Owners responsible for section repairs

This week the Property Poser panel deals with two similar questions regarding responsibility for maintenance in a sectional title complex.

The first reader is having problems with water damage to built-in cupboards, caused by a leaking shower in the unit above.

The body corporate referred the issue to the person living in that unit, but he is merely a tenant who has undertaken to contact the owner.

Wanda Hayes - Huizemark

Wanda Hayes – Huizemark

In another matter, a reader complains about a badly neglected garden gate in one of the units in his complex.

The hinges are broken and the wood unvarnished and rotten. The owner refuses to take responsibility.

According to Wanda Hayes from Huizemark Jeffreys Bay, the maintenance in a sectional title scheme is typically the responsibility of the body corporate.

“The Sectional Titles Act makes the body corporate responsible for the maintenance of the common property, while owners are responsible for their sections.”

Hayes says common property includes driveways, parking bays and garages, private and communal gardens, swimming pools, corridors, lifts and entrance foyers.

“With reference to the first reader’s problem, it is the duty of the owner of the upper unit to keep his section in a state of repair and fix the shower.”

Hayes says the insurance of the building will sometimes cover resultant damage in these situations.

“However, if not, he may claim the cost of the repairs from the offending owner.”

The Act even allows the body corporate to perform maintenance to a section at the owner’s expense, should he or she fail to do so, says Hayes.

Herman Pieterse - Jan Visser Attorneys

Herman Pieterse – Jan Visser Attorneys

“After giving 30 days’ notice, the body corporate may remedy the situation and recover the reasonable costs of repair from the owner.”

Herman Pieterse from Jan Visser Attorneys in Jeffreys Bay says some parts of the common property may be allocated as exclusive use areas to certain owners.

“An owner who enjoys such rights is obligated to keep that area clean and neat.”

Pieterse says exclusive use areas remain common property and belong to all owners in the scheme in undivided shares. “They are therefore the responsibility of the body corporate.”

However, says Pieterse, the Act makes it plain that the body corporate requires the owner to make additional contributions, in the form of a levy, for exclusive use.

“This is for maintenance, rates and taxes as well as insurance, unless the rules of the scheme state that the owner is responsible for these costs.”

In the second example, Pieterse says one must determine whether the rules make the owner responsible for repairs or whether he merely pays an additional levy.

“If he is responsible for the repairs and fails to fix the gate, the body corporate may do so and claim any reasonable costs. If he pays a levy, the body corporate must effect the repairs.”

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