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Sect. title: Working from home rules

09 Mar 2011

While unemployment levels are at an unprecedented 24%, more and more people are opting to work from home and it is now estimated that at least one in every six people in South Africa is effectively self-employed and runs a business from his or her home office.

In terms of the Sectional Title Act, an owner is not allowed to use a townhouse or flat for anything except residential purposes. However, the legislation is reasonably flexible and if there are no objections from other owners of properties in the complex then it is possible to obtain permission to run a business from home.

Given the convenience of the Internet, telecommunications and widespread use of e-mail, many high-powered professionals are working from home rather than trekking into an office every morning.

However, Marina Constas, a specialist sectional title attorney at BBM Attorneys warns that while this is an attractive option for many people, the reality is that people running home businesses must comply with the law, particularly in the case of a sectional title townhouse or flat.

In terms of the Sectional Title Act, an owner is not allowed to use a townhouse or flat for anything except residential purposes. However, the legislation is reasonably flexible and if there are no objections from other owners of properties in the complex then it is possible to obtain permission to run a business from home without transgressing the Sectional Title Act.

Constas says that anyone running a business from a townhouse or flat should establish if they are legally entitled to do so. Often the type of business will influence the decision by other flat or townhouses owners to grant or withhold permission.

Many businesses – including hairdressers, beauty salons, computer consultancies and even home industry firms – operate from within a townhouse complex and do so without incurring the wrath of other sectional title owners.

“For instance, if a person decides to run an estate agency business from a townhouse or flat, that person must secure the consent of every other owners before starting to operate,” says Constas.

She says that common sense will often determine whether permission to run a business from home will be granted by sectional title owners.

“If someone wants to run a vehicle repair service within a townhouse complex the owners are likely to object. If on the other hand you want to provide a writing service and supply editorial material to a range of different publications, there is almost no chance that anyone in the complex would mind,” she says.

She says that another consideration is whether other occupants within the townhouse complex or apartment block will be inconvenienced by having a business there.

“If a recruitment company is operating within a townhouse environment, the stream of candidates coming to the complex for interviews and tests might seriously inconvenience other residents, particularly when it comes to parking, security and other matters of common interest,” she says.

She says that to be safe anyone contemplating running a business from a townhouse complex or from a flat should consult the body corporate first. The representatives will then examine the merits of the application and reach an appropriate decision based on what’s best for other owners in the complex,” she says.

Readers' Comments Have a comment about this article? Email us now

So when is a business a hobby, and when is a hobby a business? Marina Constas does not specify. Many people in our block run home-based businesses or hobbies, but because they're all in-doors and there is never a queue of people outside, the Trustees have turned a blind eye to it. Only when we get complaints, do we do something about it, but those are so few and far between that it really does not matter. Nothing stops someone setting up a spaza shop on council property across the road, and they make far more nuisance than anyone living inside the building. "sigh, shaking heads" - Anonymous

About the Author
Paddy Hartdegen

Paddy Hartdegen

Freelance columnist at property24.com.

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