Housing Society Problems and Solutions: Legality of Committee Meetings Held Online; Challenging a Structural Audit
Moneylife Digital Team 13 June 2024
Due to the complex nature of our jobs and other commitments in life, it may not always be possible for committee members of a cooperative housing society (CHS/Society) to be physically present for routine meetings. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the commissioner and registrar for cooperative housing societies in Maharashtra allowed meetings to be conducted online for convenience and to maintain social distancing. 
 
Even today, housing society meetings can be conducted online, provided some committee members are physically present while others attend online via video. Other formalities, such as signing the attendance registrar or minutes book, can be completed once members visit the society office. I have explained this in detail in one of the concerns raised this week. 
 
The validity of structural audits is another problem that we are looking at. Although not as common, there are cases when a structural audit done by the local municipal corporation needs independent verification through experts. I will explain the formalities in conducting such an independent verification as well.
 
Legality of Committee Meetings Conducted Online
Question:  Is it legal to conduct management committee meetings online, as most committee members are continuously travelling and it becomes difficult to set a date for physical meetings.
 
Answer:  For convenience, a Society is allowed to conduct its meetings in a hybrid mode, where some of the committee members are physically present in the Society's office and those that could not join have attended the meeting online through a video call. It is crucial, however, that at least one committee member is present for such a meeting physically at the Society's office. 
 
The meeting minutes need to mention who was present physically and who had joined online through a video call. Those who could not attend the meeting physically should sign the minutes book when they next have the opportunity to come to the Society's office. 
 
Independently Verifying Structural Audit Report
Question: Our building has been declared as dilapidated under C1 category by the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC). The structural report for our building was prepared by an auditor who was compliant and registered with the TMC. In my humble opinion, the structure of our building is stable and I genuinely believe that we should be in the C3 category. Is there an opportunity to get a second opinion for a structural audit of our building, perhaps from Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI) or the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B)? Will I need a no objection letter/certificate (NOC) from the Society to undertake such a task? I would be willing to cover the audit expenses if the Society refuses to do so. Please advise. 
 
Answer: To challenge the TMC structural report and consult either VJTI or IIT-Bombay, you do not need to obtain an NOC from the Society. You can simply take TMC's structural report and inform TMC in writing that you want to verify their structural report through experts from VJTI or IIT-Bombay. Mention in this letter that TMC should not take any action based on their structural report until the independent verification is done. You should also write a similar letter to your Society informing them to withhold any action until the structural audit is independently verified. 
 
Kindly consult the appropriate authorities at either VJTI or IIT-Bombay regarding the charges for such an audit. You may then write a formal letter and share a copy of the structural report with your chosen independent expert. A NOC from the Society is not required for this process. 
 
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
 
Claiming Ownership in Deceased Brother's Flat
Question: My unmarried brother passed away recently and I am the only surviving sibling. I now want to claim my share in his property. However, one of our nieces has claimed that she is a nominee in the concerned flat and that the entire share should go to her. The secretary of the Society refuses to share any details of the flat on request and has also refused to give me an appointment to meet. How can I acquire details of the flat? Will filing an RTI application with the deputy registrar help me in any way? Please guide. 
 
Answer: I hope you have submitted your request to the Society's secretary in writing and received an acknowledgement. If there is no response from the Society, you can acquire details of your brother's flat by writing a letter of complaint to the deputy registrar of cooperative societies in that area. In such a letter, you should mention that the secretary of the concerned Society has refused to provide you with the necessary details of your brother's flat. The deputy registrar will take the required action and write to the secretary to disclose the information. 
 
Also, understand that a nominee is just a trustee and not a legal heir for ownership of the flat. You should file a testamentary petition in the district court of the area where the Society is located through an experienced advocate who can help you acquire a succession certificate for the flat. 
 
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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