You can't hold the body corp responsible for everything

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Just because you pay levies doesn't mean that the body corporate will be responsible for everything that occurs on the sectional title premises or be liable for every expense when things go wrong.

Relations between those living in a sectional title complex can often get heated. To some extent this is understandable because things don't always go smoothly when a number of people live in close quarters. Matters you wouldn't ordinarily think would be an issue often become huge (we’ve just heard of an incident where two women got into a fist fight over washing line space), but this doesn't mean you can run to, blame, or try to make your body corporate liable every time you have a dispute with one of your neighbours.

Likewise, not every accident on the premises can be linked back to the body corporate in an effort to get them to pay the damages. For instance, the owner will generally be held responsible if his unit is flooded on the inside, providing of course that the damage wasn’t caused by a problem on the common property. In other words, he would be liable for his own damages if, for example, he left the taps running and the bath overflowed.

The same applies to injuries that occur on the property. While you may well have a claim if you slip and break a leg while running around the swimming pool on the common property, you will be responsible should you injure yourself inside your unit. What's important to remember is that while your friends and staff may be able to claim for an injury incurred on the common property, you could be held liable should the injury occur inside your unit as a result of your negligence. It is therefore vital for homeowners to cover their bases by taking out personal public liability insurance.

So bear in mind that if things turn nasty at a body corporate meeting and blows are exchanged, it doesn't necessarily mean you have the right to sue the body corporate for millions. You may of course sue the pants off the person who broke your nose, but just because you got injured at a body corporate meeting doesn't mean that the body corporate can automatically be held liable.

On the flip side, to appreciate how handy living in a sectional title complex can be, remember that when the pool on the common property goes green, you won't be the one running around with water samples and kilograms of chlorine. Likewise, you won't have to cancel your overseas holiday because you won't be lumped with the bill when you need to call in the professionals. As they say in the classics, everything is relative.

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