Discrimination In Housing Societies

Society Management is about SAFE – building a society that is Socially, Administratively, Financially and Environmentally sound. Societies in India are as cosmopolitan as they can get. While the positives to that are endless in terms of a vibrant mixed culture, it’s often easy for communities to fall in the destructive loop of discrimination. Facts about discrimination in housing societies is not unheard of and is more common than we think. Therefore, it only makes sense to take the bold step of talking about to ensure it is avoided. For the urban community, a housing society or apartment complex holds a position of responsibility in shaping the culture of a neighbourhood. Thus, it is important for each and every stakeholder of a community to understand what can constitute as a discriminatory activity.

Discrimination In Housing Societies On The Basis Of Culture

One of the most famous cases to highlight this discrimination is the case of Mohammed Afzal whose family was denied power and water by the society due to their religious beliefs back in the year 2008. If you look at the simple social media ads about renting apartments, it’s quite common to find the clause – “Non vegetarians not allowed”. The internet is spread with news on how residents of religious minorities, darker shade of skin colour or having a non vegetarian food choice are bullied by societies for very basic choices. Passing discriminatory laws to prohibit individuals from residing in a society based on their cultural background comes in direct conflict with the Articles 14-18 of the Constitution of India and is therefore null and void. Such bye-laws can attract severe penalties for the Association either based on the complaint of a resident(s) or a suo-motu case registered by the State.

Discrimination On The Basis Of Gender & Marital Status

Let’s accept it. This is really common and the brunt is faced by women, men and more severely by individuals who do not identify with the binary genders. Several societies have it as part of their unwritten rule to not sell or rent their units to bachelors, single women and individuals who do not conform to a traditional gender identity. The reason given for such discrimination in a society is varied :
a. Bachelors are loud and will disturb neighbours.
b. Modern bachelors do not have a strong moral compass and it shall degrade the social fabric of the community.
c. Individuals belonging to the third gender are neither normal nor natural and they shall have a negative impact on the children of the community.
d. There is a higher chance of bachelors and third gender individuals being involved in criminal, illegal or questionable activities. 

These assumptions are majorly false and a standard background check is enough to dispel the myths. The chances of a family being a neighbourhood nuisance is equal to the chances of bachelors and other individuals being a nuisance. A standardised background check is enough to ensure you have not invited an unwelcome addition to your society. 

Discrimination In Housing Societies On The Basis of Maintenance Payment Status

In case you have a high defaulter rate, it’s time to check on your society management system. Softwares like ADDA are known to reduce defaulter rates to as low as 10%-5%. Close to 67% of defaulters are unintentional. So if you are having a serious defaulter issue, the first thing to do is definitely review your defaulter management system. Some societies are known to stop water or power supply or elevator usage to defaulters. Please note, no Association/MC/RWA is allowed to stop basic amenities to defaulters. This is considered as creating undue pressure threatening the very existence of the resident. Alternatively, you can be very clear about your maintenance invoicing and show clearly the accrued penalty fee. You are also welcome to restrict the usage of Community Repair & Maintenance services like the plumber, electrician, etc. Or you can even restrict clubhouse and other lifestyle facilities till the dues are cleared. 

Discrimination Against Pets

As surprising as it may sound to several readers, the Indian Constitution actually encourages pet ownership in apartments. You can read more in detail about this topic here. However, enforcing very simple rules like mandatory vaccination and sterilisation, grooming, supervised exercising, designated feeding and walking spots can go a long way to foster peaceful coexistence. 

Any resident facing any sort of discrimination in housing societies is within full rights to sue the Association/RWA on the grounds of violating sections of Article 14 and like wise in a court of law as well as to the Registrar of Societies. Precedent shows, in such cases the resident has always been favourably addressed by the Courts. Alternatively, the Association/RWA is legally obliged to take the correct steps against a resident who is found to propagate discrimination in the Community. Housing societies hold enormous power to be the light bearers of change to create a healthy neighbourhood. Discrimination is the result of deep rooted biases cultivated for decades. It is the duty of the Association to nip any discriminatory activities in the bud.

a. Hold regular activities to promote neighbour bonding.
b. Propagate a culture of assistance and acceptance irrespective of the diversity.
c. Consult legal experts to keep checks in place rather than pre-emptive discriminatory policies.

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About the Author: Karnika Roy

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