Advice and Opinion

Working from home in sectional title schemes

There is a rising trend for people to run a business from home due to the increase in traffic and petrol prices, and this may often seem the ideal place for most who have little or no visits from clients or who spend most of their day at their computers or desks, says Michael Bauer, general manager of the managing agents IHFM.

But if the work that is done from home affects the occupants of other units, such as motor repair companies, hairdressers, animal grooming parlours or manufacturing which might create noise or a mess, these are usually not suitable to be run from residential areas, let alone sectional title schemes, he said.

Most sectional title scheme rules will prohibit the running of any business from home, as inoffensive as it might be, said Bauer.

This was the situation that arose in a recent court case between Vanilla Street Homeowners’ Association and a resident who was running a hair salon from home, in which the high court handed down a decision that upheld that this was prohibited in terms of the scheme’s constitution and conduct rules. In this particular case, IHFM is the managing agent of the scheme and successfully assisted the trustees in this matter.

The HOA’s constitution and title deeds state clearly that no one is allowed to run a business from these premises, and after the homeowners’ association repeatedly asked her to stop to no avail, they then took the matter to court.

If the conduct rules make it clear that the property should only be used for the purpose for which it was intended, i.e. to live in, then no one may run a business from the property, said Bauer.

Many who work from home might say that what they do causes no trouble or discomfort to the other residents, and they might be running a discreet operation, but there might still be increased traffic into the scheme and a breakdown in the security because of this, he said.

Businesses being run from residential units can also detract from the nature of the scheme, in that the quiet safe roads might then become ones in which there are clients or customers taking up visitors’ parking bays and the noise levels might increase.

“To take an extreme example,” said Bauer, “if a person had to repair motor cars in their garage at home, there would be all the cars being brought in and parked waiting for the work to be done. The mechanic might constantly be testing engines which causes increased noise levels and pollution from exhaust fumes and then there is the mess involved, in oil or solvents being spilled. This sort of business would make the other residents very unhappy and would detract from the residential nature of the scheme.”

Unless the complex or development is specifically designed and built as a mixed use development, which allows commercial and residential units in one building or complex, residents must stick to the rules of their sectional title scheme and realise that working from home might not be an option if they choose to live in one, said Bauer.

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