The reader explains that the tenants recently held a party one Saturday night and that the music went on until just before midnight.
Although many of the surrounding tenants are older, he points out that the complex is not a “retirement village”.
Rather than complaining to him as owner or raising it with the tenants themselves, the disgruntled neighbours approached the managing agent.
The reader says this was strange as they are on fairly familiar terms, since his daughter lived in the rented unit some years before.
He says she also enjoyed the odd party while in the property in question without incident; the difference perhaps being that she notified the neighbours of any intended party, which presumably appeased them a little.
The reader says the managing agent issued a fairly stern warning pointing out that the Sectional Titles Act makes provision for one not to infringe on an owner’s use and enjoyment of his or her property and for one not to be a nuisance to others.
The landlord has asked the panel whether the Act is so strict that it disallows any such celebratory behaviour.
According to Sean Radue of Radue Attorneys, there are two provisions of the Act that would be raised.
“The first 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’.”
Radue says the second states that “an owner shall ensure that the usage of sections and exclusive use areas do not cause a nuisance to occupiers of sections”.
“The curious thing about rights is that they apply equally to both parties.”
The first cited section, for example, limits the behaviour of one person so as to not unreasonably interfere with the use and enjoyment by the other, says Radue.
“The transgressing party, however, also has the right to use and enjoyment.”
Radue says the answer lies in the word “unreasonably”.
“What is reasonable is an objective test; one person finding certain behaviour unreasonable does not make it so.”
Often the somewhat vague notion of “one person’s rights only extend to where another person’s rights begin” is raised, says Grant Hill of Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys.
“The line lies somewhere in the middle.”
Hill says the behaviour of the tenants was not necessarily unreasonable due to the volume of the music or the lateness of the hour, but all of the relevant factors could amount to behaviour that was objectively unreasonable.
“While the steps taken by the complaining neighbours weren’t wrong, a lot more mileage could have been gained by approaching the tenants directly.”
Perhaps requesting notification of any intended parties or asking them to turn the music down a little as the night progressed might have helped the situation, says Hill.
“By all means, stricter steps could and should be taken if warnings aren’t heeded.”
Hill says it would seem that this particular complex is quite small, so the neighbours would probably be in fairly regular contact with each other.
“The approach followed would not endear the neighbours to the tenants, or their landlord, for that matter.”
See the reader’s question here.