Benefits and obligations surrounding maintenance in a complex
Sectional title schemes are very common in South Africa. If you live in a townhouse or apartment it is likely you occupy a sectional title scheme. There are many benefits to this type of ownership, not least security. Many complexes have their own social ecosystem, which can be particularly attractive to single occupants. Along with the benefits, sectional title holders have responsibilities. One activity that is both a benefit and a responsibility is maintenance. Residents, particularly anyone who has owned a standalone property and understands the work involved in maintaining the exterior of a property, generally appreciate the upkeep of the grounds by a hired worker. However, title holders also have a direct responsibility for maintenance in a sectional title scheme.
If you live in a complex, understanding your role as a sectional title holder and the body corporate’s obligations is key to a peaceful living environment for all. What is the legal position surrounding maintenance and who is responsible for what?
Maintenance in sectional title schemes is regulated by the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (the STSMA). It states:
- The body corporate must maintain the common property.
- Unit owners must each maintain their section.
- Both the body corporate and the owner are responsible for the exclusive use areas.
The registered sectional plan for the scheme should accurately identify the common property and sections, clearly indicating the boundaries between the two.
What is common property?
Common property is property that does not form part of a section and includes the land in the scheme. This includes:
- The outside of the building
- Common gardens
- Parking bays
- Security system
- Communal passages and walkways
- Shared swimming pools
Most of the utility infrastructure and services of the scheme are also considered common property: water, electricity and gas supplies including pipes, wires, cables and ducts as well as the sewer system, drainage, waste disposal and meters for electricity, water and gas. Shared telephone, computer data and television services would also be common property.
What is a section?
A section starts from the middle of the shared walls, floors and ceilings, which can include balconies as well as pipes, wires, cables and ducts that supply a utility service to that section and are located in that section.
What is an exclusive use area?
An exclusive use area is a part of the common property which has been reserved for the exclusive right of use by an owner, such as:
The body corporate’s responsibility
Section 3(1) of the STSMA states that it is the body corporate’s responsibility to maintain all the common property and keep it in a state of good and serviceable repair. The maintenance of common property is covered by the levies paid by the owners.
Section 3(1)(b) and (c) of the STSMA requires the body corporate to establish and maintain an administrative fund for the estimated annual operating costs of repair, maintenance, management and administration of the common property, which includes provision for unforeseen future maintenance and repairs.
The owner’s responsibility
Section 13(1)(c) of STSMA requires owners to maintain their section in good repair. The owner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the area within the boundaries of their section. This includes:
- Internal repairs and maintenance
- Plumbing within the section
- Cleaning, etc.
The body corporate is responsible for the maintenance and repairs to exclusive use areas, while the owner of an exclusive use area must ensure the area is kept in a neat and clean condition.
The Sectional Titles Act allows the body corporate to recover all amounts spent on maintenance and repair of exclusive use areas from the owner.
There is also a shared responsibility between the body corporate and the owners for maintenance and costs related to areas that form part of the section as well as part of the common property, such as:
- Shared walls between the sections
- Doors in the exterior walls of sections
For more information
Maintenance in a sectional title scheme is a joint responsibility. By understanding your role, staying informed, and actively participating in the community, you contribute to the overall wellbeing of the property.
If you have any questions about your scheme or your responsibilities as a sectional title holder, give Simon a call on 086 099 5146, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. SD Law & Associates are experts in property management and sectional title law and will resolve your query promptly and efficiently.
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The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.