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General news - there are 26 news items to read

Since February this year the web portal has been registering new people who are involved with the building - mostly short-stay visitors. We wish to remind all owners and agents that EVERY person who has access to the building, whether as a short-stay visitor, agent representative, contractor or family member, MUST be registered with the office. This is most conveniently done via the web site, and in the first six months there has only been one error arising from erroneous data entry.  

This is a requirement of our conduct rules and a requirement of the South African Sectional Title Management Act.  Thanks go out to Jose (the concierge) and the staff in the office. We will continue to work with the web site to improve the building management processes, and to improve the quality of life and work in the building. If you have any comments or suggestions, please share them with us.

You can submit a request to be involved with the community (and to become a registered web site user) by submitting your basic personal details here.

Thank you.

In conjunction with the other building managements in the area, we are gathering evidence about the level of safety and security outside our building, and in the immediate vicinity. Please make sure that ANY and ALL incidents are reported to Jose (the concierge), or to security if out of hours, so that we can liaise with CCID and work to reduce these problems.  There are processes in place to deal with incidents, but if you do not tell us, we cannot tell the CCID, and they will apply their energies elsewhere.

Thank you.

The Special AGM is done.  After one or two changes of date, the Special Annual General Meeting finally took place on 18th July.  This newsletter is to report on the discussions and point to initiatives that your Trustees will be taking in the next year. (please refer to the minutes for the official record of the meeting).

As well as the formal business of the meeting, there were several areas of discussion that you need to know about.

Communications

Whilst there are no serious concerns about communications, there were one or two opinions indicating that people do not get the news and notices that they need. Partly this is because of a shift to the web site.  Did you know that at this moment there are 26 Notices and 23 News items?  These were posted over the last 18 months, and so the rate of communication is about three per month.

Yes, these Notices and News items are 'only' on the web site, but we do expect that important news comes to us directly these days, don't we?  We need to get the important messages to a place where you can see them more easily.  You will have had a few emails coming through from the web site as we developed the capability to send notices and news directly - this capability seems to have stabilised and so the target for the future is:

In fact, the option to not receive is already in place.  Once you have registered as a Mutual Heights web site user you can ensure that all your personal information is up to date, and set this one option:  


Let's see how this goes.  The last newsletter sent the 'old' way (as a PDF file, from the office) was Number 42;  this one, Number 43, is the first that will be sent as an email directly from the web site, and it is already lodged there with the existing news items already loaded.  

Survey

Taking all 2302 'opinions' together (across 28 matters of concern), it is found that 65% of respondents are generally satisfied with their involvement in Mutual Heights and just 10% have concerns; 25% are 'neutral'.  Hence, excluding the 'neutral' responses we find that the overall result is 87% positive.

A simple analysis based on all questions in the survey gives the following:

Survey results

The survey was based on an 'Agree-Disagree' scale that was applied to 28 'statements' that were all positive in nature - for example: 'Mutual Heights is well managed' - hence the green 'Strongly agree' and 'Agree' portions of the results are 'good news', and the red 'Strongly disagree' and 'Disagree' portions are 'bad news'. The grey 'neutral' portion can be passed over in the first analysis, but becomes significant if the survey is repeated; respondents were also allowed to indicate that a statmement did not apply to their circumstances, avoiding any distortion of the results on an 'I don't know' basis.

Thanks go out to the 80 individuals that responded to the survey. A full report on the results of the survey can be found here, and it includes all the substantive written comments that were provided;  these are important because they give a more focused impression of what you are thinking, and the happy result that comes from the statistical analysis is tempered by several of the written comments that have been made.  Go read it, it is interesting.

Those respondents who asked to be contacted to follow up on their ideas or concerns have already been invited to get in touch.  Anyone reading this newsletter who wants to offer further opinions is welcome to contact us.

Lifts

The lifts are one aspect of the building that came out more badly that most others in the satisfaction ratings.  Trustees have already initiated a project (with Colin Larkan's help) to establish the costs and make a proper plan for the replacement or refurbishment of the lifts.  We already know that the cost of either approach will be in the region of R1m each, and so this is not a small project.  We also need to be careful with the money:  even though we have funds available following the settlement with Old Mutual, what remains in the account is really intended for problems with the windows.  We can not go ahead with the Lifts Project with impunity, refurbishing just some of our windows would cost a great deal more than all of the lifts put together.  Also, there are new regulations about the maintenance reserves that sectional title schemes must have.

