Thinking Inside the Box

A Paddocks Sectional Title Lifestyle Blog

Warring Neighbours in a Sectional Title Duet

sectional title duet scheme

By Prof. Graham Paddock

The term ‘duet’ normally suggests cooperation and harmony, but in the world of sectional title, it has a less appealing connotation.

I read with interest the Independent Online news item on the problems in a duet scheme – one with only two units – in Valley View Road, Morningside, Durban, which problems resulted in Judge Sharon Marks appointing an administrator for three years.

The judge said that the body corporate was “non-existent”, had never met and that none of the statutory obligations had been attended to. But this was clearly not the reason the judge decided to take the responsibility for running the scheme away from the owners and put it in the hands of an administrator. There was no suggestion that the scheme was in financial distress, but clearly the relationship between the two owners had broken down completely. The judge is quoted as saying “The appointment of an administrator is a drastic remedy… and usually done only where there is an underlying feud between the parties.”

One does not know the full history, but it appears from the IOL report that whatever relationship existed between the two couples who occupy the sections in this scheme, Craig and Patricia Eldridge and Shane and Jayshika Manikam, broke down completely when Shane was inconvenienced by having to manoeuvre his car around Craig’s parked car. He hooted and then got out of the car, standing nose to nose with Craig and swearing at him. Things went from bad to worse when Shane, presumably still incensed at having to drive around Craig’s inconsiderately parked car, disconnected the Eldridge’s water and electricity supplies – and they then called the police. The electricity was reconnected shortly thereafter, but not the water. A flurry of legal proceedings then ensued, with claims and counter-claims flying, but what was clear to the judge was that the Manikams had unlawfully deprived the Eldridges of water for more than three days. The court order restrained Shane from interfering with his neighbour’s water supply and appointed an administrator to run the scheme.

In duets and other sectional schemes with less than seven different owners, there is often a total disregard for the management provisions in the Sectional Titles Act, 1986. While the body corporate exists in law, in practice it is “non-existent”, or at least not operative. While, and for so long as the owners get on with each other, cooperate to insure the buildings and pay the municipal utility accounts, this often does not cause any real problems… at least until an owner wants to sell to a buyer who needs a bond and the bank requires evidence that the scheme is being properly run.

But it makes no sense to have a situation where one disgruntled owner can unilaterally turn or switch off another’s electricity or water supply, for whatever reason. In smaller schemes there should be direct supply pre-payment arrangements, with “econometers” installed in each section so that the electricity is delivered and paid for directly by the supplier and the owner of each section. Also, to the extent possible, it is sensible to have separate water supplies, or at least separate meters on the water supplied to each section.

I hope for the Eldridge’s and Manikam’s sake that  the court-appointed administrator will do whatever he can to ensure that this type of problem does not re-occur after he hands the body corporate back to the owners in three years time.

Do you have any experience living in or managing a duet scheme? Share with us by commenting below.

IOL Article reference: http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/court-rules-on-war-of-neighbours-1.1760471#.VDP1sCmSzYY

Image source: http://www.junction.co.za

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2 comments on “Warring Neighbours in a Sectional Title Duet

  1. Sue
    October 22, 2014

    I’m no expert just another ST owner, but common sense tells me that, erroneous letters can be stopped by speaking to a good lawyer ..i.e. defamation of character. Its not clear if YOU are part of the arbitration board, or if you merely appointed one. Arbitration to the best of my knowledge, once implemented should only take a matter of 14 days to time of hearing and the whole matter should be over. Sure sounds like you have a major headache! I feel for you, as this in fact sounds like a sure case of bully by your neighbours which again is a different matter to take up legally.

    You really aught to speak to a good law firm that has a proven success rate with “Protection from Harassment Act”, someone who has been bullied can ask the courts for an interim protection order, which will be granted as long as the court is satisfied the respondent has harassed, or is harassing, the applicant and that harm has or may be caused. In your case ‘Respondent’ will be the BC members, trustees + managing agent.

    Sometimes, just a single no nonsense letter threating action, by a reputable large legal firm will suffice.

  2. Karen Miles.
    October 9, 2014

    Dear Paddocks,
    thank you for these blogs, the last few have been particulary useful, I am in arbitration with my chairlady and the managing agent, since I found irregularities in our bank account. I have been appointed an arbitrator through the deeds office, since this, I get constantly reported by anonymous people for all manner of things, I have been fined R27 000.00 by the MA ,where there is no fining in the conduct rules
    and letters sent around to all members about me, yet I have never had a dispute, or been found guilty of anything, called many times for meetings, just get ignored. Every rule from sect 35-46 they have broken . The harassment continues, and persecution doesn’t stop, as I now have the banks crime and legal dept investigating. Next will come defamation. So far the costs have been astronomical and by now I think the BC is bankrupt.

    regards,

    Karen.

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