The Community Schemes Ombud Service was officially launched today in Rosebank, Johannesburg, with officials and key stakeholders in attendance.
Although the office of the chief ombudsman was established at the end of 2014, the draft regulations were only gazetted little over a month ago on 7 October. Chief ombud, Themba Mthethwa, said 10,000 registration applications had been received by his office since 7 October. Sectional title and share schemes were given a month to register their schemes with the ombud.
Department of Human Settlements Deputy Director-General Neville Chainee, who was delivering a speech on behalf of Human Settlements Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, said five million South African households were living in community housing setups – or 25% of the country’s total households which contributed R1tn to the economy.
Chainee said this was a result of growing urban migration from rural settings, and reiterated the importance of the ombud as a vehicle to coordinate share scheme living and densification.
Sectional title and share scheme living continues to be in high demand from home buyers, evidenced by the fact that since 7 October, the ombud has received registration applications for 29 new developments and has already issued 23 registration certificates.
Obviously, neighbourly disputes are commonplace and before the office of the ombud was set up, aggrieved neighbours were forced to settle in the courts – a massive expense and a great time-waster for our judiciary.
The ombud has since its establishment in 2014 dealt with 1,100 dispute applications – 20 of which are in the process of being referred for adjudication.
“But since the regulations were gazetted on 7 October, we have received 104 new applications for dispute resolution,” said Mthethwa, noting that the CSOS levy which will be effected from 1 January 2017 will provide both owners, tenants and homeowners associations with a very affordable dispute resolution vehicle. “The CSOS levy will not cost homeowners more than R40 per month. This is the case if you own a R10m apartment or R500,000 unit.”
Many would agree that the office of an ombud for sectional title and community schemes has been long overdue. Last month’s incident in Moreleta Park, Pretoria, in which a homeowner killed a member of the homeowners’ association, two neighbours and himself after numerous run-ins with the body corporate, could potentially have been avoided had the owner felt he had an avenue to which to lodge his grievances. Obviously, it’s uncertain whether he would have actually approached the CSOS, but it is reassuring that aggrieved owners and tenants now have this option of dispute resolution and a watchdog for good and fair scheme governance available to them.
Readers who wish to educate themselves better, should email firstname.lastname@example.org for copies of the Sectional Title Schemes Management Regulations, CSOS Regulations around fees and levies as well as the CSOS Regulations