You will be hearing more about the Lifts Project as time goes by.  

Concierge

The discussion at the SAGM also focused for a while on the Concierge services.  The survey reveals that for those undertaking short term letting the Concierge is a real bonus;  other people who simply live in the building are not so convinced.  There was also concern that there seemed to be no job description - there is (of course!) and it was posted to the web site on 18th January this year. Jose has a job description that includes:

Deal with first contact

Provide information

Oversee security

Facilitate other services

Please take a moment to call in at the main entrance and say hello, and tell Jose how you think he could help YOU.  You may be assured that he is collecting important data to assist the management of the building:  using the web site, he is not just welcoming new visitors, he captures their names, contact information and identity numbers so that we know (finally!) who is actually staying in the building.  Hence, it is more important than ever that incidents or disturbances are noted and reported.  With a report, a date, a time and an apartment number, we will be able to contact people directly and seek redress.  

Please do assist Jose and the security staff in this matter, in the longer term it will make for a much smoother life for all.

Future strategy for the building

Thinking of a future "smoother" life, the SAGM also devoted time to a preliminary discussion about the strategy for the building.  Do we need a strategy?  Well yes, we do.  Consider this comment (from the survey) that gets the conversation started:

I love the Mutual Building and I used to love walking into it, I now go there very seldom because I find it a little frustrating and depressing. I have in my mind a vision of what it should and could be but then I look around and think that it is nowhere close to achieving its potential - not because of the body corporate or any one supplier but just because there seems to be a lack of vision of where should be and what it needs to do to get there.

and this one

When I think of Mutual Heights and its iconic status in Cape Town I feel that it should be the one building that everybody is fighting to get into but they aren't. If you look at Cartwright's Corner there is no comparison, [Mutual Heights] is so much more beautiful, has so much history etc. The major difference is that when you walk into Cartwright's it feels lived in and when you walk into Mutual it feels abandoned.

The meeting approved a project to look at a range of opportunities, possibly with expert help to get us started.  That is a conversation that you might want to be involved in ...

Gymnasium

The survey reveals (and the SAGM agreed that) the Gymnasium needs some tender loving care.  One way to deal with this would be to have ONE or TWO volunteers step forward to take over the management and maintenance of the gym.  Any volunteers?

Parking problems

Parking problems sometimes get in the way of easy living.  Residents with LARGE cars are warned: if you park with ANY part of your car protruding over the white lines, there will be consequences!  If you have a large car, there is a remote possibility that there is someone with a larger space and a smaller car who will swap.  Take a walk around the basement, choose your spot, make a move.

Penalties

An important item at the meeting was a draft resolution to introduce penalties under a scheme managed by the Trustees.  It was tabled as a change to the Management Rules, but there was no unanimity;  this resolution will be re-tabled as a Conduct Rule because that can be accepted by a majority vote.

With warm regards,
on behalf of the Trustees,
Andy Bytheway
Chairman

Beneficiary

The Pink Drive is the main beneficiary of this charitable running event which takes place within the city centre. There is a 5km and 10km run/walk both of which start and finish at The Grand Parade – please refer to route maps attached. The 10km race will commence at 08h00, and the 5km race shall commence at 08h20 and all festivities completed by 13h00 for the latest.

Routes

5 Km:

10 Km:

There will be light entertainment at the race village, Grand Parade between 06h00 – 12h00 as well as along the route between 08h00 - 11h00.

Taking all 2302 'opinions' across 28 matters of concern together, it is found that we are doing well. A simple analysis based on all questions in the survey gives the following:

The survey was based on an 'Agree-Disagree' scale that was applied to 28 'statements' that were all positive in nature - for example: 'Mutual Heights is well managed' - hence the green 'Strongly agree' and 'Agree' portions of the results are 'good news', and the red 'Strongly disagree' and 'Disagree' portions are 'bad news'. The grey 'neutral' portion can be passed over in the first analysis, but becomes significant if the survey is repeated; respondents were also allowed to indicate that a statmement did not apply to their circumstances, avoiding any distortion of the results on an 'I don't know' basis.

Thanks go out to the 80 individuals that responded to the survey. A full report on the results of the survey can be found here.

