Pets peeves – residents who don’t obey the rules

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Hearing that a much-loved dog is going to have to find a new home because the body corporate refuses to allow a sectional title home owner to keep the animal, is bound to pull more than a few heart strings. The story regarding Theodore, a 73kg St Bernard, who was being forced to leave his home on the Mount Edgecombe Country Estate because he was considered too large by the management association of the estate, garnered headlines last year when his owners took the matter to court and lost.

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At the time, the owners said that they would take the matter on appeal, however recent reports indicate the Theodore will be temporarily housed with a family member while the homeowners look for a new home, in a place that will allow the dog to stay.

No one can argue that the owners have tried everything in order to keep their pet on the Mount Edgecombe Country Estate, even going as far as employing the services of advocate Kemp J Kemp SC who famously represented President Zuma in his corruption trial. One of the main arguments raised was that other people had flouted the estates rule that only dogs weighing less than 20kg could be kept.

In other words, Theodore's owners felt that they had every right to keep their oversized dog, because other people on the estate were doing the same. The question is of course, is this a defence? The short answer is no. Think about this logically. A person gets arrested for drunken driving, but maintains that he can't be found guilty because he knows of others who drive while intoxicated who are not being prosecuted. The fact that others are breaking the law (and seemingly getting away with it) does not give you the right to do the same.

Body corporate rules are there to keep control and everyone who lives on the premises, including visitors have to abide by these rules. You can't pick and choose which rules you'll adhere to and which ones you won't.

Anyone who is planning on moving into an estate or complex that's governed by a body corporate or a homeowners' association needs to read over the rules before making an offer on a property. Essentially, you are agreeing to abide by the rules when you buy into any scheme of this nature and trying to force the body corporate's hand once you've moved in is probably only going to result in a great deal of frustration and in the case of Theodore, a great deal of money.

Body corporates will often bend the rules slightly, however there are always those who will push the boundaries and/or make everyone's life miserable by constantly breaking the rules or disregarding them altogether. Remember that the wheels are bound to fall off sooner or later and the situation is going to become unpleasant. It stands to reason that those who force body corporates to go to court are going to be unpopular among other residents. Legal fees are expensive and the fact that the owners are going to have to foot the bill is bound to cause bad feelings.

The best advice under the circumstances is for potential owners to read over the rules carefully. If the rules seem reasonable and will fit in with the way you want to live your life, sign the offer to purchase. If not, move on and find another complex that will suit your lifestyle.

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