Sectional Title Property - Who Pays for What?

Sectional title property has become increasingly popular in South Africa in recent times and it’s easy to understand why; sectional title properties tend to have good security, they’re cheaper to buy and maintenance is shared by owners and the scheme’s body corporate. For many investing in such a property seems like a no-brainer. As with any property purchase it’s important to understand what you’re buying and how the costs will be allocated.
Is it common property or not?
The property in sectional title developments tend to fall within one of three different classifications; common property, sections and exclusive use areas. According to the Sectional Titles Act the body corporate is responsible for the maintenance of all common property, examples of which can include stairways, street lights, common gardens and parking bays.
A section on the other hand refers to the actual apartment or townhouse bought and paid for by a home owner – according to Greyvensteins Attorneys this area “extends from the centre line (median line) of the walls, floors and ceilings”.
Thirdly there are exclusive use areas (EUA’s) which are technically common property and are to be maintained by the body corporate, although the owners are financially responsible. An example of this would be a private garden which only the home owners may use but which ultimately forms part of the scheme’s common property. 
An exception to this classification is all pipes, wires, ducts and cables that serve multiple sections or the common property. “While these classifications seem to demarcate everything nicely the problem comes in when one starts dealing with water damage caused by a problem in another unit and similar issues”, says Bruce Swain, MD of Leapfrog Property Group, “determining who is then responsible for payment can become quite confusing and increasingly frustrating”.
And then it gets technical
Sectional title specialists, Paddocks, often handle queries from members such as this one where a sectional title unit developed a leak in the roof space above the kitchen (which fell within the external meridian lines). The answer might seem simple in that owners are responsible for the maintenance of their unit’s geyser (whether it’s located on common property or not), however as Paddock’s notes it depends on which pipe is leaking – if it’s in the cold water feed pipe before it enters the geyser it becomes the body corporate’s responsibility.
Another member explains that two apartments have serious damp problems on a common interior wall. As the source of the problem is unknown Paddocks recommends that the owners are responsible for locating the source and that the body corporate need only get involved if it can be proven that the root of the problem lies within common property.
Read the fine print before buying
Swain advises buyers looking at purchasing a sectional title property to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations of the specific body corporate as well as making very sure exactly what is included in their section and EUA (where applicable). “I would also strongly encourage buyers to take note of the levies and levy structures when looking to buy in a sectional title scheme so that there will be no unpleasant surprises later”, he says, “even so complex situations like those cited in this article can arise and I’d recommend getting the help of a company like Paddocks or a property attorney to help clarify matters”.

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