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Complexities of sectional title complex living prove too much for feuding neighbours

Neighbours in a sectional title complex have been fighting over the pruning of roses, driving over a lawn and swatting bees, with disagreements escalating to a degree that the matter ended up in court. Picture: File

Neighbours in a sectional title complex have been fighting over the pruning of roses, driving over a lawn and swatting bees, with disagreements escalating to a degree that the matter ended up in court. Picture: File

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Pretoria - Living in a sectional title complex can often prove to be more than complex, and particularly so for two neighbours at a KwaZulu-Natal golfing estate.

Among other things, they have been fighting over the pruning of roses, driving over a lawn and swatting bees, with disagreements escalating to a degree that the matter ended up in court.

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Valerie Hutchinson, who has been Michael McGroarty’s neighbour for several years, earlier obtained a protection order against him. He, in turn, sought help from the High Court in Pietermaritzburg to have the order overturned on appeal – and was successful in his legal bid. The two live in a sectional title estate of seven units, where the surrounding land is common property.

Their disagreement started after Hutchinson said she asked McGroarty to trim some overhanging roses. Various altercations followed, including reversing a car over a lawn and allegedly damaging an underground irrigation system. There were also further disputes over renovations, the use of shade cloth, parking issues and the swatting of bees.

The animosity escalated to a point that Hutchinson obtained a judgment at the Magistrate’s Court confirming an earlier interim protection order against McGroarty, issued in terms of the Protection from Harassment Act.

In her application for a protection order, Hutchinson said McGroarty was very aggressive towards her, seemed to be constantly watching her every move when she was outside her unit, and had installed surveillance cameras.

His conduct, according to her, bordered on obsession. She also complained that he interfered in her affairs, especially on the common property, when he had no reason to do so.

In opposing the protection order, McGroarty contended that Hutchison’s application was nothing but delayed revenge since he and his wife had supported another neighbour in complaints against Hutchinson.

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According to Hutchinson, the harassment started in 2015, when she asked McGroarty and his wife to prune the roses planted in the common property, as they were hanging over into the road that provided access to her house. This request was refused. Since then, interactions between her and McGroatry and his wife became strained, she said.

McGroarty, on the other hand, said Hutchinson did not ask either himself or his wife to prune the roses, and that she unilaterally cut them. Her conduct was, according to him, contrary to the estate rules, which required a request for the pruning of the roses be sent to the estate management, which would arrange with its gardening service to attend to this.

According to him, Hutchinson drove a small vehicle and the overhanging roses did not cause a problem for her. Therefore, cutting the roses herself, without consent, was purely vindictive, he said.

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Another thorn in the flesh was when Hutchinson apparently drove over a lawn with irrigation pipes underneath and damaged the piping and pop-up sprinkler. McGroarty’s wife witnessed this and sent an email to Hutchinson requesting considerate driving.

Various incidents were mentioned to the court, including when Hutchinson was watering the garden on the common property, at which time, she said, her neighbour called her “a stupid cow”.

In overturning the harassment interdict, the court said Hutchinson seemed to have taken it upon herself to do as she wished and on numerous occasions conducted herself in a manner that was provoking. McGroarty reported such conduct to the estate management, but it appears that his complaints were not given consideration. The court added that had the estate dealt with the matter when it started it is unlikely it would have escalated into a court matter.

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In setting aside the order, the High Court said the magistrate should have never issued a final order in the first place, as there was no evidence that McGroarty’s conduct constituted harassment.

Pretoria News

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