The Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS) has seen a steady influx of applications for dispute resolution, albeit the fact that it has not officially opened its doors for business. The Community Schemes Ombud Service Act as and the Regulations to the Act, which empowers CSOS to provide a dispute resolution service is not yet in operation. However the number of enquiries and applications for disputes that CSOS has received is an indicator of the need for a cost effective dispute resolution service within community schemes.
The nature of the disputes that have been lodged with CSOS, ranges from behavioural issues, such as a neighbor who allegedly plays loud music and a failure by the Trustees to deal with the complaint; to the allegation of incorrect and unreasonable levies; and irregular passing of resolutions at the Annual General Meetings.
Below are some examples of the disputes that CSOS received:
Ms X1 alleged the following “at a recent AGM for my complex a decision was reached (apparently) to charge each unit in my complex a flat rate for effluent. We have three sizes of units in our complex: 3 bedroom (large – 190 m2), 2 bedroom and 1 bedroom units (56 m2)”. Ms X says that she lives in a 1 bedroom unit, yet she is required to pay the same levy as a unit measuring 3 times the size of her own. In an attempt to resolve this matter, Ms X allegedly contacted the responsible managing agent, but was informed that the municipality also charges a flat rate, which she disputes, as the bills from the municipality are in accordance with the size of the unit. Ms X obtained a legal opinion, which supports her view and forwarded it to the managing agent to no avail. She believes the smaller units were prejudiced by this decision and fear that this practice will continue as the majority of Trustees live in larger units and now the smaller ones are effectively cross subsiding the larger ones.
Ms Y approached CSOS for assistance in dealing with the dispute she has regarding the alleged maladministration of the sectional title scheme that she resides in. She alleged that the procedure for the election of Trustees was not carried out in accordance with the Sectional Titles Act. The Trustees have imposed special levies and backdated them, which were imposed unilaterally, as these were never mentioned nor adopted in the AGM. The charging of interest on amounts overdue was never discussed at the AGM, yet it was implemented. She believes that owners as members of the Body Corporate are denied their right to participate in decision-making, concerning the management and administration of the scheme.
Mr Z requested CSOS’ intervention on a matter regarding security. He alleges that the motor gate in one of the units was replaced with a new one during December 2014. One of the owners notified the managing agents that there was no ‘anti-lift brackets’ on the gate, thereby making it vulnerable to break-ins. Another email was written to the management agents during January 2015. The owners spoke directly to the Chairman to complain that the security was not being attended to. Early February 2015 the gate was lifted off its tracks and one of the apartments was broken into. In lifting the gate off its tracks, the motor was damaged and needed a replacement that incurred an additional cost of almost R10 000. On 16 March 2015, the gate had not been fixed and a few owners, that requested a meeting with the Trustees, are still waiting to hear from them. He enquired whether the additional cost could from the Managing Agent.
1. The identity of applicant has been withheld for reasons of confidentiality and to protect their privacy.
The two methods of dispute resolution that CSOS will employ to resolve disputes are conciliation and adjudication, as provided for in the CSOS Act. Conciliation refers to the process where the parties use the services of an independent conciliator, to be appointed by the Chief Ombud, to assist parties to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. Adjudication refers to the process where an independent adjudicator, appointed by the Chief Ombud, or selected by both parties from the list provided by the Chief Ombud, determines how the dispute is to be resolved and makes a binding decision or order to this effect. As a dispute prevention strategy CSOS will soon engage in an industry wide awareness campaign to educate managing agents, community schemes owners and occupiers of their rights and responsibilities.
In addition to the growing inflow of complaints, CSOS has witnessed a worrying trend concerning companies that have registered their trading name using the acronym CSOS, some of which are receiving complaints through their websites and these are subsequently referred back to the CSOS. This might potentially be misleading the public into believing that CSOS is in anyway related to these companies. CSOS wishes to warn the public to exercise caution and to contact CSOS directly on 010 593 0533 or firstname.lastname@example.org, alternatively visit the website: www.csos.org.za.
Paddocks has designed a free, online guide to assist you in understanding the CSOS, the types of orders it can grant and the process of putting together an application for dispute resolution. Click here to visit the guide and minimise the chance of your order being rejected unnecessarily.
Article reference: Paddocks Press: Volume 10, Issue 3, Page 1.
This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license.