Rental flats in bad state – my rights?

13 Apr 2012

A Property24 reader asks:

Who would be responsible for repainting the block, repairing and repainting the roof, cleaning the walls (they're filthy and full of mould), cleaning first floor windows, supplying hosepipes for common areas, etc.?

We live in a sectional title block of four flats owned by four different owners. There are tenants renting all four flats, none of the owners live on the premises. 

Who would be responsible for repainting the block, repairing and repainting the roof, cleaning the walls (they're filthy and full of mould), cleaning first floor windows, supplying hosepipes for common areas, etc.? 

We have requested these things to be done as tenants, but the response from our landlord is "We will look into it" or "We don't have plans for this at this time and it would need to be discussed with all the owners."  

How do we go about getting these things actioned? There seems to be no formal structure and no clear Body Corporate or Body Corporate meetings. 

We're confused about what we can and can't ask for, how the ‘Body Corporate' is set up and what information we as tenants are entitled to e.g. financial/annual audit for the sectional title scheme, etc.  

Please could you give us some pointers? 

Phil Calothi, owner and Managing Director of the Cape Town based managing agent company,   Land and Sea Development Services (Pty) Ltd  , advises:

The Body Corporate, represented by the board of Trustees, is obliged in terms of the Sectional Titles Act to maintain the common property on behalf of its members who are the owners of the units in the scheme.

If the Trustees are not carrying out their responsibilities, the owners of the units are the only people who are legally able to force them to do the essential maintenance.

The owners of the units are, in turn, answerable to their tenants in terms of their leases with their tenants, which usually include clauses relating to essential maintenance to the rented premises  and not necessarily the common property.

If your lease determines that your landlord must ensure that essential maintenance of your premises is effected and he is not doing so, he is in breach of the lease and you can take action against him by putting him on notice of your intention to cancel the lease if he does not perform.

This is where the matter becomes complicated. The legal definition of a unit in a sectional title scheme includes its share of the common property and the premises defined in your lease may not be the same as the unit. The key to placing the responsibility for the maintenance of the common property with your landlord is dependent on whether the premises described in your lease includes the common property associated with it.

You may need the advice of an attorney to determine where you stand and what course of action you should take.

Readers may   submit questions   to Property24’s Guest Expert panel and/or comment below. We may not be able to answer all questions received, but all will be considered. 

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