Windows in sectional titles

Private Property South Africa
Michael Bauer

A situation that often comes up when an owner of a sectional title unit needs to replace or repair the external windows or doors is that the question is asked, “Who is responsible for the cost of replacement or repair of the windows and window frames or doors and door frames?” says Michael Bauer, general manager of IHFM, the sectional title management company.

As this can sometimes be a costly exercise, owners would often check whether it’s the body corporate’s responsibility, whether it can be claimed from building insurance or whether he himself has to pay for it, he said.

“The replacement of windows and doors is a 50/50 split between the body corporate and the owner of the unit,” said Bauer, “but what has to be ascertained is the reason for the replacement. If, for instance, it is a case of replacing wood for aluminium – is it that wear and tear has worn them out and they have to be replaced? If so, it is not insurance related but if a window is being replaced due to an accident taking place then the insurance would cover it and the excess would be split 50/50.”

To return to the normal scenario of replacement due to age, said Bauer, there is sometimes a question as to whether there has been lack of maintenance (which is the body corporate’s duty) such as painting or sealing of the wood, which then caused the deterioration and necessary replacement, but the owner also needs to take responsibility in this as he would not normally just wait while the window frames deteriorate beyond repair, said Bauer.

In Section 5 (5) of the Sectional Title Amendment Act, it now says clearly that the cost of replacing windows is a 50/50 split and that the old system of whether the window was inside (which would be the owners’ responsibility) the median line or outside (which would be the body corporate’s) is no longer valid. In the past people used to measure whether the door or window that needed replacing was inside the median line dividing the owner’s unit and the common property and this system is no longer used.

“No matter where the window is placed in the wall, the ratio of the cost to the owner remains one-half,” said Bauer. “This is the most practical and fair way of working out the cost of replacement and repair to windows (and doors) in a sectional title unit.”

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