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Consumer forum fuels parking wars in city

Jun 18, 2022 12:31 AM IST

In April, the Thane Additional District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had ruled that a developer or promoter of buildings did not have the right to sell parking space

Mumbai: An April order by a consumer redressal forum on parking in housing societies has resulted in chaos across 72,000 housing societies in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), 33,000 of which are in Mumbai alone.

Just weeks down the line, home owners without parking slots are already writing to their housing societies asking to be allotted parking areas. (HT PHOTO)
Just weeks down the line, home owners without parking slots are already writing to their housing societies asking to be allotted parking areas. (HT PHOTO)

In April, the Thane Additional District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had ruled that a developer or promoter of buildings did not have the right to sell parking space. It further ordered the respondent, Cams Enclave Cooperative Housing Society in Navi Mumbai, to take back all 13 parking slots in question and distribute them to its residents equally. The builder had allotted these slots to home owners, who had bought them for 25,000 each. However, the commission found that the allotment letters did not mention the transaction, and declared the sale “null, void and illegal” according to the provisions of Maharashtra Ownership Flats act (MOFA).

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Just weeks down the line, home owners without parking slots are already writing to their housing societies asking to be allotted parking areas. The mess is further compounded by the fact that several home owners who bought parking slots from the builder, often for lakhs of rupees, now face the possibility of losing their slot in the eventuality that the society has to re-allot them, as per the commission’s order which is legally binding across Mumbai.

Meena Punamiya, a home owner at Jamunda Jewel Cooperative Housing Society at Goregaon, has been petitioning the managing committee of her building society since it was formed in 2011, accusing it of violating parking guidelines. She said she wanted the society to take back all parking slots and reallot them equitably among all home owners.

“The parking slots were allotted a decade ago in an arbitrary manner among themselves. Some members did not have a car and were still allotted slots. They have given their parking space on rent while we despite having a vehicle are denied entry inside the society gates,” Punamiya said.

Jamunda Jewel consists of 86 flats of which only 72 home owners have been allotted parking space.

Nikesh Shah, chairman of the society’s managing committee said that there was no parking slot left in the society. “The builder did not allot them the parking space and even their agreement does not show any parking allotment. We have no parking space in the building. Punamiya raises this issue in every AGM and majority of the members reject it. If they have any papers let them produce in the AGM and get it settled.”

State Cooperation Minister Balasaheb Patil called it a tricky situation. “There is bound to be resistance from the residents who have parking. We will study the order in detail,” he said.

Till the Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (MahaRERA) came into effect in 2017, builders or developers would sell parking slots in common areas, such as open areas within the building, stilts and basements, to home owners, but would not record this in the flat purchase agreement. Instead, builders would give allotment letters to home owners and the registered society would then assign specific parking to home owners in the building. While MahaRERA legalised the sale of parking slots in closed areas (basements) — and stipulated that it should be mentioned in the purchase agreement — its predecessor, the Maharashtra Ownership Flats act (MOFA), had disallowed the sale of parking slots all together. All developments that were launched or completed after 2017 are covered under MahaRERA.

Parking space is a big issue in space-crunched Mumbai, which has seen over 58,000 new cars registered in Mumbai in 2021-22, a 31% increase over the previous year, according to the state transport department.

Transport expert Ashok Datar said that in many areas building residents parked their cars on roads, which often led to traffic jams and left little space for other road users like pedestrians or cyclists. “These cars are parked on the road and that also, for free. They clog up the street and cause traffic jams.”

Shyam Manjrekar, chairman of Veda Cooperative Housing Society in Parel said that the commission order would dissuade people from joining the society’s managing committee as it would lead to confrontation between home owners.

“The managing committee members do voluntary work and their only aim is to ensure that the society runs smoothly. If they have to deal with controversial issues like taking back parking spaces to reallot them, then they will be faced with a mess to clean up. Many would not want to join the committee.”

“For years, this practice of builders taking money to allot parking slots was known, but authorities did not take any action,” Ramesh Prabhu, chairman of Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association (MSWA), an association of the housing societies said. “There are bound to be fights and bitterness among members once this process of taking back parking slots begins,” he added.

Dhaval Shah, chairman of the Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizens Association, an apex body all residents groups in Andheri, said this was a “tricky” situation.

“Residents here have shelled out lakhs of rupees for the parking slots and they will not easily surrender them to the society. The office bearers will be fully occupied with this parking mess and we will see pile of complaints made to the registrar.” The major beneficiaries of this order would be those who are deprived of parking and are being forced to park on roads.

The case

Ravindra Singh Rawal, a flat owner at Cams Enclave Cooperative Housing Society in Navi Mumbai, petitioned the commission in 2019 stating that the society did not allot him a parking slot while a tenant in the building had a parking slot, as his landlord had purchased one from the builder.

“This landmark order will open a can of worms as we are now witnessing residents without parking slots coming forward demanding the same from the society,” said Mithil Vinod Sampat, who represented Rawal. “The society will have to take back the parking if some owners are deprived of the same and reallot them on basis of either first come first basis or by lottery draw,” he added.

While the commission’s order is legally binding on all housing societies, it is unlikely any society will take any action unless any member without a parking slot comes forward with this demand. The society’s managing committee would convene a special general body meeting to decide on how to take the issue forward. The society would also need to decide on the method of allotment (whether by lottery or first-come-first-serve).

Siddharth Hattarkar, an advocate, said that the MOFA act was very clear on this front. “The builder’s right was restricted to the disposal of flats or shops which is included in the Floor Space Index allotted to them. The parking slots were required to be constructed by the builder under the Development Control Regulations (DCR). The builder loses his right on the property once the local body issues an Occupation Certificate (OC) and the right is passed on to the society. It is now on the society to allot parking slots.”

“The Government may be not counting the FSI for the parking slots but then we have to spend money to construct parking. We should recover that money from the homebuyer,” said a leading builder with two projects in the western suburbs.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Naresh is a Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, Mumbai, since 2005. He covers the real estate sector, in addition to doing political reportage.

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