Maintenance in sectional title schemes: who is responsible and who pays?

When it comes to maintenance in a sectional title scheme, it differs quite drastically from that of a full title property.

In the case of the latter, the property owner would naturally be responsible for all maintenance and upkeep because he/she/it is the sole owner of the property – but according to Mark French, operations director for the Coastal Property Group, it is a little more complicated in the case of sectional title schemes.

Maintenance in sectional title schemes is regulated by the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (“the STSMA”) which provides that the body corporate must maintain the common property while unit owners must each maintain their section. Exclusive use areas are the responsibility of both the body corporate and owner, said French.

To establish maintenance responsibilities, the common property and sections in a scheme should be accurately identified and the registered sectional plan for the scheme should clearly show the boundaries of the common property and the sections.

French sets out some of the boundaries:

Common Property

Section 3(1)(l) of the STSMA regulates that the body corporate must properly maintain all the common property and keep it in a state of good and serviceable repair.

The common property includes the land and parts of the building/s which are not included in a section. Additional equipment and fixtures, gardens and walkways, play areas for children, a swimming pool, and gym equipment, shared parking facilities and drive ways all form part of the common property. It also includes the exterior boundary wall and fences, electric fencing and security system.

Most of the utility infrastructure and services are also considered common property and includes the water, electricity and gas supplies including pipes, wires, cables and ducts as well as the sewer system, drainage, garbage and waste disposal and separate meters for electricity, water and gas. Shared telephone, computer data and television services would also be common property.

Property owners are however, responsible for the maintenance of pipes, wires, cables and ducts which only supplies a utility service to that section and which is located in that section.

The basic maintenance and administration of the scheme is usually covered by the levies paid by property owners. Section 3(1)(b) of the STSMA obligates the body corporate to establish and maintain a reserve fund for unforeseen maintenance and repairs of the common property and empowers it to collect these contributions from owners, whenever necessary.

Sections and Exclusive Use

In terms of Section 13(1)(c), an owner must repair and maintain his/her section in a state of good repair and, in respect of an exclusive use area, keep it in a clean and neat condition.

The boundaries of each section is usually defined by a sectional plan and the maintenance obligations of the owner would firstly extend to the interior of the unit while a drive way and garden would be part of the ‘exclusive use’ area allocated to the particular unit.

Shared walls between the sections, the foundations as well as windows and doors in the exterior walls of sections are part of the section and part of the common property and hence the shared responsibility of the owner and the body corporate to share the maintenance and repair costs equally.

Prescribed Management Rule (“PMR”) 31(2) of the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (“the STSM Act”) deals with the recourse available to the body corporate where an owner fails to maintain their section. It states that if, despite a written demand, the owner fails to carry out the work, then, subject to certain provisions, the body corporate can carry out the work and recover the reasonable cost of doing so from the owner.

This however, only relates to the particular section and not the exclusive use area.


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Maintenance in sectional title schemes: who is responsible and who pays?