Sectional title developments are a sought-after buying option in South Africa for a number of reasons. Investors and first-time buyers are buying into sectional title schemes for their convenience, affordability, security and lifestyle benefits. For example, sectional title units are generally cheaper and easier to maintain because all general exterior operational expenses are covered by the levy and managed by the Body Corporate and the financial risk is believed to be lower because costs are shared amongst unit owners. Not to mention, finding and placing tenants is significantly faster and easier for sectional title properties. With this in mind it comes as no surprise that sectional title property continues to outsell full-title property in South Africa.
But before putting pen to paper a number of things need to be carefully considered; an important step is to scrutinise the Body Corporate rules and regulations.
What is the Body Corporate?
The Body Corporate is a legal entity made up of the registered unit owners that oversee the management and maintenance of communal areas within the scheme.
What are the Body Corporate Rules?
The Body Corporate draw up a set of rules that apply to the unit owners and tenants occupying the units within the scheme, outlining the management of the scheme and the expected conduct of the occupants in accordance with the 1986 Sectional Titles Act.
To avoid discrepancies aspirant buyers should carefully read through and fully understand the Body Corporate rules and regulations prior to signing the sales agreement. The rules are enforceable so long as they are registered with the Deeds Office and the trustees’ decisions are final and binding. Should an owner or occupier fail to comply it is within the trustees’ power to issue a written warning, monetary fine or further legal action as stipulated in the Body Corporate rules and in accordance with the Sectional Titles Act.
Common Points to Take Note of in the Body Corporate Rules:
- Conduct within the scheme is governed by the trustees. This includes vehicle speed and excessive noise or disturbances by tenants, visitors and owners made at any time (and excessive is usually at the discretion of the trustees) within the complex/estate. Not to mention the proper use and upkeep of communal facilities such as the swimming pool, clubhouse and gardens, as well as the use of designated parking bays. All of these and more are specified in the Body Corporate Rules and must be adhered to by both unit occupants and visitors.
- Pet ownership is a common cause for disagreement. Certain schemes only permit pets of a particular type and size; for example, the complex/estate may allow cats but not dogs, or may only allow small dogs (below knee-height). In most cases permission from the Body Corporate has to be requested and granted in writing, and should be done prior to occupation. If there are any uncertainties, clarify in writing with the trustees.
- Many sectional title schemes will not allow structural additions and alterations to the buildings, or require special notice and written permission to be granted by the trustees before work begins. Homeowners are also responsible for maintaining the interior of their unit in a manner that prevents damage to neighbouring units or the surrounding property. Even security gates and devices within an owner’s unit require written permission.
- Alternatively, it’s a good idea to clarify whether interior maintenance and repairs can be carried out by the owner’s choice of contractor, as some title schemes only permit the use of pre-appointed and approved contractors.
- The trustees can forbid anything they deem aesthetically displeasing to the outside appearance of the property to be placed in sight, and are within their rights to prohibit the hanging of laundry on common property such as balconies, patios and fencing.
The owner is responsible for ensuring that his tenant adheres to the rules and regulations imposed by the Body Corporate.
Sectional title developments are a popular choice amongst South African buyers and investors for their many advantages, but aspirant homeowners need to carefully read through and fully understand the Body Corporate rules and regulations prior to signing a binding agreement to avoid any unforeseen discrepancies.
To view the Sectional Titles Act in full click the PDF link below: