Agents can now lodge disputes with the Community Schemes Ombud Service (“CSOS”). The CSOS was established in terms of the Community Scheme Ombud Service Act, 2011 (Act 9 of 2011).
Its purpose is to resolve disputes arising in community schemes which include townhouses, flats, complexes, golfing estates, retirement homes, homeowner’s associations and other forms of communal living which have a body corporate or managing agent for governing of the common property.
A resident can lodge a dispute with the ombud in writing or via their website http://csos.org.za/. If the dispute is found to have merit, the dispute will be sent for conciliation. Should conciliation not be successful further investigation by the ombud will be undertaken and the matter sent for adjudication. At adjudication the ombud will issue an order which is legally enforceable through the courts.
The time frames envisaged for the resolution of disputes are 30 days for conciliation, 1 day for quick-resolution matters and 60 days for adjudication matters.
Section 4(d) provides for public access electronically or by other means to sectional title scheme governance documentation and other scheme governance documents. This provision will enable estate agents to peruse these documents in order to determine if discrimination and/or inequality is present.
Section 34 of the CSOS Act provides for offences and penalties. Guilty parties can be fined or imprisoned for a period not exceeding 5 years for a first offence and 10 years for repeat offenders or both.
Human rights lawyer Themba Mthethwa, who has been appointed as the ombud, addressed estate agents on 25 August 2015 at the IEASA North Region function and confirmed that his office will consider disputes lodged by estate agents, relating to them being refused access to community schemes.
By Sascha Beck
Attorney, Conveyancer & Notary Public at Djv Inc.