A reader who enjoys carpentry as a hobby has approached the YourProperty expert after his activities were curtailed by the body corporate of his complex.
The reader explains that he has been advised that he may only pursue his hobby for a limited window of time on a Saturday and at no other time.
As he is employed full-time during the week, the only time he has is on Saturdays and public holidays. He asks whether this is fair practice.
See the reader’s question here.
Sean Radue of Radue Attorneys in Port Elizabeth says it is often the case in more compact complexes that garages or similar spaces are fairly close to common areas, such as a communal pool, or to other residences.
“Woodworking, with its use of machinery and heavy tools, could be considered a noisy hobby at times.”
Therefore, says Radue, the reader’s right to carry out his hobby competes with the other owners’ right to a quiet, peaceful and harmonious living environment.
“The Sectional Titles Act provides that ‘an owner shall ensure that the usage of common property does not interfere unreasonably with the use and enjoyment thereof by other persons lawfully on the premises.’”
He says the Act further provides that “an owner shall ensure that the usage of sections and exclusive-use areas do not cause a nuisance to occupiers of sections.”
“We are dealing with two concepts here – non-interference of the use and enjoyment by other owners and the obligation to not cause a nuisance to other owners.”
Both of these could easily be transgressed by the reader should his woodworking cause a racket from time to time, says Radue.
According to him, use and enjoyment within a complex can also be regulated by the management and conduct rules to the Act.
“In this instance, the so-called model conduct rules may have been amended so as to deal specifically with the times when hobbies such as woodworking may be carried out and where, if at all.”
Radue says a further source for consideration is whether the local municipality has a by-law in place that deals with noise pollution.
“Such a by-law may prescribe that no person may do anything, regardless of time, that causes a noise nuisance or disturbance, or prescribe restricted times on certain days for such activities.”
He says people living in confined areas like complexes require rules to eliminate issues and disputes about reasonable behaviour in maintaining a harmonious environment.
“The rights of one cannot prevail without limitation to the exclusion of all affected owners in a complex.”
Of course, these principles highlighted apply equally to the other owners and the reader should be extended the same courtesy should any other owner breach the rules, says Radue.