Bullies practice the art of harassment among all age groups and across all sectors of society. It happens in the workplace, but luckily there are measures in place to protect the employee from an unreasonable, demanding boss. Intimidation also happens in bodies corporate. Choosing to seek alternative employment or to report the matter to the correct authorities in an effort to curb bullying in the workplace is one thing, selling a large investment in order to get out of an uncomfortable situation at home is quite another.
For some reason, those predisposed to being bullies tend to be attracted to sectional title investments and there are thousands of stories out there of people who have endured ill-treatment at the hands of these people. Bullying takes a number of forms, including emotional abuse. There is absolutely no reason that anyone living in a sectional title complex should have to put up with this sort of behaviour. However, very often the bullied homeowner is not fully aware of his rights or if he is, believes he can’t afford to take the matter further.
Homeowners have rights and no one, regardless of what position they hold in a body corporate, can take those rights away. Many unit owners believe that because they have not been appointed as trustee’s, they have no rights and no voice. This is not true. As an owner of a sectional title unit the homeowner can, at any stage, raise any concerns they deem important with the trustees and their voices must be heard. Although the situation is a fairly complex one and does depend on who owns what, everyone, regardless of how many units they own, has a say in how the complex is run.
Ignorance unfortunately plays a large role in most sectional title disputes. Not knowing the law, or having a half-baked idea as to how things should work, leads to all sorts of problems. The Sectional Title Act covers every aspect of sectional title ownership. All owners need to read and understand the Act and become au-fait with their and their fellow homeowners rights. For instance, it quickly becomes apparent that owning more units in a complex than others does not give you carte blanche to do what you like, when you like and how you like it.
The importance of using the services of an outside expert cannot be emphasised enough and appointing a managing agent is highly recommended, regardless of the size of the sectional title complex. Strangely enough, it seems that the smaller the complex, the larger and more frequent the disputes.
Becoming a body corporate chairman does not make someone king and the complex’s affairs may not be run like a dictatorship. The role of the body corporate chairman is fairly simply - like everyone else, he has a vested interest in the affairs of the complex and has the right to vote on issues pertaining to the body corporate, but he does not have the right to strong arm others into doing things they don’t want to do. The only exclusive right that he will enjoy is having a swing vote when a situation reaches a deadlock. For this reason it is absolutely vital that the person appointed as chairman is not only able to see the bigger picture but is also able to make decisions based on fact and which are in the best interests of all stakeholders.
Judging by the comments received on a recent article published on the Private Property website, many homeowners feel powerless and believe that they are at the mercy of the body corporate chairman. It is difficult to comment on issues when both sides of the story have not been heard. However, if an owner feels that his rights are being infringed upon, legal action can be taken. Arbitration is one such option. Having an outsider adjudicate and resolve issues is a fairly easy process although it does cost money.
There are numerous benefits to living in a sectional title complex and there are thousands of South Africans who live quite happily in a communal environment. Knowing your rights and having someone to protect your interests will go a long way towards ensuring that the relationship with your neighbours remains cordial.
Allowing someone to browbeat you and trample on your rights and opinions is completely unacceptable in any situation, but when this affects the way you live - and if it may impact on the value of your property - it is time to take decisive action.