How the Community Schemes Ombud Service can help you
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.