Fighting the ‘bully corporate’

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Durban - The higher the price of the property, the stricter the rules of the estate or building.

This is the emerging picture after another property owner has embarked on expensive high court litigation to stop the body corporate of a plush uMhlanga block of flats from behaving like a “schoolyard bully” .

Last month, The Mercury reported on a legal challenge by property tycoon Niemesh Singh to “draconian” rules at the upmarket Mount Edgecombe housing estate where he lives.

This week saw logistics company boss Shaun “Mack” Makadooj launch an urgent application in the Durban High Court against the body corporate of Oyster Rock in Lighthouse Road, concerning a dispute over balcony tiles in the flat his trust bought for R8 million in July.

Makadooj, the chairman of KGB Holdings and trustee of the Shaun Mack Family Trust, said he applied in September last year for permission to renovate the flat and got approval to make changes to the internal open-plan layout, replace the internal floor tiles, upgrade the curtains and do interior painting.

He wanted to replace the “weatherbeaten” tiles with non-slip porcelain tiles on the balcony, but this was rejected.

“It was obvious they needed to be replaced. They are crafted of natural stone, are susceptible to the elements, porous, slippery and unsightly.

“The managing agents have also indicated that they agree that the tiles need replacing and one owner has already been given permission to make the change,” he said in his affidavit which came before Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel.

He said his contractors removed the tiles and he was under the impression that the managing agent would source new ones which would then be laid by his contractors at no cost to the body corporate.

The work on the flat began in January and was expected to be finished at the end of March and, Makadooj said, he expected the tile issue to be resolved during this period.

But it wasn’t. And in April the body corporate wrote, referring to “certain transgressions”, threatening an interdict and banning his contractors from the site “until such time as the patio tiles unlawfully removed, are reinstated”.

“This high-handed attitude is nonsensical, given that the body corporate has admitted the old tiles are defective.

“They also want us to reinstate the old tiles without contractors. I am not a tiler and neither is my wife,” Makadooj said

“The body corporate is acting like a schoolyard bully. There is no lawful reason why we cannot continue with our internal renovations.

“We want to move into our new home,” he said.

A lawyer’s letter from the body corporate’s attorneys, attached to the court papers, says the tiles are “natural stone” and were intentionally used by the developer to ensure a natural finish.

It states that Makadooj was “specifically informed in writing” not to remove them.

In terms of an order taken by consent, the contractors were allowed back on site, but Makadooj was interdicted from replacing the tiles until the dispute is resolved.

Singh’s application involved similar allegations that his contractors were being denied access because he had replaced windows on one of the four houses he owned on the estate without permission of the management.

He has launched two other applications, one because security threatened to take away his electronic access, and another in which he is seeking to declare the estate’s rules, which he claims are enforced with an “iron fist”, to be “unlawful and invalid”.

Among Singh’s complaints are that domestic workers are not allowed to walk freely around the estate and residents are fined for misdemeanors.

This application is expected to be back in court on May 19.

[email protected]

The Mercury


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