Advice and Opinion

Sectional title schemes: who is responsible for maintaining the different sections?

“If there is one issue which can be almost guaranteed to cause dissension among sectional title property owners, it is the question of who is responsible for the maintenance of the three different types of property in sectional title schemes, i.e. sections, common property and exclusive use areas”, says Michael Bauer, general manager of the property management company, IHFM.

Bauer went on to explain that each type of property is subject to different liabilities for owners and bodies corporate. The sections in the scheme (measured from the median line to median line) are privately owned and any repairs inside them are the owner’s responsibility. This is set out clearly in section 44 (1) of the Sectional Title Act.

The exterior walls are common property, and the body corporate is held responsible for maintaining them. A special case can be the area in which the geysers are placed. They may be located on common property, but if they serve only one owner, they form part of his section. (This happens quite frequently today as space in most modern sectional title units is limited.) However, geysers are covered in the building insurance policy of the sectional title scheme.

In most sectional title schemes fairly large areas such as the common gardens, the roof, the corridors and staircases are seen in law as common property and the body corporate has to maintain and keep them safe.

This is one of the reasons why bodies corporate have to have levy funds at their disposal – the other equally important reasons being that they need to insure the building, pay for municipal services such as water, sewerage and refuse, and provide adequate security.

The third category of property is exclusive use areas, which are part of the common property but granted to one or more owners for which they have to pay a exclusive use levy according to section 37 (1b) of the Sectional Titles Act. For example, parts of the garden which abut the ground floor unit may be ceded to the owner of that unit for his exclusive use. Balconies and parking bays are also, in some cases, seen as common property which can be ceded to an owner.

In some cases, said Bauer, the practice is for the body corporate to maintain the area or to compensate the users for expenses they incur in maintaining it.