Advice and Opinion

What happens if a door or window in a sectional title unit is to be changed?

In many sectional title schemes, there will come a need at some stage for an owner of a unit to renovate his property, and when windows or doors are to be changed, there are a few things that need to be considered before making those changes, says Mandi Hanekom, operations manager for the sectional title finance company Propell.

Conduct Rule 4 allows for alterations and additions to common property in certain circumstances and Prescribed Management Rule 33 deals with luxurious and non-luxurious improvements, which require different forms of authorisation from the body corporate. Where the outside appearance of a unit will be altered by the renovation, written consent is required from the body corporate before any work can be done.

Windows and doors have shared cost responsibilities by the owner and the body corporate if they are placed on the median line. The owner would then be responsible for the inside and the body corporate the outside. When the window or door is moved, the boundary and responsibility line changes.

A case in point is a unit where the new windows to be installed, instead of being on the median line, are to be installed on the outside of that line. This installation would then cause the body corporate to become fully responsible for the maintenance and repair of these windows in legal terms unless otherwise specified.

In cases such as these, the trustees might agree to the alteration provided they approve of the new product to be installed and the service provider or company doing the installation, as well as the owner claiming full responsibility (cost and maintenance) for the structure.

“On the one hand, where one can understand the need for a body corporate to protect the appearance of the building, it can also become a situation where too much control is applied and the owner’s application for a change is fought unnecessarily,” said Hanekom. “There are many buildings where either the developer did not think through very carefully the size or type of window being installed and the unit could benefit more from a larger glazed area, both in light and warmth or, as in older buildings, there were only a few standard window sizes available at the time and they could do with an upgrade.”

Whichever the case, she said, owners must take care to apply for permission before undertaking any purchase or installation and trustees should be open to the reasons for certain changes being asked for.