to Mr Shanbhag, kindly send it through Moneylife Foundation's Free Legal Helpline. Here is the link: https://www.moneylife.in/lrc.html#ask-question
 
Following up with the Deputy Registrar on Complaints
 
Question: Our housing Society, which has 25 members, conducted elections around three months ago, but the committee was elected uncontested for lack of a quorum. The present secretary, who is only an associate member, has more than two children born after 2001, which disqualifies him under Sections 73CA & 154B23. We have written to the committee but have received no response from their end, as they are ignoring our letter under the secretary's instruction.
 
We have also lodged a complaint with the Maharashtra Housing Federation but have not received a response. The deputy registrar's office does not seem interested in this matter, as they have just received my complaint and responded with an acknowledgement. Please advise.
 
Answer: In order to receive a response from the deputy registrar (DR) within 30 days, please file an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the public information officer (PIO) of DR, with a copy of your original complaint attached. In this RTI application, you should request information regarding the action taken against your complaint (a copy of which should be attached).
 
PIO has to reply to you within 30 days of receiving the application. If you do not receive a response during this period, you can file a first appeal with the appellate officer (AO), which will allow you to get a response within 45 days. If you still have not received a response, you can file a second appeal with the state information commissioner. However, in my experience, you will not have to go this far, as the PIO will respond to your RTI. 
 
In the unlikely situation where you do not receive a response to the RTI application, you can complain to the district deputy registrar (the officer above the deputy registrar) and also simultaneously file a Lokshahi Din complaint with the district collector. 
 
Disclaimer: The guidance provided in these columns and on our Legal Helpline is on the sole basis of the facts provided by the reader/questioner and does not amount to formal legal advice in any form whatsoever. 
 
(Shirish Shanbhag has an MSc in Organic Chemistry, a Diploma in Higher Education, and a Diploma in French and has completed his LL.B. in first class in 2021. Before his retirement, he was a junior college teacher at Patkar College from July 1980 to May 2012, teaching theoretical and practical chemistry. Post-retirement in 2012, he started providing guidance and counselling to people on several issues, specifically focusing on cooperative housing society-related matters. He has over 30 years of hands-on experience in all matters about housing societies and can provide out-of-box solutions for any practical issue.)
 
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