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Learn the ways sectional title works

Living in complexes where body corporate regulations apply may not be as cut and dried as it first appears.

Trafalgar regional manager KwaZulu-Natal David Schaefer says one issue is when an owner installs a new deck to their property, only to find themselves facing complaints from the rest of the complex and legal threats from the trustees: “The problem arises from a misconception that permission from the chairman or a single trustee is sufficient to authorise an addition or alteration. This is not the case and unless owners follow the correct procedure, they may be forced to remove the structure and make good —at their own expense,” he says.

Building a deck extends an owner’s section of the complex. Schaefer says if this is the case, the project requires owners’ permission via a special resolution, municipal planning approval, amended sectional title plans and a conveyancer’s certificate of consent. “The general rule concerning interference with common property, including alterations and additions, is that owners cannot deal with that space as an individual. The common property is owned by all the body corporate members in undivided equal shares,” Schaefer says.

sectional title works

The cost of having plans passed and the sectional plans amended and registered with the new PQs are borne by the individual. Propell executive director Johann le Roux says that anyone considering buying into a sectional title unit should investigate the scheme beforehand. The first step is to secure a copy of the sectional title plans so that you can read and understand the unit’s description, the extent, the section number and the PQ Establish the exact levy due and any exclusive-use area (ensure the exclusive-use area has been properly registered to the unit). Be wary if the levy seems low relative to other schemes, because this may signal inaccurate budgeting.

Check the budget to ensure the trustees have set the amounts correctly and the scheme’s operating expenses are covered monthly. If the unit has had changes, such as a balcony enclosure or extension, check that the sectional plan has been amended and that the right procedures were followed. “If the alteration is not on the plan, it is illegal,” Le Roux says. Inspect the common property features and structures like the lift, security gates, perimeter fencing and access gates. Buying into a sectional title scheme makes you a body corporate member and thus jointly responsible for their upkeep and maintenance.

Establish if the developer has any reserved rights to extend the development. If this is likely to affect you, demand to see what the plans may be for that extension. Ask for a copy of the financial statements, levy roll, budget and recent annual general meeting minutes. Le Roux says the bank asks for the financial documents before approving a bond, so checking these beforehand prevents wasting time applying for capital unlikely to be awarded due to mismanagement. Building a deck extension like this one without first securing the correct permission from the body corporate may land the owners in financial hot water.

Published in the Sunday Tribune Property Guide, 7 July 2013, pg.3

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