Find Out and Fit In

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

When moving into a sectional title unit, owners will invariably receive a copy of the rules of conduct. These rules, aimed at governing the day to day activities of a sectional title complex, should be supplied to both owners and tenants, giving a clear indication as to what is deemed acceptable behaviour and what is prohibited.

These rules are not made on a whim and once clarified, have to be registered at the Deeds Office. The rules may not be amended or changed without a special resolution and any changes also have to be registered with the Deeds Office. This essentially means that bodies corporate may not change the rules governing the complex willy nilly to suit certain owners or individuals.

Some things, regardless of how many in a sectional title complex may approve of them, are illegal. Discrimination, racism and the infringement of a person’s basic rights cannot be condoned. Sectional title schemes which try to implement unlawful rules are going to come unstuck sooner or later. Forcing potential tenants to be interviewed by the trustees to see if they are suitable candidates for the complex is an absolute no no. No one except the owner has the right to say who may and who may not occupy a unit.

Rules cannot be unreasonable and if they are, the body corporate should expect those rules to be challenged. Noise is a common problem and although bodies corporate may have rules governing loud music for example, expecting residents to take a vow of silence when they move in is clearly unreasonable.

Sectional title schemes, particularly those in areas popular with retirees, often take a dim view of children. Again, while it is understandable that children can be disruptive and noisy, the body corporate cannot ban children from the complex unless it has been specifically built as a retirement village and cannot attempt to implement rules that directly affect the way in which children live. Reasonable conduct rules are one thing, unreasonable, ungovernable rules are quite another. Prohibiting children from play in all the common areas for example is going to raise parents’ hackles. That said, unruly children and those who infringe upon the rights of others and cause nuisance in the complex need to be taken in hand, but as with most things, each case needs to be dealt with on its own merits and not via a blanket rule that affects all.

Pets are often a huge bone of contention and although a body corporate may choose to ban all animals, if this rule is amended at a later stage and there are people with pets currently living in the complex, the new rule must be deemed reasonable. In other words, although no newcomers to the complex may own pets in the future, those who already do so cannot be asked to remove their animals.

Unfortunately, there are professional complainers in most sectional title complexes. These individuals tend to make everyone’s life a misery, seemingly nit-picking about everything and everybody. Trustees need to treat these people objectively and, while not totally ignoring their constant complaints, weigh each and every case on its merits and act accordingly.

Perennial gripers aside, people need to abide by the rules and although there will always be differences of opinion as to what is and what isn’t reasonable, those living in a sectional title environment need to remember that everyone has rights. Insisting on a copy of the body corporate conduct rules before you buy into a sectional title scheme could well be the answer. Forewarned is forearmed and knowing what is acceptable before moving in can go a long way towards building a happy, healthy relationship with the body corporate and other homeowners in the complex.

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