So you live in a sectional title unit, and suddenly you get a message from the managing agent or trustees saying your family is making too much noise. The message is headed “Final Warning” and says you have broken the scheme’s rules. If it happens again, you will be fined.
The complaint may relate to parties, to your children playing musical instruments or to the noise of the circular saw you have used to make new shelves in your living room. It could relate to almost anything. The message is: “You have made an unreasonable noise. Stop this or you will be fined!”
There are only two provisions in the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act that could apply to your situation. These are sections 13(1)(d) and (e). They say that an owner must not:
(1) use common property in a way that unreasonably interferes with its lawful use by others, or
(2) use a section or exclusive use area so as to be a nuisance to other persons who occupy sections.
So what can you do? Well, if you think you or any people you are responsible for are guilty of the behaviour described, you can do whatever is necessary to make sure it does not happen again. And you may choose to respond to the letter by apologizing. Or you may not.
If you don’t think that you or people you are responsible for have behaved in a prohibited way, here are three possibilities you should consider:
- You can write a message setting out your response to the complaint, detailing your reasons for disputing the complaint. You should do this if you want to get it on record that the complaint is incorrect or unfair in the circumstances. Particularly if the scheme’s rules make provision for the body corporate to impose fines, as many do, you need to get your response on the record.
- If you don’t think that messages are the best way to deal with the complaint, you can ask the managing agent or body corporate to put the complaint on the agenda at the next trustee meeting and give you notice of when it is to be held. Then you can attend and get an opportunity to respond. You have a right to attend trustee meetings and to talk, but not to vote.
- If the trustees are considering imposing a fine, they must give you an opportunity to tell your side of the story before they do so. So if you get a second letter inviting you to a hearing at which the trustees will decide whether to impose a fine, know that you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer at that meeting.
Whatever the outcome, remember that if you consider that you have been treated unfairly, you can make an application to the Community Schemes Ombud Service for relief. For example, you can apply to have a fine set aside.
Should you require any advice further advice on this subject don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation quote to provide the necessary legal assistance.
Graham Paddock is South Africa’s Sectional Title Guru. Graham advises and drafts legislation for the Government. His advice is valued by all stakeholder groups in the industry.
Article reference: Paddocks Press: July 2019 special edition.
This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license.