Ombud provision promises to sort out communal housing squabbles quickly and cost-effectively

2011-10-04 00:00

THE Community Schemes Ombud Services Act of 2011 was promulgated in June and will come into effect on further notice.

The purpose of the act is to provide a dispute resolution mechanism for community housing schemes, which encompass accommodation in sectional title schemes, share block schemes, property associations, retired housing schemes and so on. Any person or legal entity affected by a dispute relating to such accommodation will have a right to apply for assistance.

A complaint may be made to the ombud and relief may be sought with regard to:

• Financial issues (levies, contributions)

• Behavioural issues (typically nuisance)

• Governance of the scheme (creation of or validity of rules)

• Meetings (validity of decisions)

• Management services (managing agents and their compliance with codes)

• Works (repairs and so on)

The ombud is entitled to inspect, call for submissions and the like, the intention being that an investigation should be quick, informal and stripped of technicalities.

To that end, legal representation is not a right, but may be allowed on application if the issues are complex or if a party is incapable of representing himself.

On reaching a decision the ombud may refer the issue to conciliation or adjudication, or make an order himself. Such an order would be enforced as if it were a court order.

An application to the ombud will carry a fee, paid upfront. Generally, all community schemes will be subjected to a levy to assist in providing the infrastructure created by the new act. Time will tell whether this innovation will prove to be effective. In principle this legislation is to be welcomed, as it should create a quick, cost-effective method of sorting out communal housing squabbles.

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