End of year fun and games by Marina Constas

There are many odd things that one encounters when working on legal matters in townhouses or apartments. Take for example the inevitability of that ‘’ONE PERSON’’ syndrome. There’s always one, isn’t there? A ‘’fruitcake’’ who has a completely different thought process to the rest of the world. A renegade who generally experiences lack of power in the real world, and therefore wields it for all it’s worth within his domain - the 4 walls of your unfortunate complex.

Then there’s the “CONCERNED GROUP’’, the schoolmarmish types who ‘’JUST WANT TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT’’. They wreak havoc in their misguided attempts at doing just that.

My worst are the apathetic “HANGERS ON’’, that strange bunch who believe that civic minded involvement in the most substantial investment of their lives is in some way beneath them. They don’t attend meetings, they don’t know that there are rules, they have no idea who their neighbours are – they don’t really care actually – all in all they are relatively useless in the greater scheme of things.

These characters, amongst other charming types make for interesting experiences – but the humdrum routine of suburban life takes a somewhat unfortunate turn for the worse as the end of the year beckons. Our offices are inundated with requests from irate Trustees, demanding the endless addressing of letters for all types of transgressions. The most meek and mild mannered Chairman begins frothing at the mouth in a consultation while describing how individuals in his complex appear to have lost their minds temporarily.

The festive season has this effect – trust me, I have 13 Christmases under my belt dealing with the legal aspects of Sectional Title.

The Chairman’s wrath is justified you know. You would also be upset if an owner started washing himself with soap in the pool because he was renovating his bathroom. I’m also sure that you would become increasingly peeved if owners insisted on throwing beer cans out of windows onto passing cars, just for the hell of it. What about the owner who vengefully, purposefully and on a daily basis arranges cigarette butts in the shape of hearts outside his neighbour’s door. The guy who writes poisonous letters in a vitriolic attack on the Trustees of the complex might also rankle our Chairman – and rightly so.

Those letters become worse at this time of year. It’s something in the air, which provides an environment where apartment owners feel free to behave as they please. In fact I’ve often thought that there should be a Truth and Reconciliation Commission arranged as a matter of course, to be held in the early part of February.

It doesn’t end there; the DJ who hasn’t gotten around to sound proofing his townhouse is in his element at this time of year. Playing his discs loudly in the morning to check out his repertoire for a few parties that month, seems completely normal to him. When he receives one of our letters, he doesn’t have the foggiest idea why he’s in the wrong. Then there’s that poor old chap who has been dumped in a complex because his family don’t quite know what else to do with him (not loony enough for an institution, but not quite with it for society in general), who also appears to blossom in the last months of the year. He is more prone to stand on his balcony and shout the most awful messages across to his petrified neighbours. The loneliness which affects many people during this time of year pushes him to insist on making meaningful friendships during his more lucid moments – this entails pouncing on an unsuspecting chap walking his dog on common property, and inundating him with comprehensive information on his life, loves, triumphs, ambitions and failures.

Those who are the recipients of our increased volume of firmly worded letters react differently too. The standard response – which one should be able to expect from a chastised owner ie: “I have read your letter dated so and so and regret any inconvenience that my behaviour may have caused – kindly inform the powers that be that I shall immediately desist from my unseemly conduct’’ is no more. Attack appears to be the best form of defence when one is confronted by Trustees who are simply attempting to enforce the rules. That people are tense is an understatement. The global recession has caught up with us, and our owners are feeling it.

Wouldn’t it be marvellous, if Sectional Title dwellers could avoid acts of revenge, against the Trustees, inter alia, physical assault, vandalism of vehicles, and many other unthinkable acts, and embrace the true meaning of Christmas – then again, many people don’t celebrate Christmas – but let’s not get started on disputes about diversity of cultures – that can wait for another day. Don’t have the energy right now to write a thirty page article!

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