Cats and other issues of complaints not for ombud to determine, court rules

A woman was among other issues accused of feeding feral cats in her estate. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

A woman was among other issues accused of feeding feral cats in her estate. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 22, 2023


Pretoria - A resident and homeowner at an upmarket Johannesburg golf estate will no longer be able to call on the Community Scheme Ombud Service to resolve the disputes between her and the homeowners association.

The resident landed in hot water with the association for numerous reasons, including feeding feral cats on the estate.

The Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, ruled that the law relating to the powers of this ombud did not include the resolution of disputes which are personal in nature.

The woman, Dr Natasha Groenewald, among others, wanted the ombud to order the homeowners association of Eagle Canyon Golf Estate to apologise to her for the way they had treated her. Groenewald and her husband, Keith Groenewald, are property owners within the estate.

According to the homeowners association, she violated the rules and regulations of the estate on various occasions. The association says she was running a business from her home between April 27, 2020, to May 5, 2022, which was contrary to the rules of the association.

She was also accused of feeding feral cats on March 31, 2020, while she cycled in the common areas, which is also against the rules.

Another complaint lodged against her was that her dogs were roaming the common areas on January 21, 2021, which was strictly forbidden.

The association was also unhappy as Dr Groenewald allegedly exceeded the speed limit within the estate on July 31, 2021, at 10.34am. She exceeded the speed limit by 8 kilometres, as she drove 48km in the 40km zone, it was said. She was slapped with a fine for this violation. Dr Groenewald also received warnings and penalties relating to the other alleged transgressions.

Her husband wrote a number of emails to the association, which in response advised Dr Groenewald that it would no longer reply to the letters due to the insulting comments contained in the emails from her husband.

Dr Groenwald then lodged an application to the Community Scheme Ombud Service for dispute resolution. She, among others, wanted a personal apology for the “incompetence” of the staff of the association.

The homeowners association, however, turned to court and said that the ombud was not empowered in law to accept Groenewald’s complaint. It was argued that the ombud has no discretion to exercise if the application for dispute resolution does not meet the requirements of the Act, and the ombud, for these technical reasons, should have rejected Groenewald’s application.

Judge Marcus Senyatsi agreed with this argument and said the relief sought by Groenwald was of a personal nature and not related to any of the issues covered under the ambit of the law relating to the work of the ombud. The judge said it felt outside the scope of the ombud to order the association to apologise to Groenewald.

“The dispute resolution application was not related to, for instance, a complaint that the penalties imposed for violations of speed limit and fines about the pets were incorrectly imposed,” the judge said.

He added that the apology she requires as part of the application for dispute resolution is of little concern to the common interest of the members of the association. Thus, he said the ombud should have not agreed to adjudicate over the complaints.

According to the court, Groenewald can follow other avenues if she wants to persist in her complaints.

Pretoria News