Alterations made to patios or balconies without proper approval in sectional title units can become a costly affair.
As a sectional title scheme owner, you are often left wondering how you can use and enjoy your home to the fullest. One of the concerns usually up for debate are the restraints and obligations imposed through sectional title schemes. The subject of patios and balcony enclosures is one such discussion that often surfaces.
Determining who the space belongs to.
According to Michael Bauer, General Manager of the property management company, IHFM, the burning question is if the enclosure becomes a part of the section of the owner (in which case his participation quota will be higher) or remains part of the common property but for owner’s exclusive use.
Section 24 of the Sectional Title Act comes into play should the living space within the unit increase. The expansion of a unit retains a higher PQ factor which subsequently results in an increase on the levy fee, says Bauer.
It is important to determine whether the space is habitable, common property, enclosed, a part of a section or exclusive in use. Confirmation on the above can be found by viewing the section plans of the scheme through the owner or the trustees involved in, so as to establish if the enclosure is in fact a habitable or enclosed space.
Although there is no specific definition for the two terms within the Sectional Titles Act, careful ruling by the trustees is still required as the confirmed choice becomes a guide for the rest of the scheme, says Bauer.
Habitable vs. enclosed patios.
If the space is confirmed as habitable, then Section 24 of the Sectional Title Act comes into force, which says: “If an owner of a section proposes to extend the limits of his or her section, he or she shall with the approval of the body corporate, authorised by a special resolution of its members, cause the land surveyor or architect concerned to submit a draft sectional plan of the extension to the Surveyor-General for approval.”
According to Bauer, the above simply means that the owner can only extend the floor area of his unit onto common property if he has a special resolution from the body corporate. In order to achieve such, a general meeting alongside the owner is held to amend the sectional plans. All changes are done at the owner’s expense and must be submitted to the Deeds Office before any construction commences. Remember, changes in the sectional plan will result in an increase in the square meterage which then regulates a higher PQ factor.
Renovating without consent.
Renovating the patio and balcony space without consent is considered a contravention to the Act and the owner can be required to restore the unit to its original state at their own cost. In failing to do so, trustees are at liberty to call for arbitration or a High Court application to ensure the space is reinstated, says Bauer.
Alternatively, if the enclosure is determined as an enclosed exclusive use area, permission, in the form of a written application to the trustees is all that is required. The draft plans must be submitted and the owner must declare that he will not be using the enclosure as a habitable space.
The conduct rules must be considered before any changes are made to the unit. This is to ensure that all rules and restrictions specified are changed where necessary.
According to Bauer, there are usually stipulations in the conduct rules regarding the appearance of the enclosure and, sometimes, the standards of the contractor employed to do the job.
Who maintains enclosures?
Maintaining the enclosures can also be a growing concern. “If there are leaks due to bad workmanship then who pays for the damage?” is a question that is frequently brought up.
“It is important for the body corporate to be strict in setting the standards, they should have a list of preferred installers or contractors and appoint a professional if need be to set the guidelines for installation,” says Bauer. “Once decisions are made and rules set it becomes very difficult after the fact to change rulings. It is better to have these set in the beginning so the owners know upfront what the procedures are for approval of structures on their balconies or patios to avoid problems later."