Impro Plumbers report that the installation of water tanks with a capacity of 7,000 litres is nearly complete.  These tanks are replenished from the ground water that has previously been pumped into the drains. This water can be used for flushing toilets and for laundry without further treatment.  We are informed that if it is boiled, it is okay to drink.

The supply pipe runs through to a tap in the Main Bin Room, situated around the corner from the goods lift on the ground floor - it is also accessible from the the ground floor garage. Signage will be put up, showing where the Main Bin Room is and where the water tap is within it. Further details are available from Colin Larkan, the building manager, who has managed this project for us. 

This will provide a source of water for flushing toilets and other non-potable uses of water. Further information will be provided in due course.

Meet Jose, the new concierge at Mutual Heights


Jose Varta - our new Concierge

Jose has a job description that includes:


Deal with first contact

Provide information

Oversee security

Facilitate other services


Please take a moment to call in at the main entrance and say hello!
Those with the greatest usage and increases will be contacted and their daily usage WILL be monitored.
This is quite a dramatic increase, all things considered. Owners are STRONGLY requested to make sure that any short-stay visitors fully understand the need to use the least possible volume of water. The latest analysis can be seen here
Next year we will be focusing more on using the web site to register and manage short-stay visitors. The appointment of a concierge has been agreed and he will be taking up the role in December - he will have special responsibility for monitoring and assisting with occasional visitors. Your trustees hope that this will enhance the experience of all those who visit and stay in the building.
The charts are here - have a look and see where you fit into the overall pattern of usage
Of course, additional work comes up regularly so this has actually been a struggle against a continuing tide of work to be done.
Do remember that if you are a registered user (that is, you are an owner or an agent to whom access rights have been ceded) you can REQUEST maintenance using the web site.
You will also find lists of outstanding and resolved maintenance items using the menus above.

A few initial problems with the new web site have been addressed, and owners are beginning to add details of the people that they wish to have access to their apartments. Don't forget that it is a requirement of our Conduct Rules and of the South African Sectional Title Management Act that anyone having occupation of a section must be registered.  It may also be convenient to include those in your family, and others who you wish to have access to the building.

When the concierge is appointed and fully functional, the benefits of investing a little time in registering your visitors will become more significant. The concierge will have access to the list and will be able to welcome new arrivals, and avoid the chore of signing them in.

We will be writing to owners of the apartments with the greatest changes (which MIGHT be for very good reasons of course).

Here are the charts for the trend, according to the volume of usage and the proportion used by the 'Top Ten':

[Data for these charts is kindly provided by AMI]

The trend

Top ten

There was an initial problem with sections that had no people associated with them. In that case there was no data, and the listing ('Manage your people') did not provide the facility to 'Add' more people.  We have been right through the data and virtually all sections will now list at least one entry. The listing should look something like this:

Please tell us of any further problems and suggestions.   Thank you.

Click here to download and read the newsletter
The charts are here - have a look and see where you fit into the overall pattern of usage

Access control and short-stay visitor registration. The new web site offers new facilities. A concierge service next year? Residents moving over to optical fibre but fibre is upsetting our DSTV. Smart water meters promise real-time water usage data. Insurance costs have risen. Short-term letting is classified as a business. We are going to manage contractors much more carefully.

As owners and residents will be aware, we now have wireless internet-connected water meters in the Mutual Building. As well as assisting the management team to organise billing based on actual use, there is now the possibility to access water usage data in ‘near real time’.

Short-stay visitors and others who are only in the building for a short time will be able to be billed for actual usage, or cautioned about excessive usage, even if they are only in residence for a few days.  Alarm thresholds will be able to be set, and problems will be able to be addressed promptly. The smartphone app will link to the web, and the wall-mounted display communicates with your meter ‘locally’, by wireless (it will need power). Applied Metering (the company operating the system) hopes to have these options available before the end of the year. In order to cover the ongoing costs of running this system there has to be a monthly ‘per-meter-point fee’ and based on the economies of scale associated with our building, they have agreed to offer a 33% discount on the standard monthly cost.
Pamphlets with information about the fibre services are now being distributed around the building but you may be away and you may want to see a simple range of service offerings. The information provided to us in NOVEMBER 2016 can be seen here.

