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Monday Nov 19, 2012

'Pay levies before legal action is taken'

Property owners who fall into arrears with their sectional title levies should try to remedy the situation before legal action is initiated, according to Johann le Roux, the executive director of Propell.

The company is involved in 16 000 sectional title units around the country, and of these about 2 000 are being subjected to legal action as they have fallen behind on their levies and have ignored reminders to pay the outstanding amounts.

Johann says that although the number of units in arrears may appear high, the company is often appointed only after the schemes are in financial difficulties and Propell is asked to fix the problems they face.

It is futile for property owners in a sectional title scheme to attempt to fight the legal processes, he says.

"Unless there are exceptional circumstances, legal action will be effective. A debt is a debt and cannot just be ignored. If debtors bury their heads in the sand and hope the problem will go away, all that will happen is the legal fees will increase and the interest on the debt will rise.

"I n some cases original debts of R10 000 have risen to more than R50 000 because of the additional legal fees and interest charges."

Where a member has a legitimate complaint about the body corporate - arising from a leak in the building that is affecting the unit, for instance - the court might uphold nonpayment of levies until the matter is rectified. But once it is, the levies have to be paid.

"The best thing owners can do when levies are in arrears is to make arrangements to pay the outstanding amount as soon as possible to reduce the fees and interest, and to keep paying the levies that are due.

"When the chips are down, the body corporate - or the property management company - may attach the unit itself. This can take up to two years but it is rare for the management company not to be successful," says Le Roux.

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