Independence Day this year has special significance for 75-year-old Mahender Chowdhary, retired government servant and owner of an apartment in the Exotica East Square group’s housing project in Indirapuram. Apart from participating in the usual flag-hoisting ceremonies in his society, Chowdhary is celebrating the successful registration of the Federation of Apartment Owners Association (Federation of AOA) in Ghaziabad – something for which he and others have been fighting for over a year.
Explaining why this is a new chapter in consumer rights, Chowdhary says, "When people take possession of their apartments in any multi-storey group housing project, an important issue they have to deal with is maintenance of common areas and facilities. Many developers want to retain their hold over the facilities because of the lakhs of rupees collected as monthly maintenance fee from the residents (depending on the size and number of flats in a project)." A federation will ensure that AOAs can campaign effectively for apartment owners to get a fair deal when it comes to maintenance charges, common areas and facilities.
“This is the first federation ever registered under Uttar Pradesh Apartment Act 2010 in Uttar Pradesh, and around 30 apartment owners associations (AOAs) have come under its umbrella. Formation of AOAs in other group housing projects will now be expedited and other UP districts can also form an apex body on the line of the Federation of AOA of Ghaziabad,” says Chowdhary.
According to the UP Apartment Act 2010, a developer has to help apartment owners in their projects to form an AOA. Once the AOA is registered, the common areas and facilities shall be ‘deemed as transferred’ to it.
Now the Federation of AOA will look after the interests of the 60 AOAs registered in Ghaziabad and help in the setting up of other AOAs in group housing projects.
Campaigners for the federation had filed a contempt petition in the Allahabad High Court on July 9, 2013, after the deputy registrar (firms, chits and societies) of Meerut refused to pay heed to the demands of many AOAs in Ghaziabad to register the apex body (federation). This, the campaigners alleged, was a violation of the Allahabad High Court judgment dated November 14, 2013, on registering AOAs. The court had said, “In our view, after the enforcement of the UP Apartment Act, 2010, no builder or promoter can resist or delay the formation of association of apartment owners under Section 14 of the Act. If the promoter does not get the association registered, the apartment owners can get such an association registered after a notice giving reasonable period to the promoter, say a month, and adopt model bye-laws, if they have not adopted earlier.
In such case, the Registrar of Societies shall not refuse the registration of the association of the apartment owners.”
Upholding the plea, the Allahabad High Court, on July 21, 2014, ordered both the registrar and deputy registrar to comply with the November 14, 2013, directive within a month, failing which they would have to appear in person before the court and explain the reason for the violation. The court said, “Considering the public importance of the judgment dated November 14, 2013, in writ petition No 33826 of 2012, it is directed that OP No 2 (deputy registrar, firms societies and chits, Meerut, UP) shall file his affidavit stating therein as to how many applications for registration have been filed before assistant registrars of the districts of the state under the provisions of UP Apartments Act, 2010, for registration of respective association of apartment owners and how many such associations have been registered, in the light of order of writ-court dated November 14, 2013 in writ petition No 33826 of 2012.”
Within a week of the July 21, 2014, order being passed, the federation was registered, says Alok Kumar, president of the Federation of AOA, Ghaziabad. Not only that, AOAs in more than 15 group housing projects have also been registered in just a few days. Besides that, many old RWAs in existence before the UP Apartment Act 2010, now want to be changed to AOAs to remain legally valid bodies of residents’ representative.