A trust formed by a few members of a sprawling housing society in Borivali has allegedly coerced nine flat owners into shelling out Rs 25 lakh in total under the guise of donations to get no-objection certificates (NOCs) for sale of property.
The trust allegedly has the blessings of the building’s managing committee and some of the unwilling donors had to take loans to make these payments.
Fifty-four of the 229 flat owners of the 20-floor three-wing Raheja Eternity in Thakur Village, Borivali East, wrote to the deputy registrar of societies and the Samata Nagar police last week, alleging that the charitable trust — named Eternity Social, Cultural and Charitable Organisation — run independently by 11 people had threatened to withhold the NOC from the housing society required for transfer of ownership unless the seller/buyer paid a “donation” running into lakhs of rupees. It had flagged this issue with the charity commissioner in November last year.
As per the Maharashtra Cooperative Housing Society Bye Laws, if a flat goes for resale, the housing society can collect an ownership transfer fee. But this amount is capped at Rs 25,000.
Residents pointed out that only seven of the 11 founders of the trust are members of the housing society. The others live in highrises in Kandivali and Borivali. As per its charter, a copy of which was procured by the complainants under the Right to Information Act from the office of the charity commissioner, the trust aims at promoting a “feeling of universal brotherhood in the western suburbs of Mumbai, especially Thakur Village.” This allows any Western suburb resident to become a member of the trust.
But prefixing ‘Eternity’ to its name, the trust is misleading buyers into thinking that it is associated with the housing society, said the complainants. “It makes buyers think the building management committee is asking for the payment. The trust is a separate entity, unrelated to the society,” said Manish Dokaniya, a resident. Complainants want the trust’s name to be changed.
Residents said that they learned of the trust’s formation at the housing society’s annual general meeting in September last year. They claimed that the society’s managing committee told them categorically that although transfer fee was capped at Rs 25,000, buyers were expected to donate to the trust.
“This was just a guise to collect extra money. A trust can accept lakhs of rupees by showing it as a charitable donation,” said Umesh Gupta, former Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute and one of the 54 complainants.
Ownership of nine flats has changed hands since September and the trust has allegedly collected around Rs 25 lakh in total through “donations”, sometimes taking Rs 2 lakh for a 2BHK and Rs 3 lakh for a 3BHK.
Amar Singh, who paid Rs 3.5 lakh to sell his 16th floor flat, said he approached the housing society’s managing committee for an NOC after taking the token amount from the buyer. “The committee told me straight off that other than the transfer fee that is to be paid to the society, I would have to donate to the trust. When I protested, they threatened to withhold the NOC,” Singh said. Since Singh had already accepted partial payment from the buyer, he had to bow to the diktat.
Deepak Gudhia, original owner of a third floor flat in the B wing who was also forced to contribute to the trust under duress, said when he approached the managing committee for an NOC to sell his property, the committee went to the extent of claiming that there was a rule that donations to the trust was mandatory. “The committee members asked me for Rs 2 lakh. I told them that I was in a financial crunch and could not afford to make any extra payment. But they stalled issuance of an NOC.” Things came to such a pass that it looked like the sale would be called off. “I then borrowed money to raise this amount. Even the buyer pitched in with Rs 75,000 just so that the deal could go through. I was also made to sign a letter stating that I was donating to the trust of my own accord,” said Gudhia.
The 54 residents also alleged that despite being a charitable organisation, the trust demands a membership fee. “It also requires the approval of two existing members for induction of new members. If it is related to or run by the Raheja Eternity building management, shouldn’t all residents automatically become members of it?” asked Rajesh Kumar, another resident.
SK Sahu, chairman of the society, refused to comment on the allegations, saying he was not the “appropriate” authority to respond to them.
Ashish Shrivastava, secretary of the society, confirmed that the trust was formed by 11 individuals and not by the society. He claimed that he was not aware of any money being demanded in the name of the society.
Kiran Thakkar, president of the trust, directed this correspondent to get in touch with Shrivastava.
An official from the deputy registrar’s office in R-North Ward confirmed the receipt of the complaint, but refused to comment on it before completion of an investigation.