This month I will address the boundaries of sections and who pays for what.
One of the “trickiest” areas, giving rise to many questions in Sectional Title, is: “who is responsible for what?”
I am going to try to clear up this uncertainty. The uncertainty arises due to what are defined as “common property”, “the unit” and “exclusive use”. The communal fund (body corporate), obtained from the levies, pay for common property expenses, while owners pay for any expenses concerning the inside of their section. Exclusive use is common property, designated for the sole use of one (or more) unit/s and the responsibility of the upkeep can be a mixture, so I will discuss that more fully at another time.
Let us first draw the lines that determine the boundaries: The middle of the ceiling, walls, outside doors, windows, and the floor is the dividing line (called the median line). Everything outside of the median line of sections is common property and the body corporate must pay for repairs and maintenance. That includes the gardens, driveways, carports, security fixtures and services provisions (like electricity, water and plumbing), to sections, etc. The management and decisions are made by the trustees and payment is done from body corporate funds.
Let us address the pipes and cables of services: The body corporate’s responsibility is for communal services. The owner’s responsibility is for everything that pertains to his/her section. Where pipes or cables provide services to more than one section, it will be a body corporate responsibility. Where it serves or involves only one section, it will be the responsibility of the owner of that section. THIS IS Só IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND! An owner may have a leak in his unit or a blocked drain, and the pipes or cables may even be on the outside of the section, but the expenses will still be for his account if the pipes or cables only serves his section – except where the cause originates from common property or another section!
Insurance also has a bearing in some cases, but that is a subject for another time.
The cause or origin, of any damage or failure, is always very important, whether it is a broken window, damage to a ceiling due to damp from above, a blocked drain, a damaged entry gate, or whatever! That is why it is so important to establish the cause and involve the responsible party in the repairs and appointment of contractors, as they may well end up paying!
An example is where a pipe starts leaking inside a wall which serves only that section and the contractor must break the outside wall (common property) to repair the problem. (sometimes ownership can only be established after the contractor has opened up the problem!). Now both the owner and the trustees are involved and must liaise together with the contractor.
If it is established that the problem is for the account of the owner, he will also be responsible for the costs of the repairs to the outside walls (common property).
Which complicates matters, is the responsibilities of the different parties. The body corporate, represented by the trustees, has a DUTY to see to the timeous and proper upkeep of the scheme. Roofs must be repaired and waterproofed when needed. It is a huge responsibility, as the body corporate can be held responsible for inside damage, if the trustees could reasonably have known of a roof leak, but has failed to repair it. If a written complaint of an owner was received about a problem with damp coming from the outside, trustees must attend to it as a matter of urgency.
Owners have a duty of care towards the body corporate and other owners, and cannot do something inside their unit that can affect the stability of the building, or cause damage to the body corporate or another owner’s property.
If unsure, please contact Jotam to help with advice! We are at your service.
Have a blessed September, the month of new life and beauty!
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