The Community Schemes Ombud Service Act (Act 9 of 2011) hereinafter referred to as “the Act” came into operation on 7 October 2016.
The main purpose of the Act is to establish the Community Schemes Ombud Service (hereinafter referred to as “the CSOS”). A further purpose to the Act is to provide a dispute resolution mechanism in community schemes or sectional title schemes.
As an owner or tenant of a unit in a sectional title scheme, disputes can arise as a result of financial issues, issues relating to the common property in the scheme and various other matters.
The CSOS provides for an alternative dispute resolution process which allows parties to a dispute the opportunity to engage and deal with said dispute in a forum other than in court. This mechanism provides a cost effective and speedy manner in which to resolve disputes.
In terms of Section 38 of the Act, any person may submit an application to the CSOS to have a dispute resolved if such person is a party to or is materially affected by such dispute.
The application process itself is simple. A short application form must be completed setting out the facts of the dispute as well as the relief sought by the applicant. The application is then submitted via email to the CSOS together with the prescribed fee of R50.
The options for relief available appear to be a closed list in terms of Section 39 of the Act. An example of relief available in financial disputes is a request for a tenant to pay his/her rental to the association and not directly to his/her landlord in circumstances where the landlord owes money. The tenant shall pay their rental to the association until such time as the amount owing by the landlord has been paid in full by the tenant. An example of relief in relation to behavioral issues is requesting an order that the behavior of the respondent (the person who the application is filed against) be classified as a nuisance and that the respondent therefore be ordered to refrain from such behaviour.
Thereafter, the parties will be called to a conciliation session. An independent conciliator will be present and the parties will attempt to resolve the dispute by reaching a solution acceptable to both parties. However, should the conciliation session fail, the matter will be re-assessed by the CSOS and the parties may be called upon to attend an adjudication session. An independent adjudicator will then be appointed to hear the dispute and such adjudicator will be responsible for making a decision which is both final and binding on the parties. The prescribed fee for adjudicating the matter is R100.00
The establishment of the CSOS is beneficial to all persons working or living in a sectional title scheme as it affordable for most and therefore provides an opportunity for all people to be heard. Should a dispute arise within a scheme, it is recommended to try and resolve the matter in an amicable way prior to approaching the CSOS. However, should you require the dispute to be resolved with the assistance of the CSOS, their contact details are as follows: www.csos.org.za (email) or 087 805 0226.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).