Our residential Association in Bangalore is registered under Societies Act. There are certain members of the Society who are not paying monthly maintenance charges (MMC) on the pretext that their houses are vacant and not occupied, even though the bye-laws of the Society say that all members have to pay MMC irrespective of whether their houses are vacant or under occupation. My query is how to deal with such recalcitrant owners and make them to pay their MMCs?
Answer: It is for the Society to make provisions in its bye-laws as to whether monthly maintenance charges are to be paid by all members or by those members only whose houses are occupied or to impose slightly less maintenance charges on members whose houses are vacant.
Some members do not realise that the maintenance charges levied by a housing society are not for the purpose of maintenance of the individual member’s house, but for the maintenance, repairs and reconstruction of the common infrastructure of the housing society. Maintenance of an individual house may be the responsibility of the individual member concerned. But, then there are many requirements for the society’s premises and many common services, such as society’s office, roads, passages, security arrangements, water supply, supply lines, sewer lines, lifts, staircases, telecom lines, etc., which are for the common use of all members of the society and which have to be taken care of by the society. Therefore, the society has to bear these expenses even if some individual members’ houses may be lying vacant and not occupied. Society cannot close down if a few houses are vacant. It is not the fault of the society if some members are keeping their houses vacant. Therefore, each member is generally required to pay the monthly maintenance charges to the society irrespective of whether or not his house is lying vacant or occupied.
Some societies may have in their bye-laws, two components of the monthly maintenance charges – one compulsory component paid by all members, and the second component on the actual usage basis. For example, if a member’s house is vacant then he may not have to pay for the monthly water charges to the society where water is supplied by the society. However, it is for the society bye-laws to provide for these options in the monthly maintenance charges.
It is the duty of the members to regularly pay the maintenance charges to the society, otherwise the very purpose of having a co-operative society would be defeated since every member has to make his contribution towards the society in the spirit of cooperation.
If certain members fail to pay their monthly charges, then initially it may be advisable to persuade and convince them about the requirement of paying those charges. If need be, notices can be issued to them. If the society’s bye-laws provide for charging of interest for late payment of charges, then the same may be levied. However, if certain members still fail to pay the monthly maintenance charges that are due from them, then the only option left with the society is to take legal action against them as per the law applicable in a particular state.
From your question, it appears that your society is perhaps registered under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960. If this is the case, then Section 19 of the said Act provides as under:
“19. Members liable to be sued as strangers.- Any member who may be in arrear of a subscription which according to the rules of the society, he is bound to pay, or who shall possess himself of or detain any property of the society in a manner or for a time contrary to such rules, or shall injure or destroy any property of the society, may be sued for such arrear or for the damage accruing from such detention, injury or destruction of property in the manner hereinbefore provided.”
Thus, members of the society can be sued for non-payment of the charges, which according to the rules of the society, they are bound to pay.
You may consult some local lawyer or other expert at your place for the procedure and about the court or tribunal where such proceedings are to be initiated against the defaulter members, since the rules vary in each state.