Online guide for sectional title owners

It’s still a mystery to many people how the Community Schemes Ombudsman (CSOS) operates.

But now everything you wanted to know about the CSOS is available free online from Paddocks in Rondebosch who were closely involved in the legislation to set up the ombud’s office.

One question that residents in community schemes often ask me is why they have to pay a fee to the ombudsman to resolve an issue that falls within his ambit.

“People need to pay because having a charge validates the dispute. If it was free, every neighbourhood spat might be brought to the CSOS. The fees involved are nominal: R50 application fee and another R100 to have a matter resolved by the CSOS, when all internal remedies have failed,” said Shannon de Kock of Paddocks, sectional title specialists.

Paddocks said that one of the primary services the CSOS provides is a quick and inexpensive dispute resolution for people living in community schemes.

However, few people know about the processes involved. Which is not surprising. According to the act, the ombud can grant a total of 34 orders which fall in different categories. There are seven categories: financial; behavioural; scheme governance; meetings and resolutions; management services; physical works and general and other issues.

The free online guide is designed to help you understand the CSOS dispute resolution process including the terms the ombud uses to getting an order to settle the dispute. There are certain conditions that apply to see if you meet the ombud’s criteria.

The guide has a qualification test, allowing you to determine if your matter qualifies and to learn about these requirements.

The guide will equip you with basic information on submitting applications for dispute resolution, from identifying the type of help needed, to explaining the types of orders the CSOS can grant to resolve the dispute.

The guide gives practical examples of situations in community schemes, taking visitors through the step-by-step process of filling in a dispute resolution application form, which minimises the chance of an application being rejected or dismissed unnecessarily.

The CSOS handles conflicts arising from the administration of a scheme.

Here is one example: if a person, a child, is causing excessive noise repeatedly, to the point where it has become a nuisance and infringing on scheme rules this is a dispute that the ombud can rule on. However, the CSO will not be able to make a ruling about whether the child should be taken into care. It has nothing to do with the administration of the scheme.

Behavioural issues are another category. People who live, work and play in community schemes are often very close to one another in their accommodation, parking and other shared use of the common areas, so there is ample opportunity for them, their families, visitors and pets to annoy one another.

When one resident behaves in a way that creates a nuisance, brings problem or unauthorised animals into the scheme or irregularly attaches things to the common areas, the persons who are prejudiced are able to approach the CSOS for relief.

In terms of management issues, many community schemes employ the services of managing agents.

A CSOS adjudicator can give three types of orders concerning managing agency services: compliance with the terms of the contract, termination of an agreement in any type of community scheme, and the appointment of an executive managing agent for sectional title schemes.

Regarding physical works, the fact that associations and their individual members are liable to pay for repairs and maintenance of different parts of the land buildings means that every time a leak, electricity supply or other physical problem arises the question must be asked: “Who must do this work, and who must pay for it?”

The differing views often lead to disputes and these can be referred to the CSOS.

The Paddocks guide is for the most part free of legal jargon and is easy to read and navigate.

You can also download application forms and other documents that may be needed. The Paddocks Guide to CSOS Applications for Dispute Resolution is available at: http://csosguide.paddocks.co.za/

The ombudsman for Cape Town is Maletsatsi Wotini, 8th Floor Constitution House, 124 Adderley Street. Call 087 805 02260 or 021 001 2569 or visit www.csos.org.za/Western Cap or email wc-complaints@csos.org.za Visit: www.paddocks.co.za for more.