Protection from unruly tenants

Private Property South Africa

The proposed new Community Schemes Ombud Service Bill protects the rights of landlords to “good administration” in respect of scheme finances and facilities.

The Bill oversees the administration of disputes in the sectional title sector and allows landlords to appoint arbitrators to handle disputes between landlords, tenants, trustees and/or managing agents.

It is now widely recognised that arbitration is preferable to litigation in the disputes that plague sectional title schemes.

If you, as the landlord, have an issue with unruly behaviour by your tenant, the first step is to give him/her a warning. But, if your tenant continues to cause trouble, the body corporate may impose a fine. The problem, however, is that you usually end up having to pay the fine on behalf of your unruly tenant.

If the tenant refuses to fix the damage he has caused, you can impose further fines. However, if you are unable to extract payment for these fines from your tenant, it is safe to say that you will probably not be able to obtain a refund for the damage that has been made to your property.

This is where the Bill steps in. It provides community housing scheme landlords with access to simple, inexpensive recourse that handles disputes in a manner that is impartial and fair.

Community schemes include sectional titles schemes, share block companies, homeowners associations and housing schemes for retired persons.

The Bill makes provision for “prayers for relief” on the part of community scheme landlords in respect of “behavioural issues”, including:

  • animals kept in private or common areas.

  • items placed on or attached to private or common areas.

  • other actions constituting a nuisance.

Therefore, the Bill stipulates the requirements for lodging an application for relief as well as the procedures to be followed by the ombud service when investigating an application. If a negotiated resolution is not achieved for the dispute, the issue will then be referred to an arbitrator. Provision is also made for the right of appeal.

Ideally, the arbitrator should be sympathetic but firm, versed in sectional title law and able to listen to both sides of the case in order sto give an objective decision.

Written in conjunction with the Department of Human Settlements, Catherine Cockcroft, Propell, and Marina Constas, BBM Law

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