Sectional title compliance critical for duet owners

In recent years, duet homes have become particularly popular in Pretoria, Centurion and Bloemfontein, where buyers have come to appreciate the cost savings and additional security to be had by building two homes on one stand.

However, says Jan Davel, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, buyers do need to be aware that almost all duets are in fact sectional title (ST) units, even if they are free-standing homes each set in their “own” garden.

“This is important because it means that the buyer will in fact be taking transfer only of the interior of his or her duet home, together with an undivided share of the common property.

As is the case in other “genuine” ST schemes, duet owners can register exclusive use areas such as a walled-in garden or an extra parking bay, but the remainder of the grounds, access paths or roads, shared facilities such as a pool, tennis court, security gates, electric fencing and the roofs and exteriors of the residential units form the common property for which owners in the scheme are, strictly speaking, jointly responsible.”

He explains that, in terms of the provisions of the Sectional Title Act, duets are mini-complexes that are supposed to be run by a body corporate consisting of all the owners in the ST scheme (even if there are only two of them). “In practice however, the provisions of the Act are almost never met and many duet owners don’t know what their actual rights and obligations are.

“In terms of the Sectional Title Act, duet owners cannot just do as they please as regards building insurance, exterior maintenance, and alterations to their homes or even the installation of outdoor security equipment. Unfortunately, this also means that they can also find themselves negatively affected by the uncontrolled actions of their neighbouring owners.”

For example, Davel says, if one owner in a duet scheme makes alterations to his home without permission of the body corporate (the other owner) and without making the necessary changes to the ST plan for the scheme, such alterations will in fact be illegal in terms of the Sectional Title Act. Many will argue that this is only “theory”, but the practical implications of such alterations need to be considered.  

“It is quite likely that if the other owner decides to sell, he will not be able to give transfer of his property, since he will not be able to provide his buyer’s bank with an amended copy of the ST plan. Even if the owner who did the alterations then agrees to get the plan changed, this could take much longer than the prospective buyer is prepared to wait.”

Similarly, he says, both owners in a duet scheme actually need to agree and co-operate financially as regards the maintenance of the common property and the exteriors of the buildings and, essentially, as regards a single insurance policy covering both the homes in the scheme. “This is, however, often not the practice and we are aware of many duet owners who are completely ignorant of their risks in this regard.

“It is thus advisable that those contemplating the purchase of a duet should deal only with reputable estate agents experienced in this type of sale, who can first ensure that the scheme does comply with the requirements of the Sectional Title Act and also explain the implications of that legislation.”

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