Washing machine war has complex in a frothy
Blind Joburg man claims his dignity is under attack in fight with body corporate over a laundry area
Melusi Ncala was the first person in his family to be able to afford a home for himself and his 12-year-old sister, who has been in his care since his mom died.
But Ncala, who is blind, never thought he would spend two years in a legal spat with the Roodepoort estate’s trustees over a washing machine in a common area.
Ncala has now also hurled accusations into the fray that he was unable to read any notices sent by the body corporate, because they were not in Braille.
“This matter is about human dignity, and the rights of the disabled to be accommodated,” his lawyer, Sally Rogers Buitendag, said.
Shortly after buying the unit in 2016, Ncala placed his washing machine in a common area outside his house to make it easier to get to the washing line. For him it was also a safety matter, because he would not be aware if there were leaks on the floor.Also, the agent who sold him the unit told him the area would belong to him, he claims.
But the body corporate of the Park Avenue complex has lawyered up, asking him to follow the rules and not to take ownership of the common space in the complex.
They asked him in September 2016 to remove the corrugated-iron sheeting roof, the plumbing, the machine, and the gate he installed in the area that he and his neighbour have access to.
He didn’t respond, so a month later the body corporate removed the gate and roof without him being present.
They should have had a court order, he claims.
His washing machine is still there and the trustees want it moved inside.Mediation at the Human Rights Commission failed last month. BBM, the lawyers acting for the complex, told the commission they felt Ncala was “abusing” his disability.
“Our client is thus astounded that Mr Ncala is using his alleged disability not only as an excuse to be able to breach the rules, but also to bring this matter to the attention of the South African Human Rights Commission when in fact it should be brought before the Community Schemes Ombudsman for adjudication, if necessary,” BBM told the commission.
“Our client is obliged to uphold the law and the rules of the scheme and enforce them unequivocally.
“Mr Ncala, without seeking nor being granted permission to do so by the trustees, installed a tap and a washing machine in the laundry area adjacent to his section.
“The aforementioned laundry area is not part of Mr Ncala’s section and cannot be used exclusively by him.”
In light of the above, the trustees said, they have removed the plastic sheeting covering the laundry area but are keeping it in storage for him.
The mediation at the SAHRC suggested a meeting where owners vote on allowing Ncala to leave his machine in the common area.
A meeting was subsequently held and members of the complex voted against him – but he feels he didn’t get a chance to share his concerns.In legal papers, his lawyers argue that none of the complex owners are “prejudiced” by a gate and a corrugated-iron sheeting roof outside his house.
Last week, the trustees approached the ombudsman to resolve the issue and asked in legal papers that they rule he remove the machine.
The trustees asked the ombudsman to order Ncala to pay legal expenses.
In turn, he argues he needs the washing machine outside due to his blindness and claims R20,000 in damages.
He says he was never provided with any of the complex rules in Braille or in an e-mail format, enabling his computer software to read them.Instead, the complex rules and letters of demand were given in writing and left at his unit.
Ncala is not backing down, saying: “It is my human right to have disability taken into account.”
Rogers Buitendag filed papers at the Equality Court this week. The papers say all the letters of demand were “dumped” at his door, knowing he couldn’t read them.
The papers state: “A rigid hard-line approach has been taken to his disability and personal circumstances and he had been made to feel like an unwanted person not fitting your supremacist mould of a suitable resident.”
Ncala told Times Select that he is a “reasonable person” and was also surprised the saga had dragged on for more than two years.Rogers Buitendag said he had been “maligned and harassed by both the body corporate and its managing agents, for over two years”.
She says other residents have been allowed to make renovations and set up gates on common property.
In his affidavit, Ncala reports how a member of the company managing the complex said if he needed special treatment because he is blind, he must stay in a “frail-care centre”.
Trustees of the complex met on Wednesday night to discuss the matter.
In response, their lawyers said they are unable to respond at this time.
“Unfortunately, as the matter has been referred for mediation /adjudication to CSOS, we are not at liberty to discuss same before CSOS has made an order.
“We trust you understand that we cannot prejudice either side by commenting (till the CSOS decision).”