You are advised to approach the ISPprovider(s) of your choice DIRECTLY for up-to-date information, and for details of installation charges and any special get-you-started offers that they may have.
Watch out for details in your mail box, and on the web site.  And remember that if you want DSTV over the fibre backbone that will involve an additional box to unravel and feed the signal into your decoder.  More information here as soon as it is available, but there is some information on the Octotel web site
As soon as we have clear information about how to get connected, and when, we will let you know. Our apologies for the delay.
We considered a number of other options: the building already has network cabling to every apartment and it might have been possible to use the old cables to pull the new fibre through the conduits; alternatively, it might have been possible to bring the fibre to the boxes where the cables are connected, to use the final length of cable as the 'last few metres' of connection. That would have brought the fibre to your existing network connection point.

By bringing the fibre all the way to your sections things are simplified. There will be no disruption to residents using the existing network and where the routing goes from there is up to you.

As previously advised, the fibre installation from Octotel provides you with a choice of more than 12 internet service providers - names you will already recognise (Mweb, RSAWeb, WebAfrica, Afrihost and Vox Telecom (just to mention a few). There may be an additional once-off charge based on the arrangements with the ISP to install all the way through to your new router.

More details will follow soon.

And don't forget, there is a DSTV option coming, as well ... !
Last year we ran a survey to elicit opinion on what is needed in our web site, and whether we would not be better off if we just used Facebook. By my quick count, there were 20 in favour of a custom web site and only 7 in favour of using Facebook. Given the concern for additional information and the need to tighten up on the recording of who is actually living in the building, it was decided to develop a database-driven web site. What you are reading now is presented in this way. You are not reading a news item, you are reading a stream of data from a database. In parallel, just behind our own interest in gaining fibre access to the internet, the local industry has swung into motion and we are imminently beginning that installation. As reported in Newsletter 38, the essential 'short' story is: There is no cost to the Body Corporate or owners for the installation of the fibre infrastructure. There is a choice of more than 12 Internet Service Providers (MWeb, RSAWeb, WebAfrica and so on), on 12-month contracts (at no installation cost in some cases) or on monthly contracts (with a variable cost for the actual connection and for a new router). You will need to review the details and decide about your choices. There is no cost to the Body Corporate or owners for the installation of the fibre infrastructure; usage will incur charges to users in a similar way to ADSL services.

- There is a choice of more than 12 Internet Service Providers (MWeb, RSAWeb, WebAfrica and so on), on 12-month contracts (at no installation cost in some cases) or on monthly contracts (with a variable cost for the actual connection and for a new router). You will need to review the details and decide about your choices.
- If you just want Internet access, then the service will be delivered to your existing network access point in your apartment (not over your telephone line, as might be the case if you have a Telkom ADSL service).
- If you want the additional DSTV service (the one that needs FOUR co-axial cables!) then the fibre will be brought directly to your section, and a DSTV connection box as well as a router will be provided. This will also be at a reasonable cost.

This fibre installation promises data access at costs comparable to ADSL, but five to ten times faster and more reliable, without 'shaping' or 'throttling'. This is what was asked for in our survey earlier in the year. If you just want Internet access, then the service will be delivered to your existing network access point in your apartment (not over your telephone line, as might be the case if you have a Telkom ADSL service).

If you want the additional DSTV service (the one that needs FOUR co-axial cables!) then the fibre will be brought directly to your section, and a DSTV connection box as well as a router will be provided. This will also be at a reasonable cost.
Here is an update: I wrote to our HWC contact, explaining that that it is now at least three months since we were advised that approval for remedial works on the Mutual Building would take just two or three weeks. I explained that we are now deeply concerned about the delays. What we are seeking permission to do is the re-sealing of the joints between the granite blocks on the exterior and the re-sealing of the window-granite junctions. In this process we have consulted widely with qualified experts in all disciplines, to ensure that what we intend to do is the best possible solution to the problem, given all the constraints. (This was all done in parallel with the extended legal that ? happily ? got us to the High Court in November 2015 and led to a settlement with Old Mutual). We had fully expected to have completed much if not most of the work by now. Because of the delay in gaining heritage approval, the schedule of work is now compromised and will certainly lead to additional (and otherwise avoidable) damage to the building when winter returns. There is no way that the work can be completed by April-May.

Last updated:
27 August 2018
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