By Jennifer Paddock

Jennifer_PaddockReconfiguration of a unit

Q1: I own a townhouse in a sectional complex and put in a new open plan kitchen in the lounge area. This has resulted in a smallish room becoming available for use as a study or small bedroom (the former kitchen).

Now the trustees have demanded that I revert it back to the original configuration. My question is: isn’t this a purely an internal reconfiguration that I am entitled to do? Can the body corporate make such a demand? No structural changes were done. The new kitchen has very superior finishes and adds to the overall décor of the lounge.

The rules of the sectional scheme have no rules prohibiting internal reconfigurations. The rules have very clearly set limits on the number of residents allowed for each unit. Their explanation is that if all owners convert their units accordingly – there will be a problem with overcrowding.

My argument is that overcrowding occurs when people cram more people into their sections, and has nothing to do with the internal layout in any case. Please advise me. Am I obliged to reverse the changes?  

A1:
As the owner of a unit in the scheme you own your section exclusively and are entitled to do internal alterations to it. However, as a co-owner of the common property and a member of the body corporate you also have a responsibility to ensure that any internal alterations done to your section do not compromise the harmonious appearance of the building, your duty of subjacent and lateral support to the sections below and next to yours and that these alterations do not result in the body corporate’s insurance policy being compromised. Of course your building plans must also have been approved by the municipality.

From your question it sounds as if you have complied with your responsibilities towards your co-owners and the body corporate in respect of your alterations. If this assumption is correct, you are not obliged to reverse the internal changes you have made to your section. The trustees and managing agent cannot successfully demand that you reverse the changes because your new internal configuration may potentially lead to overcrowding of your section. Provided your section is not overcrowded, you are complying with the rules and cannot be punished “just in case” you breach them in the future.

Developer to Chairman

Q2: May a trustee (developer) nominate himself at the first Trustees meeting as Chairman?

A2: Before a scheme’s inaugural (first) general meeting all the owners in the scheme are automatically trustees and the developer of the scheme is the chairperson of the trustees until the end of the inaugural meeting.
The inaugural meeting is chaired by the developer as chairperson of the trustees and at this meeting new trustees are elected. If the chairperson is elected as a trustee at the inaugural meeting then s/he would be entitled to nominate him/herself as the chairperson of the trustees for the ensuing year at the first meeting of the trustees after the inaugural meeting and s/he would be eligible for re-election to the office of chairperson. However, if the developer was not elected as a trustee at the inaugural meeting then s/he would not be able to nominate him/herself for the position of chairperson as the chairperson has to be a trustee.

Paying the excess

Q3: In a sectional title complex, who is responsible for the excess payment to the Insurance Company for the replacement of a geyser?  My geyser was replaced without me being informed. I only received an sms message to say I must pay an excess amount of R1600-00. Shouldn’t the body corporate make provision in its reserve funds for maintenance and repairs of geysers in the monthly levy amount?  What are my rights as a sectional owner in this case? Your timeous response would be highly appreciated before things fuse up.

A3: In terms of prescribed management rule (PMR) 68(1)(vii) it is an owner’s responsibility to repair and maintain the geyser that serves his/her section. Additionally, in terms of PMR 29(4) the owner of a section is responsible for any excess payment in respect of his/her section payable in terms of a contract of insurance entered into by the body corporate. Therefore you, as the owner of the section that is served by the geyser and as the owner of the section in terms of which the insurance excess is payable, are responsible to pay the excess of R1600-00.

Window cleaning


Q4: In a sectional title complex or block of flats, is the body corporate responsible for cleaning the outside windows?

A4:
The body corporate is responsible to repair and maintain the common property in terms of section 37(1)(j) of the Act. Maintenance of the common property includes the cleaning of all common property windows.

Article reference: Volume 3, Issue 11, Page 6.

 
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