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Flat owner has rights, obligations too
Source : The Hindu Property Plus Published On : 2008-02-09 City : Chennai

Default and indifference are not the best, taking into consideration, even your own interest. Community living requires many adjustments, writes R.L.NARAYANAN.

 

Today living in large apartment complex is an accepted position. There are many advantages in living together. Aspects of security, mutual help, and better social life are some such advantages. There can also be disadvantages. You will be under lot of peer pressure. You have to put up with many things; may be unreasonable neighbors; snobs; argumentative occupants. Formation of Association and attending to various issues of living together has become inevitable. The idea is to secure the ownership and control the material resources of the community, so as to distribute the same to sub-serve the common good. An apartment by itself is a heritable and transferable property. Individual ownership, of each apartment is separate, even though there is holding of undivided share of land in the total extent. The facilities can be common or limited. Each apartment owner is entitled to exclusive ownership and possession of his or her apartment.

 

     There are also corresponding obligations cast upon the apartment owner. The apartment owner has to pay maintenance charges being the amount required for attending to various issues arising out of administration, maintenance, repair or replacement of common areas, facilities, common expenses and legal expenses, if any, that may be incurred.

 
Settling Scores:
 

     Typically in an apartment complex, the occupation by the owners or other occupants may be in phased manner. As such, assessment of property tax and other taxes like water and sewerage tax may happen in respect of each apartment in a complex at different points of time. There is scope for accumulation and arrears of tax, for which demands may be raised at a later date. Some of the owners, may never occupy their apartment and may never occupy their apartment and may prefer to keep it locked or may occupy their apartment and may prefer to keep it locked or may occupy their apartment and may prefer to keep it locked or may occupy their apartments for brief intervals. In the process of human behavior, ego and various emotions come into play. Defaults of payments would arise in natural course. This may happen in many ways. Some may believe that hey are taking a principled stand. Others may deliberately choose to default. Defaults in payments are also in the nature of settling scores. It may happen simply out of negligence or ignorance. The problem is that a defaulter, may, inadvertently expose the entire complex to certain risks and legal action.

 

     Assume that for an apartment complex water and sewerage tax and water supply and sewerage charges have accumulated. You and certain others feel that this is unreasonable but have opted to pay. However, there are certain defaulters. A demand in writing has been served on the defaulters, of which you may have no knowledge. There may be an intimation that the water supply or sewerage connections would be disconnected, of which you are not aware. The defaulter may not be living in the apartment or may feel that there is no justification in making the payment. Mean while, those of the other owners may have paid the dues grudgingly or otherwise. You have completed your obligation. You may feel that in circumstances, it is only fair that you are not placed in any adverse position.

  

 

     Logically it may be correct for you to think that you should not be penalized because other persons over whom you do not have any control have not paid their dues, relating to their apartments. You are not averse to any action being taken against them individually. Your notions may not be consistent with decisions of Courts.

 

     As per the provisions of The Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Act 1978, the authority has been empowered to cut off water supply, if the owner or occupier fails to pay, within time, any money due to the authority. If the owner or occupier has failed to pay any tax, rate or charge or other sums which may be due under the provision of said Act, the authorized Authority is empowered to disconnect water supply, after giving a written notice of requisite period to such owner or occupier.

 

     The authority can also ensure that the sewerage from the complex is not emptied into the Government sewer. Whatever your experience, you can imagine the resultant position if such disconnections are affected.

 

     The apartment complex comprises separate units which are individually owned by several persons. However, for the provisions of the said Act, the entire complex may be treated as a single unit. An apartment owner can claim individual right of supply only if he or she had a separate connection to his or her own apartment and not otherwise. It is the duty of the association to ensure that there is no default in payments of water or sewage tax or service charges or other dues to the authorities by all the owners / occupants. This is subject to the building being assessed to the property tax.

 

     This is because of the fact that it is taken that there is normally, only one connection to the entire complex. Default by one or some of the owners ma result in disconnection of water supply or prevention of emptying the sewerage into government sewers, for the entire complex.

 

     In cases like this prompt payment of taxes and other demands by you in respect of your apartment, is only a part of a nuclear behavior, expected of all apartment owners. All people are expected to pay without default which is a requirement for the proper and efficient functioning of a public authority, charged with the administration of sensitive issues. As such the public interest will prevail over the individual interest. In the event the association is forced to pay the arrears on behalf of the defaulters, the association will have its own remedies against the defaulters, but has not make sure that the taxes and dues are properly paid. If you are one of those who have taken a stand that you will not pay certain taxes and demands, whatever the reason, please reconsider your decision. You may set the law working against many innocent persons. It is not that you should give up your rights; but there are different ways to fight. Default and indifference are not the best, taking into consideration, even your own interest. This is one of the situations where by taking a considered individual action, you will be making a public contribution and also be in line with position of law and decided cases.

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