Gomora actress Thembi Seete set tongues wagging on Sunday after she made headlines for averting eviction when she settled a bill for unpaid levies totaling more than R50,000.
City Press reports that Seete missed 16 levy payments since 1 March 2019 which prompted the lawyers of Greenstone Hill’s Strelitzia complex body corporate to apply for a default judgment in the Pretoria High Court in January.
It was claimed Seete ignored a letter of demand to pay R52,036 for more than R40,000 in levy arrears and other related costs.
A letter of demand was sent last August.
Body corporate can’t evict you for overdue levies. City Press News24 this is disgusting – leave Thembi Seete alone. https://t.co/e4WNX7JJ24
— kgadi (@kgadi_ZA) June 27, 2021
According to The South African, when contacted for comment, Seete’s manager Thato Matuka, said the matter had been resolved.
One of the Strelitzia complex’s legal representatives refused to comment, saying a customer’s information and transaction history was private.
The power of body corporates
Guthrie and Theron Properties defines a body corporate as the collective name given to all the owners of units in a sectional title scheme.
“Units usually refers to the townhouses or flats in a development. The body corporate comes into existence as soon as the developer of the scheme transfers a unit to a new owner. This means that all registered owners of units in a scheme are members of the body corporate,” it says.
According to Rawson Property Group regional sales manager Craig Mott, problems often arise in South African sectional title property because body corporates are not fully aware of the process that needs to be undertaken to effectively and legally evict a non-paying property owner.
This can also be a very costly and timely issue to resolve.
A body corporate is a legal entity that is created when land is subdivided and registered under the Land Title Act 1994 to establish a community title scheme. The function of a body corporate is to administer common property and body corporate assets for the benefit of all of the owners and to undertake management, financial and other functions required under body corporate legislation.
All of the owners in a community titles scheme are automatically members of the body corporate when they buy their section and it becomes their job to make decisions about these and other things at general meetings and through the committee.
The functions of a body corporate:
1) Decides the amounts (levies) to be paid by the owners to make sure the body corporate can operate effectively.
2) Compiles a set of rules or by-laws that govern owners, or tenants that live in the scheme and provides guidelines on what can and can’t be done.
3) Manages and controls all the assets and attends to the maintenance and upkeep of the property. Many schemes have security, swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts, laundromats, clubhouses, and large green communal gardens, all of which cost extra to maintain and are managed by the body corporate.
4) Ensures that sufficient insurance is in place on behalf of the owners, this will cover common property, public liability and the structural insurance
5) Recordkeeping, including minutes of meetings, a roll of owners details, financial accounts, registers of assets, improvements to common property by owners, engagements and authorisations.
6) To secure the repayment of any money owed to the scheme and the interest payable on it, particularly with regards to unpaid contributions and levies.
7) To enter into an agreement with local authorities for the supply of electricity, water, gas, fuel, sanitary and other services.
8) To enter into an agreement with any owner or occupant of a section for the provision of amenities or services by the body corporate to such people. This includes the right to let a portion of the common property to any such person.
9) To do all that is necessary to enforce the rules regarding the control, management and administration of the scheme.
Based solely on point number 6, Strelitzia’s body corporate was well within its rights to take legal action against Seete in an effort to recover the money.
However, Mott explained that a body corporate cannot just evict someone because of unpaid levies as there is a legal process that needs to follow suit.
Said legal process would then incur additional costs for the body corporate.
“The best is to hand the matter over to an attorney or a collection expert and obviously have them deal with the matter following the full extent of the law, which normally results in the following two options:
The matter can either be lodged with the Community Schemes Ombud Services (“CSOS”) and/or handed over to an attorney resulting in a relevant court process to challenge and recover these disputed amounts. These are definitely lengthy, costly and detailed processes that involve the law.”
Mott also cautions that it is unlawful to withhold the levies payable to your scheme.
“Despite the difficulties and financial challenges one may have due to the current economic climate, we would advise if an owner knows that they are struggling financially they need to be forthcoming to their scheme’s trustees and/or managing agent to attempt to resolve the issue amicably before it reaches the legal stage,” concluded Mott.
When we get into the granularities about whether or not this matter is for public consumption, however, a case can be made for both sides of the argument.
So the editor of the newspaper will say “yeah let’s run this story, it’s informative and it’s in the public’s interest”? I just want to understand since I know very little about that world. https://t.co/VRKgOljEes
— Bohani Xidumu (@Bohani21) June 27, 2021
Why is this even news. https://t.co/AKrMatlK2J
— Ke Grootman. (@LordPercyK) June 27, 2021
Judging from the replies it seems like the media is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. In situations like this it might be better to downsize and release much needed cash flow, unless the bills were erroneously missed.
— Caswell Ndlhovu (@Caswell1000) June 27, 2021
In the midst of all the shit and political content you choose to shame people who are trying to make ends meet. No maan, nizizidenge!
— ◇v¥ (@ovypod) June 27, 2021
*This article has been updated to reflect more information on body corporates and the scope of their work.