Bad neighbour: it could be you!

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

There are incredible benefits associated with living in a sectional title complex. However, there are people who are simply not suited to this form of “communal living”. Knowing who you are and how you are going to respond to being told what you can and can’t do to your own home plays an enormous role in deciding whether or not to buy into a sectional title scheme. Simply put: if you don't respond well to authority, then it may well be an idea to buy a freehold home and live your own life as you see fit.

Generally speaking, there are strict rules governing how the outside of a sectional title property should look. In other words, you could start running into problems should you decide that you want to erect awnings or opt to paint your front door a different colour to other units within the complex. Likewise you are going to have to get permission from the owners of the other units should you decide that you want to build on, despite the fact that the new build will be situated on your exclusive-use property.

Not always a dog’s life

Your pets could also prove to be a problem. All dogs bark, but your neighbours are going to start to complain if your dogs yap throughout the day while you are at work. Unlike freehold properties, sectional title units tend to be situated close together and you could be faced with complaints given that in addition to dog problems, cats are notorious wanderers and are prone to going in to stranger’s homes.

Neighbour law is often the most prevalent source of minor squabbles, even in freehold properties. This is magnified in a sectional title unit because you now have multiple neighbours, in close proximity, who have a say over certain aspects of your property and your behaviour.

Most complaints in a sectional title complex relate to guest parking disputes, noise, nuisance in the form of pets or children and feeling aggrieved if a complaint is lodged with the body corporate. Unfortunately different personality types are destined to clash and cooping these types up together invariably leads to discord.

Like-minded people of the same age group are more likely to co-exist peacefully when it comes to matters like loud music and parties. However, even when owners are prone to similar behaviour, they still have children and occasional guests residing with them in the complex who may upset the apple cart.

The nuisance factor

Understanding the needs of your entire family will go a long way towards assessing whether or not any of you will constitute a nuisance factor. But that is only one side of the coin: your neighbours are bound to have children and guests as well, whose conduct may cause you offence.

The other big aspect is that sectional title developments sometimes impose a special levy to deal with maintenance or improvement issues. Often, not everyone in a complex is able or indeed willing to make an additional contribution for something that they deem unnecessary such as improving a communal swimming pool or building a new club house.

In the greater scheme of things, sectional title living has its place and benefits, security being one example of this. The key is to assess your personal circumstances and the rules of the particular sectional title complex to ensure that you are a good match before making a buying decision.

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