By Rahul Sarkar
Rights of Associate Members in a Cooperative Housing Society
By Rahul Sarkar
Let’s say if you are not the primary owner of your residence and are a spouse, mother, father, son, daughter living in a housing society along with your family (or even alone). Do you still enjoy rights granted to the other residents? The answer is yes. As long as you hold joint ownership of your residence in a housing society, and if your name appears on the society’s share certificate, you are liable to receive all the benefits of membership. The rules are simple, but you need to be aware of certain technicalities that entail an associate membership.
An associate member has similar rights in a co-operative housing society as the original member, albeit there are some exceptions and written consent of the original member is required with respect to certain actions. Let’s understand the basic rights of an associate member by defining the term. According to Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act 1960 – “Associate member” means a member who holds jointly a share of a society with others, but whose name does not stand first in the share certificate.” This makes him a legitimate member of the society, if only after the original member. The Associate Member is admitted into the society after filling a prescribed form and paying a Rs 100 admittance fee.
Model bye-laws clearly state that an associate member shall have any rights or privileges of an Active Member with some exceptions in the voting procedure. More on that later.
An associate member has the right to:
- Get a copy of the model bye-laws of the society. This can be obtained from the Secretary of the society.
- Inspect the books of the society without being charged any money; this includes books, registers, documents, the last audited annual balance sheet, the profit and loss account, a list of the members of the committee, a register of members, the minutes of general, annual or special meetings, among others. These can be obtained from the Treasurer or Secretary and must be done if you are investing a fraud or wrongdoing.
- Occupy the flat/residence after obtaining the consent of the Original Member and written intimation to the Society, all of these procedures are to be followed as decided by the Managing Committee.
- Resign from the membership of the society at any time as opposed to the original member who needs to give a three-month notice period to the society. However, there is a specific procedure to be followed. An associate member can resign any time by writing a letter of resignation to the Secretary of the Society, via the Original Member, with whom he/she has the joint ownership in the society. The Secretary presents the request for resignation by the associate member (duly agreed upon by the original member) in the next committee meeting for acceptance. The Managing Committee’s decision is then communicated to the Original Member and Associate Member within 15 days (although there is mostly no resistance against such resignations by the MC) But for whatsoever reasons, if the resignation is not approved, the reason is also conveyed to the member within the same timeframe and the same is recorded in the Minutes of the Meeting.
- Right to nominate another in the event of death. The Associate Member of the Society has to apply with a prescribed form to nominate a person (can be more than one) to whom the whole or part of the shares/ interest of the Society should be transferred in the event of his death. The Secretary’s acknowledgement is considered to be an acceptance of such nominations. The same can be revoked and revised too.
- Continued membership. Even if the Original Member whose name stands first in the share certificate, ceases to be the member (due to death, resignation, etc.), the associate member still continues to be the member of the society as long as they hold title and interest in the property jointly with the member.
- Has all the other rights as the member, such as the right to attend general/special/annual body meetings, the right to transfer shares, exchange and sublet apartments/housing units, the right to voice their opinion in the general meetings about maintenance charges, other relevant issues, file grievances against other members who are breaching the byelaws, etc.
- Has the right to file official complaints (along with the Original Member). Depending on the misconduct or offence that the associate member faces in the society (from co-residents, committee members, builder, etc.), he/she has the right to approach authorities for remedial measures, including the Registrar, Co-operative Court, Civil Court, Municipal Corporation, Police, among others.
- Has the right to be part of the affairs of the society. Just like the original member, the associate member has the right to participate in any events, celebrations, drives, etc. organized by the society and has equal access to all the common spaces, parking lot, garden, gym, etc.
Does the Associate Member have election rights?
Some confusion persisted in the past regarding election rights of an associate member. However, based on the guidelines published for election procedure by Maharashtra State Co-operation Election Authority, as well as provisions in the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act along with a housing manual published by the Registrar, the rules with respect to voting and contesting rights of an associate member are clearly defined.
No matter how many members live in one household, every house gets one vote in the society’s election as per the rules. When it comes to voting, where there is joint ownership, the person, whose name stands first in the share certificate (original member), if present, has the right to vote. But in his absence the person whose name stands second (associate members), and in the absence of both, the person whose name stands next, who is present and who is not a minor, will have the right to vote.
Some housing societies operate under a fallacy that once a member pays Rs 100 fee to be admitted as an associate member, he/she automatically gets the right to vote or stand as a candidate in the election. Such is not the case. The original member by default has the right to contest in the election. However, not every man or woman of the house has the time or inclination to take on the additional responsibility of the society’s management. If the original member does not want to contest the election, with his written consent or no-objection letter, the associate member can stand as a candidate in the election and be part of the managing committee, provided his name follows the original member in the share certificate. If a member is not listed in the share certificate, he/she has no right to vote or contest an election.
To quote directly from a housing societies manual published by the Registrar “ In case the associate member gets elected as a committee member, he becomes office bearer also. A person, who became an Associate member by paying only admission fee, shall not get any rights in voting or election behalf the original member. It is necessary for the Associate member that his share/name is included in the ownership of property for holding share jointly.”