Whether you are an investor, a newly married couple, a single professional or a retired divorce’ sectional title home owning is becoming increasingly popular in South African society. Not only does it satisfy the greatest need in our beloved country for a sense of safety, this type of communal living has all the benefits of an old age type of community, yet you still maintain a great sense of privacy and independence.
Due to the fact that this type of ownership is a new concept to South African property law, it is very important that home-owners in such schemes or prospective owners are familiar with the law regarding Sectional Titles.
DEVELOPMENT IN OWNERSHIP OF LAND
The most interesting development in this area of law is that previously South African Property Law only recognised ownership of land- meaning the actual soil and earth. Whereas, with the introduction of Sectional Titles it gave rise to ownership of vertical land, essentially this means for those of you on the first floor, you still own your section of the property, regardless of the fact that it is not actual land.
WHO IS THE BODY CORPORATE?
It is very important to familiarise yourself with the regulations and rules of the Body Corporate of the Sectional Title Scheme in which you are buying into. That leads on to the valid question as to, who is the Body Corporate?
The Body Corporate is made up of each and every owner of the various sectional titles held in the dwelling. This body is responsible for the decisions made relating to the running of the Sectional Title Scheme, which is more commonly referred to as the Estate or Complex.
CONDUCT RULES AND REGULATIONS
The rules and regulations would advise you on things that affect your day to day living within the Estate/Complex. Some of which are listed below;
Once you are satisfied that you can live with the day to day regulations of the Body Corporate, which to many may be considered trivial – but let’s be honest, these are the aspects that would affect us the most. Now you are half way through the decision as to whether or not this development is suitable for you; your next step is to ask to view the financial statements. It is within your rights to have a look at these to asses the liquidity of the Scheme into which you are buying.
For those who are buying into a Sectional Title Scheme that has larger properties, and aren’t apartment style, but rather as good as a free-standing house, an important question that arises is if extensions can be done on the property.
The answer in essence is yes. However, as with most things there is a procedure to be followed and approval must be obtained for the extension.
Step 1: Apply for approval from the Body Corporate.
Step 2: Obtain a draft sectional plan of the extension.
Step 3: Submit to the Surveyor General.
Step 4: An architect/land surveyor must confirm that it is only a 10% extension.
As with any corporation of people, an Annual General Meeting must be held inviting all the members to participate. In these meetings, the annual budget is approved, the budget should already be provided to the members towards the end of the previous financial year.
All Estates/Complexes have levies which are used for the maintenance and improvement of the common areas.
FAILURE TO PAY LEVIES
If you are a sectional title owner and find that you are struggling to pay the levies, it is important to contact the Trustees and inform them that you need a payment arrangement to be set up. Alternatively, you should consider whether you can remain living there, as there are consequences for failure to pay levies.The Board of Trustees (made up mostly of the home-owners) can instruct Attorneys to start the process of suing you for your non-payment of levies.Further, if you are behind on levies it means you will not be allowed to vote at general meetings, provided it is not a special vote.If you are a tenant and you do not pay the levies, you cannot be evicted. The owner is responsible to the Body Corporate for payment of the levies.
Whilst many of us are of the opinion communal living is the most affordable, practical and safest way in South Africa, it is important to know your rights and what it means to be living in these establishments. The law regarding communal living is constantly developing, as this concept is relatively new in South Africa.