Running a good sectional title scheme

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Learn the art of running a good sectional title scheme, and know your rights as a sectional title home owner.

There are many good reasons why sectional title property is so popular in this country. The security of living in close proximity to your neighbours and sharing the costs of any security measures taken is possibly one of the main motivations behind this buying decision. However, there are many other benefits associated with living in a sectional title scheme, particularly when the complex has a strong, well run body corporate.

Every buyer should insist on seeing the financials of the body corporate before deciding to buy into a sectional title scheme. Potential buyers should also walk around in order to gauge the overall condition of the scheme. Things such as peeling or blistered paintwork, untidy and neglected gardens and green swimming pools need to be noted. These things should be considered basic maintenance and a body corporate which is struggling to keep up with this should be viewed with caution.

Levies are essentially a form of forced savings. Home maintenance is expensive and paying into a levy fund ensures that money is always available to maintain a complex. Unlike sectional title owners, those who own freehold property have to ensure that money is set aside for ongoing maintenance. Things unfortunately have a tendency to go wrong at the least opportune moments, which, given the expense usually involved, can prove to be disastrous for an unprepared homeowner.

Those who own sectional title property are in a much better position when it comes to maintenance. For starters, the body corporate is responsible for the common property of a scheme and this includes the exterior of the buildings. It is also responsible for any security measures that fall outside the unit, including things like armed patrols, secured entrances and electric fencing. Anyone who owns a swimming pool can attest to the expense of keeping it in pristine condition but this too forms part of the body corporate’s responsibilities.

Levies vary from complex to complex and it makes perfect sense that they will be higher in schemes that enjoy more features. That said, quite frankly, it doesn't matter how much the levies are if the body corporate doesn't keep tabs on every last cent spent, or if it doesn't use the money collected effectively.

Special levies should not be regarded as a bail out for a badly run sectional title scheme. Special levies, as the name suggests, should only be raised to cover an unforeseen expense. We use the word unforeseen loosely, as the planning to raise special levies usually takes place at an AGM. In other words, special levies are not simply dumped on an unsuspecting unit holder at the drop of a hat - most schemes provide for a sort of ‘slush fund’ in order to cover any emergency maintenance.

The moral of the story is simple: check the financials, check the general state of the property and make sure to keep the right people in charge of the finances at all times by exercising your vote as an owner. The last thing anyone wants is a body corporate chairman who uses levy funds for that brand new swimming pool... right in front of his very own unit.

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