Parking Bay Wars, Nightly Noises, and Other Common Disputes You Can Prevent this Festive Season
Christmas is coming! For many, December is an opportunity to reunite with family, see old friends, and exchange gifts.
For others, it is a high-pressure time, where everything must be perfect, and the leadup to even a single day in the month can put a person on edge for the rest of it.
For others still, December is a time to get away and see new places. And of course, for some, there’s very little that’s special about December at all, whether by choice or by the result of one’s working hours.
These are all perspectives that need to be considered when deciding how best to smooth over potential differences and keep the peace during one of the most emotionally charged months of the year. For Trustees and less formal community leaders alike, the idea can seem daunting, but it does not have to be.
By anticipating potential issues and addressing them with grace, many conflicts can be resolved before they even begin. If you would like to know more about keeping disputes civil once they arise, please check out our owner-oriented article on the topic!
Now, when it comes to problem anticipation, there are several key areas to focus on:
- Noise problems
- Parking problems
- Renting to visitors
In all cases, you will need to follow proper procedure if you intend to use fines as an enforcement tool. For everyone’s sake, it’s best to see what we can do before fines become necessary.
With that in mind, let’s dive in!
If you don’t handle this one ahead of time, you may be reminded the hard way that noise disputes are among the most common in South Africa. Be sure to check out Section 13 of the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act for a refresher on the general duties of Scheme Owners.
Section 13 (e) in particular states that an owner must “not use his or her section or exclusive use area, or permit it to be used, in a manner or for a purpose which may cause a nuisance to any occupier of a section”.
Knowing how loud December braais can get, does this mean they should be shut down completely, just to be safe? How about late-night carol singing? If you are unprepared when disputes first arise, such a blanket ban may be tempting. However, with a little prior expectation management, it is possible to avoid being a party pooper.
It is important to lay down firm, clear expectations on what noise levels are acceptable over Christmas. This includes:
- What times certain noise levels are permitted
- The decibel ranges of those noise levels
- The date from which noise rules default to normal, if your Scheme’s Code of Conduct is normally much stricter around noise during the rest of the year
Note that it’s best to examine local bylaws before deciding on the above, and to remember that any noise seven decibels higher than the ambience is legally a disturbance.
From there, remember that it is crucial to get the Body Corporate involved before finalizing conduct on the above, since its input will give insight into what people are willing to put up with, and that’s really the key to preventing disputes in this area.
Here, there is much less room for compromise or negotiation.
Every unit in a car-friendly Sectional Title Scheme is assigned at least one parking slot, most commonly as an exclusive use area. Although this technically makes the parking “common ground”, the owner for its corresponding unit still gets final say on who uses it and who doesn’t.
It’s important to respect this right, as no one wants to come home only to find that all their parking has been taken by inconsiderate visitors. Even the nicest neighbours will get upset by this.
If any residents are willing to volunteer spare parking space out to visitors, that is great, but no one should be using anyone else’s parking without explicit consent. Although everyone in the Scheme likely already knows this, a firm reminder can prevent many issues before they start.
When extra parking spaces are not available, it’s also good to remind owners to:
- Encourage carpooling between visitors. If twelve people are coming over to party at one owner’s house, whether they come in three cars or twelve matters. Especially if other owners are doing the same thing.
- If there are no visitor bays, ask that visitors use on-street parking first. This could be within the Scheme, if space permits, but it’s more likely to be outside instead.
- Think about other owners. Even if parking bays aren’t formally assigned, make sure that your neighbour’s traditional spot is kept open for them.
When it comes to lights, room for negotiation opens again, and this area can be handled similarly to noise. Just note that it’s important to be sensitive to the demographics in your Scheme.
Our constitution consistently supports freedom of religion. If your Scheme has mixed faiths, anyone insisting on putting up Christmas lights needs to be aware that, if such lights are allowed, then similar lights will also need to be allowed during Diwali or Eid, for example.
With that in mind, follow a process like the one under “Noise”. As the exterior of all units counts as common property, it’s important to consult Section 13 (d) of the STSMA, as well as Rules 4 and 5 of the Prescribed Conduct Rules. Any conduct rules your Scheme might decide on will need to be in line with those stipulations.
To that end, it’s important to consider areas such as:
- How electricity costs will be divided, if individual meters aren’t installed.
- The start and end dates for when the lights are acceptable.
- The amount and type of lights that are acceptable, including visual references.
- Which third parties are permitted to install the lights, if professional contractors are needed to do so.
- The times that the lights should be switched off (we recommend that this closely matches with the time that noise levels need to drop).
To contact ANGOR with any further questions, please go to: https://www.angor.co.za/contact-angor-property-management/
This article may interest you: 12 Budget-friendly outdoor ideas for everyday summer entertainment and December Top Tips That All Trustees Should Know – Key Problems to Anticipate