APARTMENTS ARE UNSAFE AS GOVT. SLEEPS OVER ITS OWN LAW

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Two days ago in the evening I had been to Prabha Apartments in Unit IV, Bhubaneswar to meet my friend. Rajesh, my assistant, was with me.

My friend lives in the fourth floor. There is a GEC brand elevator there that I used. But while returning, it did not stop at the ground floor and to my bewilderment, it moved non-stop and in abnormal speed between the fourth and ground floors for several times and then all on a sudden it halted at the first floor.

I told my friend of the erratic behavior of the lift. He narrated how once the lift had taken him in alarming speed to the roof top where narrowly he had escaped the danger.

Some of the residents also told me of their own experience of the horror.

In 1994-95, builder Ganashyam Satapathy had sold the apartment house that the occupiers had purchased in believing his words that the building is equipped with a perfect lift. Satpathy stays in Sahidnagar and whosoever responded to my call claimed that the responsibility of the builder has ended with selling of the apartments. Maintenance of the elevator rests with the association of the apartment owners, he said.

On query I find, there is no registered association of apartment owners under the roof of the Prabha apartments. Some of the apartment owners have let out their units on rent to outsiders who use the common facilities without any information given to and approval taken of the rest of the genuine owners. Naturally, the residents on rent have no concern for the common facilities. On the other hand, letting out of certain units poses a potential threat to the safety and security of the apartments. Apartment owners of Prabha Apartment are the registered owners of their respective units and therefore they are authentic. But any person on rent is not authentic under the Orissa Apartment Ownership Act, hereinafter called the Act to which all the apartment houses are subjected.

If accommodating unregistered persons is allowed, any terrorist may occupy an apartment and endanger the safety of the structure and security of the rest of the residents over and above getting the environment to cause catastrophe in the surrounding area or township. Therefore letting out an apartment unit by its owner is prohibited under Section 9 of the Orissa Apartment Ownership Act. On the other hand, tenancy is permissible, as contemplated under Section 5 of the Act, only in case of a registered deed of lease for a period of thirty years or more. So, temporary and unauthenticated tenancy is not allowed under the law. But in Prabha Apartment this law is violated.

The Act requires that all the owners of the apartment must form a society / association and adopt its bye-laws and register the same with the “Competent Authority” (CA) notified by the Government where they have to declare their respective and collective share / interest in the common property and facilities along with details of the plan of apartment building including that of their own units and the site plan. This is enforceable.

The CA is empowered to enforce the Act and to take suo motu action to cause registration of declaration under section 14 of the Act. Rule 7 of Orissa Apartment Ownership Rules says, “where it comes to the notice of the CA that the sole owner or all the owners of building(s) which are required to be governed by the provisions of the Act have not executed and / or registered the declaration / interest / bye-law” he would send notice to each of them to rectify the lacunae. If they fail to comply with his instructions, penal prosecution would start.

Rigors of this law are meant to ensure that the apartments, bound as they are to have common areas and facilities, are so collectively managed that they are properly maintained and do not become a threat to human life under the common roof or to the nearby houses in the locality. If the association of owners wants, the Rule says that the CA can discharge the function of the association if moved properly.

The Act as well as the Rules were framed and enforced in 1992.

But till now the Government that Navin Patnaik runs has not notified any CA. As a result, not only the residents of Prabha Apartment, but also the owners of Apartments everywhere in Orissa are face to face with unpredictable danger due to absence of codified instruments of maintenance of common areas and facilities.

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