A reader who is embroiled in a dispute with her body corporate is withholding payment of her levy and wants to know if the organisation can penalise her by charging interest on the money owed and prevent her from voting.
She says the reason for the dispute is somewhat trifling but that it is important to her and has become a matter of principle.
The position, she adds, has escalated to a point where she has withheld levy payment in an attempt to compel the body corporate to accede to her demands.
The body corporate has responded by advising her that it is enforcing its legal rights by adding interest to the outstanding amount and informing the reader that she will not be entitled to vote for as long as she remains in default.
See the reader’s question here.
She says the matter has made her feel so uncomfortable living in the complex that she is considering selling her unit.
Based on the correspondence described, it would seem the body corporate has placed the reader on terms in the form of a letter of demand.
A letter of demand usually precedes formal legal steps. In this case it is for the recovery of outstanding monies, together with interest accrued.
In line with the management rules set out in the regulations to the Sectional Titles Management Act a body corporate is permitted to charge interest on monies due to it.
It should be noted that the charging of such interest should be done in accordance with a resolution of the trustees of the body corporate.
The act does permit the exclusion of the reader from voting at meetings, but only in respect of ordinary resolutions and not special or unanimous resolutions.
This is provided a judgment or order has been given against the reader due to her default.
It does not appear that any such order has been sought and granted against the reader and, if so, she cannot be excluded from voting in respect of ordinary resolutions.
Her potential plan to sell the unit, however, may prove tricky.
For transfer of ownership to take place it is required that the body corporate has certified that all monies due to it by the transferor have been paid, or that provision has been made to the body corporate’s satisfaction for the payment to be settled.
In the current circumstances, the reader will not secure such a certificate unless she makes use of the latter option and provides some sort of security.
It is also useful for the reader to consider that in the event of the body corporate being successful she would be liable for and must pay to the body corporate all reasonable legal costs and disbursements incurred by the organisation, as well as settling her arrears.
In this situation, if the matter is indeed trifling in nature, it may be sensible for her to approach the body corporate to resolve their differences and to settle the monies outstanding.
If, however, the matter is more than that and may constitute a genuine dispute that merits formal steps, she should seek appropriate legal advice to resolve the dispute.
This could be done in a manner that is constructive rather than merely withholding payments, which may negatively impact the complex.
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