By Andre De Waal

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When you buy into a sectional title complex it’s different from buying a standalone house and likewise the insurance for a sectional title complex is complex to say the least. The rules and regulations are plentiful and it is important that you become aware of all the idiosyncrasies related to your specific Body Corporate as well as the Sectional Titles Act in general.

First and foremost we highly recommend you buy a copy of Graham Paddock’s “Sectional Titles’ Survival Manual” as you will over the years refer to this frequently.

Secondly, and we can’t stress this enough – look for an insurance broker who knows the requirements of the Sectional Titles’ Act with regard to insurance. The Act specifies certain requirements when it comes to insurance, and these requirements are there for your protection. Conventional insurers may extend or ‘tailor’ a policy but don’t have a specialist sectional title policy wording which is essential, particularly if you are a trustee and you may well be faced with a severe problem if the necessary specific cover is not in place.

Levies payable by unit owners includes a multitude of costs, one of them being insurance. Surprising as it may seem, premiums, when divided by the number of sections in the complex, are very low when compared to the insurance premiums paid on a stand-alone private residence (Houseowners) – bearing in mind that the basis of insurance being that the losses of the few are paid by the many.

It stands to reason therefore that premiums may increase or terms may be imposed, depending on the claims history. Believe it or not, Insurers are in the business of paying claims, but when the amount of the claims far exceeds the amount of the premium, especially over a period of time, this becomes a bit

With residential sectional title complexes, our experience tells us that the most guilty party is the geyser. No, not you! That cylindrical water closet lurking in the dark waiting to leak.

In any complex, old or new, geysers do, or will eventually, make up the majority of claims submitted. This will affect you directly or indirectly because:

  • There will be a period without water (and Murphy’s Law will ensure that this occurs at the most inconvenient time)
  • In all likelihood the water will leak through your cupboards which are probably constructed of chipboard and will swell hideously
  • Your paintwork will begin to resemble a piece of modern art
  • Your electricity may trip (frequently)
  • You will have to pay an excess when you least expect it
  • And worse still, it’s not your geyser, but the geyser upstairs and he’s away and no one can get into his apartment without force… or you’re both away and return to find your formerly pristine apartment has become a mushroom farm
  • And then we tell you at renewal your premiums will increase

What can you do to avoid or minimize these problems?

Firstly, understand that geysers don’t usually ‘burst’; they malfunction. The term ‘burst’ means that it has split its seam, and if it does … get out of the way! A geyser will burst because:

  • An incorrect pressure valve has been fitted
  • Relief valves are blocked (this is really dangerous because the pressure builds up causing the cylinder to explode like a bomb – pray you are not in the building when this happens!)
  • The geyser implodes – meaning more water has been drawn from the geyser than water coming in. This nasty problem however can be prevented by having vacuum breakers fitted.

Luckily, because of the latest SABS requirements for geyser fitments, most geysers don’t actually ‘burst’ but more often malfunction due to:

  • Old age (don’t we all?)
  • Fatigue (ditto)
  • Rusting / corrosion
  • Leaking gaskets, safety valves or drain cocks
  • Faulty thermostats or elements
  • Incorrect temperature settings (the recommended setting is 60°C)

Many of the problems emanating from so-called ‘burst’ or faulty geysers are compounded by not having been fitted with a drip tray. A drip tray is fitted directly underneath the geyser to catch water leaks and helps to prevent water from leaking through to your cupboards, carpets and the ceiling of the unit below.

How can you prolong the life of your geyser and avoid all these hassles?

  1. Have your geyser serviced
  2. Have a drip tray fitted

It’s not only cars that need servicing regularly; geysers do too! By having your geyser serviced every few years you will prolong its lifespan and avoid having to wade through your kitchen wearing water wings and a snorkel.

The main areas to look at are:

  1. Setting the correct temperature, i.e. 60°c
  2. Replacement of the Anode, which is of paramount importance in prolonging the life of a geyser
  3. Unblocking the relief valves
  4. Ensuring that vacuum breakers are fitted

Most insurance policies cover ‘burst’ geysers excluding wear and tear (old age), yet very few will pay for the repair of a geyser – in essence preventing damage from occurring and preventing it from exploding.

At CIA, we go a couple of steps further we were the first to include maintenance cover (via our 24 hour hot-line) as experience told us that most malfunctioning geysers were as a result of components such as elements, thermostats and valves failing.

The introduction of our maintenance cover and 24 hour call centre has benefited policyholders in a number of ways – there is a plumber ‘on tap’ and the early repair of components minimises damage and costs – with the resultant effect at the end of the day of keeping your claims history down to the bare minimum and your premiums low!

Please remember that the cost of “servicing” of your geyser is not covered by the insurance.

CIA focuses on solutions to problems and making your life a little easier by taking away hassles such as these.

So, to make living in your sectional title apartment easier…

  1. Buy a copy of the Sectional Title Survival Manual” – available from Paddocks
  2. Find a specialist insurance broker to give you the correct advice and the correct policy, and
  3. Get your geyser serviced!

Article reference: Paddocks Press: December 2007, Volume 2, Issue 9.

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license.