When buying an apartment in a sectional title scheme, is it necessary to be more careful when you sign on the dotted line than you would have to be if you were buying a free standing home? Yes, with hindsight being a perfect science, it might be worth your while to ask some specific questions before you buy sectional property; afterwards those answers could come at a high price.
Most of the basic principles relating to buying a home apply to both a free standing house and to a sectional title apartment. For example, almost contracts of sale include a clause which states that the property is sold “voetstoots” and if there are defects in the property which the seller is not aware of and you only become aware of them after the sale, you will have no right to cancel the sale or any recourse against the seller for damages.
“there should also be many clauses in the
contract which will not be found in a contract of
sale for a free standing property”
But when you buy a sectional title property there should also be many clauses in the contract which will not be found in a contract of sale for a free standing property, such as details of any exclusive use areas such as parking bays, gardens or patios which are attached to the apartment, the amount of the monthly levies payable to the Body Corporate, etc. Prospective purchasers should confirm with the estate agent or the managing agent of the scheme the exact status of the exclusive use areas and ensure that the current owner of the property has a legal right to such exclusive area and that it will be transferred with the apartment. In addition to establishing the status of exclusive areas, prospective purchasers should request copies of the body corporate’s latest set of financial statements in order to establish the financial viability of the scheme and the amount of its accumulated reserves for maintenance and repairs.
If you intend to renovate the apartment or bring your pets to the scheme you should obtain copies of the rules applicable to the scheme from the managing agent to establish if any restrictions apply. The rules will indicate what processes are required to obtain consent to renovate the apartment, whether pets are allowed and if applications must be made to keep them. A sale agreement must include a clear statement of whether or not anyone has the right to extend the scheme by building further apartments, as building works can have a detrimental effect on one’s peace and quiet!
A very important financial aspect is to establish from the trustees, via the managing agent, whether any special levy has been raised recently or whether the trustees have given any indication that they intend to raise a special levy in the near future. The person who is the owner of the apartment at the time when the trustees raise the special levy will be liable to pay that special levy. Therefore, if a special levy is raised two days after the transfer of the property is registered in your name, you will be liable to pay the full levy, irrespective of the fact that you have only been an owner for such a short period of time.
“The person who is the owner of the apartment at the time when the trustees raise
the special levy will be liable to pay that special levy.”
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