Is CSOS the answer to our SOS?
It’s estimated that already some 2 million households live in 550 000 sectional title complexes countrywide. With an average of 4 members per household, that constitutes to approximately 8 million people, with different temperament and values, living in very close proximity to each other (Sect. title ownership much debated, 2016). This, with rules that restrict what residents can and cannot do, can be a breeding place for disputes (Personal Finance, 2017).
CSOS (Community Schemes Ombud Service), as of 7 October 2016, provides a dispute resolution mechanism for all community schemes, be it sectional title complexes, share block companies, home owner associations, retirement villages and a duet registered under the Sectional Title Act.
Applications for the said dispute resolution may be lodged in person and via e-mail by owners, tenants, trustees and bodies corporate at a cost of R50. Internal dispute mechanism processes that exist within the particular community scheme must first be exhausted before an application can be lodged with CSOS, and where there are none, applicants are entitled to approach CSOS directly (CSOS, 2017).
The CSOS adjudicator will consider all the evidence presented and will hand down a determination. This is binding on all parties to the dispute and enforceable in the Magistrate Court or High Court, depending on the quantum or nature of relief granted in the determination (CSOS, 2017).
Apart from dispute resolution, the Community Schemes Ombud Service Act (CSOSA) requires all community schemes to:
1. Register with CSOS
2. Pay levy to CSOS and
3. Upgrade their fidelity insurance (Chief Ombud’s Circular No: 1 of 2017, 2017)
The due date for all schemes to register with CSOS was 7 November 2016. The Form CS1 requires the scheme to detail their domicile, governance documents, the executive committee, managing agent, the financials, and authorised representative. All documents will thus be kept by CSOS to ensure accessibility of scheme documentation, and the community scheme rules and/or amendments thereto will need to be approved by CSOS.
The CSOS Levies & Fees Regulations stipulate that there is a monthly fee payable quarterly in advance, which is calculated as follows:
Current levy, minus R500 x 2%, capped at R40 per unit per month and limited to R2500.
Every community scheme must insure against the risk of loss of money belonging to the community scheme or for which it is responsible, sustained as a result of any act of fraud or dishonesty committed by a scheme executive, managing agent, employee of the scheme.
Any scheme not adhering to the CSOSA will be guilty of an offence and penalty interest will be charged on any overdue levy payable to CSOS.
We therefore trust that CSOS will be our SOS in dealing with disputes properly, and to prevent disagreements leading to a breakdown in relationships between neighbours, mismanagement of the scheme and even prevent it from boiling over into violence (Personal Finance, 2017).
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