Please note that you are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer which is not compatible with some elements of the site. We strongly urge you to update to a newer version for optimal browsing experience.

Are owners liable for common property upkeep in sectional titles?

30 Sep 2019

Finding enough money for maintenance tasks is a constant struggle in most sectional title (ST) schemes, even if they do have a sizeable reserve fund, but no matter how stretched the budget is, the body corporate cannot transfer responsibility for common property maintenance to individual owners.

No matter how stretched the budget is, the body corporate cannot transfer responsibility for common property maintenance to individual owners.

This is according to Andrew Schaefer, MD of national property management company Trafalgar, who says when you buy into a ST scheme, you become the owner of your section of the building or complex, plus an undivided share of the common property, which can include driveways, passages, lifts, courtyards, and shared gardens, as well as the exteriors of all the buildings in the scheme.

However, Schaefer says as an individual owner you are only responsible for the upkeep of the interior of your own section, the common property must be maintained by the collective of all owners in the scheme, which is known as the body corporate - and which is financed by the monthly levies that all owners must pay.

He says this is clearly stipulated in sectional title legislation, so there can be no confusion about it.

The trustees elected by the other members of the body corporate are obliged to plan and budget for large and anticipated maintenance expenses, such as painting the building every eight to ten years, as well as the expected need to replace or service certain equipment such as a gate motor or swimming pool pump.

This type of expense is what the maintenance reserve fund is supposed to cover, and it is supposed to be spent in accordance with a professionally compiled 10-year maintenance plan that is updated and presented at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) every year.

In addition, though, the trustees must try to budget for everyday maintenance tasks such as cleaning and gardening and for running repairs to things like lifts, stairs, pathways, gates and fences, water pumps and outside lights - and given rising costs and the unexpected nature of many of these expenses, body corporate finances are often under strain.

But that does not mean that the trustees can turn maintenance of the common property over to the individual owners. One can only imagine what chaos would ensue if owners were to assume individual responsibility for painting the roof and walls over and around their own sections, for example, or for maintaining their own parts of a common garden, says Schaefer.

For one thing, the scheme would rapidly lose its uniformity of appearance, and it is likely that all units would lose value as a result. In addition, it would be extremely difficult for the trustees to deal with owners who did maintenance less often than others, or those who made a worse job of it than others.

And if they failed in attempts to persuade reluctant owners, for example, the body corporate might possibly have to refund other owners the costs of the work they had done, or have to pay anyway for the less well-maintained portions of the scheme to be brought up to scratch.

It is also likely that disputes between owners and the body corporate over the appearance of the different sections would be rife.

Consequently, Schaefer says sectional title owners and buyers need to accept that ST schemes are communities in which co-operation is a given and there is naturally a joint obligation to repair and maintain the common property, facilitated by the annually-elected trustees.

Having said that, though, owners also have a right to know how their levy contributions are being allocated, and should interrogate the annual budget to see whether sufficient provision has been made for day-to-day maintenance and contingency repairs. The breakdown of the expenses covered by levies must be given in the budget, also presented and approved at the AGM every year.

“An experienced managing agent with extensive budgeting know-how can be of great assistance to the trustees in this regard - and in ensuring efficient levy collection to avoid budget and cash flow shortfalls,” says Schaefer.

Print Print
Top Articles
With rentals so high in Cape Town’s prime coastal strip, buying property often makes more financial sense than renting, with good buy-to-let opportunities for investors...

While it seems we have weathered the worst of the storm, the market decline has slowed and now is the time for property buyers and investors to act. Get the lowdown...

A pioneering partnership between Emira Property Fund and Beetle Busters, who’ve registered a treatment for the infestation, brings hope to saving our urban forests.


Your browser is out of date!

It looks like you are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer.

If you are using Internet Explorer 8 or higher, please verify that your Internet Explorer compatibility view settings are not enabled.

For the best browsing experience, update to the latest Version of Internet Explorer or try out Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

Please contact our Property24 Support Team for further assistance. Tel. +27 (0)861 111 724