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What are you responsible for in a sectional title property?

Sep 18 2016 06:54
Neesa Moodley

There is a difference between repairs and maintenance.

According to Sayed-Iqbal Mohamed, chairman of the Organisation for Civic Rights, it is generally accepted that maintenance is aimed at keeping the condition of a property as close as possible to the original, while repairs are meant to restore it to the way it was before an incident occurred which led to the need for repairs.

. COMMON-USE AREAS: Communal areas, such as the garden or the washing line, are the responsibility of the body corporate.

So is the maintenance of external features and fittings, such as window frames and roof tiles.

This means the body corporate is responsible for arranging either maintenance or repair work and payment for it.

Anton Kelly of sectional title and home owners’ association law specialists Paddocks notes that hot-water systems situated on the common property, however, are the responsibility of the owners of the sections that are supplied with hot water from those systems.

. EXCLUSIVE-USE AREAS: It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that exclusive-use areas, such as private gardens, remain neat and tidy.

“But the responsibility for the maintenance of exclusive-use areas is split: the body corporate is operationally responsible while the owner is financially responsible. This means that the body corporate could carry out maintenance and then ask the owner to pay the costs,” Kelly says.

He adds that it is not unusual for owners to carry out pre-emptive maintenance work so that the body corporate does not have to spend money on maintenance and then recover the money from them (the owners).

. GREY AREAS: Kelly says an example of a common problem that arises in sectional title properties is that of water leaks. However, assigning responsibility for the associated maintenance or repair costs is not cut and dried. For example, if the leak was the result of an event that you are insured for, such as a storm, then the costs would be covered by your insurance. “However, if the leak occurred over a long period of time, then it would have to be assessed on an individual basis,” Kelly says.

. INSURANCE: Typically, the body corporate will have homeowners’ insurance for the entire property and this would include cover for any damage to the buildings in the event of a fire or earthquake.

However, the tenants are responsible for arranging their own household contents insurance, since the household contents belong to them.

. MAINTENANCE OR IMPROVEMENT?: The questions then arise of whether a planned alteration should be considered a maintenance project or an improvement, and whether the body corporate requires the owner’s permission before proceeding in such a case.

For example, if a property has old wooden window frames, the body corporate may take a decision to replace them with aluminium ones.

According to Paddocks, this could be viewed as an aesthetic improvement but, if the wooden window frames are in disrepair, the body corporate could argue that the benefits of replacing them with aluminium ones would outweigh the initial cost outlay and reduce maintenance costs over the long term.

. BODY CORPORATE RULES: The Sectional Titles Act states that a scheme’s rules are binding on the body corporate, the owner of the property and the persons who are occupying the property, that is the tenants.

In turn, responsibility rests with the owner to ensure that the tenant complies with the rules.

In fact, the Rental Housing Act makes it compulsory for tenants to be supplied with a copy of the body corporate rules so that they are aware of what they are agreeing to when they sign their rental lease agreement.

Typical rules that tenants are expected to comply with could include:

. No loud noise after 10pm or between 2pm and 6pm on Sundays;

. No clothes to be dried on balconies;

. Children under the age of 12 are not to use the swimming pool unattended; and

. No vehicles may be driven at more than 10km per hour on the common property.

Because responsibility for adhering to the rules lies squarely with the owner of the property, if, for example, the tenant breaks any of the rules, the owner must ensure that there is no recurrence, and also bears the cost of any repairs that may be required.

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