Understand What You Are Voting For

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Living in close proximity to your neighbours and making collective decisions that affect everyone’s life often leads to confrontation. Sectional title living brings its own set of challenges as it is virtually impossible to keep everyone happy all of the time.

Sectional title schemes are governed under the Sectional Titles Act of 1986 (STA) and no one can contract out of the mandatory aspects of the Act. However, if trustees and owners collectively decide that certain rules or changes need to be implemented and those voting vote in favour of those changes, the decision is binding.

Listening to what is being discussed at any meeting is absolutely vital for any sectional title homeowner. It is also important to remember that once the owner has agreed to effect certain changes, they cannot easily renege on that decision at a later stage.

The STA is in place to protect owners in a sectional title scheme and has very clear guidelines in place to ensure that the scheme is run efficiently and effectively while at the same time protecting stakeholders’ rights. Unfortunately, there are homeowners who either don’t attend meetings, don’t understand what is being discussed or perhaps, most importantly, don’t understand the future implications that their vote may bring.

It is imperative for homeowners to keep tabs on the various issues surrounding the complex and its management. Although there are going to be times when resolutions a particular homeowner may not agree with are passed, his voice, even if dissenting, still needs to be heard. Trying to keep the peace and going with the flow is a recipe for disaster and will undoubtedly come back to bite at a later stage.

In order to protect owners, the Act dictates where special and unanimous resolutions apply. The Act states that in order to pass a special resolution, 75 percent of owners must be in agreement. A unanimous resolution on the other hand requires that 80 percent of owners be in favour of the proposed changes.

There are many sectional title homeowners who fail to realise that the above issues are legally binding. Voting on a whim and attempting to withdraw that vote after the resolution has been passed is going to cause mayhem. Again, sectional title complexes have to operate in certain ways. The trustees may not change anything without the majority of homeowners agreeing to the changes.

There are a number of good reasons for this. While there has to be a little give and take in every sectional title scheme, owners have to abide by the collective decisions that apply to all who live in the complex. One of the most common problems comes about when a homeowner wants to add on to or renovate his property. There are strict guidelines that govern this aspect of sectional title living and even though the homeowner may feel he has every right to change his property as he sees fit, this is not the case.

Allowing someone to extend his property without being fully aware of the design, materials used or the extent of the improvements can prove to be disastrous and in the worst case scenario, can lower the value of other properties within the scheme. The problem, of course, is that what one owner deems attractive, others may deem hideous and this is why the homeowner planning the improvements needs a majority vote, giving permission for the building work to commence.

Essentially, sectional title owners do not own the exterior walls of their properties and any improvements, including the painting of the outer walls, has to be approved by 80 percent of the residents. Although permission for improvements may not be unreasonably withheld, owners who want to buck the trend and detract from the overall look of the complex are going to run to difficulties.

Other owners have a vested financial interest in the complex and like everything else in life; it is no good crying over spilt milk. Keeping an eye and ear on what is going on within the sectional title scheme and voting accordingly is going to make the homeowners and those living in close proximity a lot happier.

Do you have any sectional title horror stories? Share them with us below.

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