Plumb crazy! Judge lashes body corporate for opening litigation taps

Coral Island in Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, scene of a high court stand-off between a sectional title owner and the body corporate over whether to use plastic or copper in your plumbing.
Coral Island in Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, scene of a high court stand-off between a sectional title owner and the body corporate over whether to use plastic or copper in your plumbing.
Image: Google Street View

Cape Town high court is the setting for murder trials, multimillion-rand damages claims ... and arguments about whether you should use plastic or copper in your plumbing.

Bloubergstrand resident Billy Hoge was staggered to be taken to court by her body corporate at Coral Island, which was upset that her white plastic piping was visible in the underground car park.

Judge Ashley Binns-Ward was also surprised, saying it was “undoubtedly inappropriate” that the case landed in front of him instead of with a conciliator employed by the Community Schemes Ombud Service.

Billy Hoge has agreed to replace white plastic plumbing pipes with copper.
Billy Hoge has agreed to replace white plastic plumbing pipes with copper.
Image: Facebook/Billy Hoge

Hoge was taken to court by her body corporate over minor alterations she made when installing a new geyser four years ago.

“I asked for permission to do this change and it was granted,” she told TimesLIVE. “It was a verbal agreement.”

The body corporate trustees disagreed, and asked the court to force her to replace the plastic with copper, to ensure her geyser overflow pipe was rerouted to an exterior drain and to use her garage only for car-parking.

“A full complement of affidavits was exchanged between the parties in the motion proceedings,” Binns-Ward said in his judgment on Thursday.

Two weeks before the court hearing, Hoge offered in writing to change the piping and restore the garage because it would cost less than litigating. But she refused to pay the body corporate’s legal costs, saying it should not have taken her to court.

“They were taking me to the high court for no reason, and what could I do about it?” Hoge said.

Binns-Ward said body corporate chairperson James Bartlett was right in saying there was no legal bar to taking such a matter to court, “but whether such decisions should be discouraged [is] quite a different question”.

He added: “I have concluded that the appropriate course is to make no order as to costs, which means that each party will bear its own expenses in the litigation.”

Coral Island body corporate told SowetanLive sister publication the TimesLIVE: “We regret to inform you that the trustees are still in consultation with their attorneys regarding the high court ruling, and at this stage have no comment.”

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