A set of Conduct Rules that are modern, clear and specific. can go a long way for trustees that want to create a harmonious and co-operative atmosphere in their Sectional Title schemes.
There are requests for help all the time from trustees who don’t know what to do about residents not following conduct rules – as well as complaints from residents about trustees who don’t enforce conduct rules, who apply them arbitrarily, or who seem to make up rules as they go along.
Community scheme living can be challenging as it often involves people from diverse backgrounds and with different personal preferences. Issues that become a point of contention involve noise disturbance, the keeping of pets, parking problems and refuse disposal, to name only a few.
The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act (STSMA) has prescribed rules known as conduct rules, which schemes can apply to curb some of these issues. The Act also allows for schemes to add or amend these rules. This is especially helpful considering schemes are not alike and certain rules may not be relevant in their prescribed area.
Conduct Rules hopelessly out of date
While there are clear and easy legal steps that trustees can follow to ensure greater compliance, less friction and a scheme that is much easier to manage, we find that the biggest problem in most ST schemes is that their Conduct Rules are hopelessly out of date and actually inadequate to address many of the issues that trustees have to deal with in modern schemes.
So the first step we always suggest is for trustees to get their Conduct Rules professionally reviewed - and rewritten if necessary - by a specialist ST attorney, to ensure that they are practical, properly detailed, and applicable to current lifestyles and conditions. This latter concern applies especially to those schemes that are still operating on the Conduct Rules that were annexed to the Sectional Titles Act of 1986.
Then step two is to get the new Conduct Rules approved by the owners in the scheme and step three to get them registered at the office of the Community Housing Schemes Ombud (CSOS). The trustees cannot make any sort of rules by themselves, and they cannot enforce any Conduct Rules that have not been properly approved and registered.
The more detailed the better
The rules must, of course, cover what is required of residents (tenants as well as owners) in terms of parking, noise and the keeping of pets, which account for the bulk of complaints and non-compliance issues in ST schemes.
However, they should also address security and access conditions, nuisance issues such as littering, any restrictions on the use of communal facilities such as a swimming pool, braai area or clubhouse and as many other issues as trustees can think of that might cause problems between residents or between residents and trustees.
And the more detailed the rules are, the better. When it comes to pets, for example, it really helps when the rules are very clear under what conditions the trustees will approve an application to keep a pet, what types of pets may be kept, where they may be kept and what problems could cause permission to be withdrawn. We also suggest that the trustees keep a register of pets, with photos, so they can easily be traced to their owners if necessary.
It is also very important that the Conduct Rules set out in detail the steps that will be followed when rules are broken.