Sect. title maintenance obligations

15 Feb 2013

Questions surrounding maintenance within a sectional title scheme are common and often disputes result in arbitration, especially when the repairs are costly.  

Questions surrounding maintenance within a sectional title scheme are common and often disputes result in arbitration, especially when the repairs are costly.

The Sectional Titles Act 95 of 1986 defines the responsibility and guides the trustees and  owners in resolving this matter. In terms of the Act, the responsibility of maintenance of a sectional title scheme lies solely with the body corporate to repair all machinery, fixtures and fittings used in connection with the common property and sections, and further, subject to the rights of the local authority concerned, to maintain and repair pipes, wires and ducts on the body corporate land which is used in favour of the section and the common property.

The trustees, as appointed by owners at an Annual General Meeting, have a fiduciary duty to attend to the affairs of the body corporate which obligates them to maintain common property and keep it in a good state of repair.

The trustees’ obligation to maintain includes remedial work, painting, waterproofing, repairs to lifts, plumbing and electrical requirements on the common property. They have to make provision for the maintenance requirements to common property by establishing an administrative fund to provide for the maintenance, upkeep and control of the common property.

Many owners buy into a sectional title sheme under the impression that the monthly levy they pay will cover any maintenance requirements; this is certainly not the case. The Sectional Title Act states that an owner is obliged to repair and maintain his section. This includes covering the cost of the said repairs, as the estimate of anticipated expenses shall include a reasonable provision for contingencies and the maintenance of the common property not of the sections, therefore the monthly levy does not include the cost of maintenance to sections.

A question asked by owners is who is responsible for maintaining windows and doors. Section 5 (a) states that provided that any window, door or other structure which divides a section from another section or from common property shall be considered to form part of such floor, wall or ceiling.  This therefore clarifies that the median line runs through a window or door. The maintenance cost is therefore shared between the body corporate and the individual section owner(s). 

In the opinion of various sectional title experts, if an owner has a portion of common property allocated for his or her exclusive use, i.e. a parking bay, garden or patio area and the trustees are raising a levy on this area, the maintenance of the said area lies with the body corporate.

Maintenance in a scheme is ongoing and future planning must be considered as prevention is indeed better than cure. - Karen Tulloch

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