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How the Com­mu­nity Schemes Ombud Ser­vice can help you

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

The Com­mu­nity Schemes Ombud Ser­vice (CSOS) Act sets out how to ap­ply to the CSOS to in­ter­vene in a dis­pute and how the CSOS will try to re­solve a dis­pute if an ap­pli­ca­tion is ac­cepted. Here, in brief, are a few things you should know. Who can ap­ply to the CSOS for help? Any per­son who is a party to, or ma­te­ri­ally af­fected by, a dis­pute re­lat­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion of a com­mu­nity scheme can ap­ply for the in­ter­ven­tion of the CSOS. At least one of the par­ties to the dis­pute must be an as­so­ci­a­tion (for ex­am­ple, a body cor­po­rate), an owner or an oc­cu­pier (ef­fec­tively, a tenant). A “per­son” is a nat­u­ral per­son or a part­ner­ship, trust, cor­po­ra­tion, or a pri­vate or public en­tity. Will I be charged a fee if I want the CSOS to in­ter­vene in a dis­pute? Yes, there is an ap­pli­ca­tion fee of R50. If your dis­pute is re­ferred to an ad­ju­di­ca­tor, there is an ad­di­tional fee of R100. The ap­pli­ca­tion and ad­ju­di­ca­tion fees are waived if your net (af­ter-tax) house­hold in­come is less than R5 500 a month. Schemes and in­di­vid­u­als can ap­ply to have their fees dis­counted or waived by com­plet­ing a pre­scribed form that re­quires them to pro­vide de­tails of their in­come, as­sets, ex­pen­di­ture and li­a­bil­i­ties. What type of dis­putes can the CSOS ad­dress? An ad­ju­di­ca­tor can is­sue orders in re­spect of a wide range of is­sues aris­ing in the con­text of com­mu­nity schemes. These in­clude:

• Fi­nan­cial is­sues – for ex­am­ple, or­der­ing a body cor­po­rate to re-cal­cu­late or re­fund a levy, or or­der­ing a body cor­po­rate to have its fi­nan­cial state­ments au­dited.

• Be­havioural is­sues – for ex­am­ple, or­der­ing that a be­hav­iour, such as play­ing mu­sic loudly, con­sti­tutes a nui­sance and or­der­ing the rel­e­vant per­son to stop that be­hav­iour, or or­der­ing an an­i­mal, such as a pet dog kept in vi­o­la­tion of the scheme’s rules, to be re­moved from the prop­erty.

• Meet­ings – for ex­am­ple, or­der­ing that a res­o­lu­tion adopted at a gen­eral meet­ing of a body cor­po­rate or at a meet­ing of the board of trustees is in­valid, or or­der­ing that a res­o­lu­tion passed at a gen­eral meet­ing is void, be­cause it un­rea­son­ably in­ter­feres with the rights of an owner or oc­cu­pier.

• Pri­vate and com­mon ar­eas of the prop­erty – for ex­am­ple, or­der­ing a body cor­po­rate to carry out re­pairs to the com­mon prop­erty, or or­der­ing a body cor­po­rate to grant an owner or oc­cu­pier exclusive-use rights over a cer­tain part of the com­mon prop­erty.

• Scheme gov­er­nance – for ex­am­ple, or­der­ing an as­so­ci­a­tion to ap­prove or amend a man­age­ment or con­duct rule.

• Man­age­ment ser­vices – for ex­am­ple, or­der­ing a manag­ing agent to com­ply with the terms of his or her con­tract of ap­point­ment.

• Ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion – for ex­am­ple, or­der­ing an as­so­ci­a­tion to make gov­er­nance doc­u­ments or records avail­able to a res­i­dent. Does the ombud rule on com­plaints? Dis­putes are set­tled by full-time and part-time con­cil­ia­tors and ad­ju­di­ca­tors who are ap­pointed by the chief ombud and who work un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a re­gional ombud or deputy ombud. Am I en­ti­tled to le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion? Par­ties to a dis­pute are en­ti­tled to le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion dur­ing the ad­ju­di­ca­tion process only un­der one of two con­di­tions: ei­ther that the ad­ju­di­ca­tor and all the par­ties agree to it; or that ad­ju­di­ca­tor de­cides that, based on the na­ture of the dis­pute, it would be un­rea­son­able to ex­pect one of the par­ties to deal with the ad­ju­di­ca­tion process with­out le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

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