Rules for renovations in a sectional title scheme

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Before starting renovations on your newly purchased home in a sectional title scheme, you need to be familiar with the scheme’s rules.

The sale has gone through and you are itching to start renovating your sectional title property. You've ordered new floor tiles, a brand new bathroom set and have booked the people who are going to install your new kitchen. After all, you own the property now and that automatically gives you the right to start work…or does it? The bad news is not necessarily, because you may have to get permission from the body corporate before any work can start, even if that work is inside the dwelling.

Anyone who has ever lived an apartment that's being renovated will understand the noise and disruption a job like retiling can cause. To be blunt, it's awful. Any type of building work is disruptive, and whether this is due to noisy workmen, the hammering and bashing that go hand in hand with construction work or the dust and mess caused by the improvements, your neighbours are going to be affected in one way or another.

This is why body corporates generally demand that approval be sought and that others in the complex be informed well ahead of time. This doesn't necessarily mean that body corporates will refuse permission, but it can impact on the new owner’s plans because the powers that be can insist the improvements be delayed while they notify everyone who will be affected.

It needs to be remembered that it's highly unlikely that permission will be granted before the sale has gone through because the body corporate can only deal with the registered owner of the property. In other words, permission for renovations can only be sought once transfer has gone through, and will not be given to buyers who occupy the premises (and who pay occupational rent) before transfer. This means that items to be used in the building project cannot be delivered ahead of time and contractors cannot be booked until the new homeowner receives the go ahead for the work.

Anyone who wants to buy into a sectional title scheme needs to see the body corporate rules before signing the sales agreement. More importantly, they need to understand that the rules are there for a reason and these rules can’t be flouted simply because the regulations don't fit in with the new owner’s plans. Many people also incorrectly believe that they only need permission from the body corporate if they intend carrying out renovations or maintenance to the exterior of the unit. However, many complexes, and particularly apartment blocks, apply far stricter rules as to when and how construction on the interior can take place. The rules could also dictate when materials can be delivered.

Obviously there are different rules for different complexes and this is why it's important for buyers to read the rules before the time in order to obtain a clear understanding of what they can and can't do once they legally own the property. Those who choose to ignore these rules will probably run into problems, but more importantly they may get off on the wrong foot with those who govern the complex and this could lead to much bigger problems further down the road. Don't assume that because you've heard they turn a blind eye to most transgressions they will automatically allow you to break the rules. Do yourself a favour and have a chat to the body corporate before you move in in order to ascertain exactly when renovations can commence.

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