How to deal with your errant  RWA

By B T Srinivasan

Things can go wrong any time if a RWA decided to play foul. It could prove detrimental to the peace and welfare of residents – a situation that is not so uncommon. So, what do the residents do?

An example is available from the experience of residents of a particular a housing colony in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.  Hassled for quite some years by the rampant commercialization of the hitherto peaceful locality in gross violation of municipal rules, appeals to the local RWA went unheeded.  Interestingly, many these complainants, lawful owners living in the colony for almost a decade, were not members of the RWA, allegedly due to the reluctance of the said Association to expand its membership base.

Nevertheless, these “new residents” of the colony were the first to raise a noise over the harassment due to the illegal and inconvenient parking of vehicles by employees and visitors of the commercial establishments everywhere including the footpaths, parks and other open spaces. Most of these spaces were now being encroached upon by these commercial operations including a few hospitals in the area.

Despite repeated reminders, the RWA paid no heed to the collective request of the residents and brushed the issue under the carpet. Tired of the state of affairs, the residents approached a renowned lawyer of the area who suggested they move court. While how the case went is a different story, what this instance highlights is the willful disengagement and exclusion of legitimate residents from the activities and process of the resident welfare system. This is not an isolated case. Hundreds of RWAs across the country become hostage to a few interested parties who develop a vested interest in running the associations and making it easy for themselves by keeping demanding residents out of the process.

An RWA is a voluntary organization with elected members of the housing society functioning as the office-bearers. These members and office bearers are re-elected every year or after a set period preferably with new office bearers as frequently as feasible in the interests of making self-governance participatory and inclusive. However, often than not, things go wrong when RWAs do not adhere to this established norm.

An RWA is a legal body, registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (under state-specific amendments), which stipulates that any society registered under the act may sue or be sued in the name of the president, chairman or the principal secretary or trustees, as determined by the rules and regulations of the society and, if no such posts have been established, in the name of the person appointed by the governing body of the RWA for the occasion.

“As per the rules of the Societies Registration Act, any member or non-member can file a complaint. Any person who owns a house in a housing society automatically becomes a member of the RWA”.

A majority of RWAs have a “Memorandum of Association”, which contains information about its powers, functions and how and to whom issues should be directed in case of a conflict.

“For instance, all appeals against the managing committee are usually made to the General Body of the association, whose decision is deemed to be final and communicated to the complainant in writing”.

But the Housing society of Banjara Hills, Hyderabad referred to here is a classic example, where the new house owners who are lawful and permanent residents were not enrolled and the society executive committee did not hear their grievances.

There are clearly laid out regulations in such instances that residents can resort to. The first and obvious step is to petition the Registrar of Societies who is bound to take action against erring RWAs on legitimate complaints.

However, depending upon the type of RWA one is dealing with the extent of redressal may vary given that these bodies are primarily voluntary associations made by residents and that they do not necessarily have statutory powers. For instance, it is not mandatory for a grouping of residents to register an RWA as long as the group or body does not collect funds from the members for providing services.

Having said that, this is set to change with the advent of the Real Estate Regulation Act (RERA), according to which it is mandatory for promoters of every housing project to establish an RWA and register it within three months of the majority of the dwelling units are occupied.

Thereafter it is in the interest of individual residents of the complex to demand to be made members if not automatically incorporated into the RWA. They should also demand a copy of the Bye-Laws and to peruse the Memorandum of Association.

In the absence of adherence to such a practice, or for that matter, any other issue that is detrimental to a large section of the residents, a person can even file a private complaint in an individual capacity, with the Registrar of Societies highlighting any concern.

In conclusion, ensuring an inclusive and participatory RWA system is up to every individual resident or group of residents ensuring that the Association functions in the interest of the residents as a whole and not just that of a few regulars who rule the roost in the RWA year-after-year.