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Sectional Title Schemes and Common Property

In South Africa, the concept of sectional title schemes has become a popular way to own property, particularly in urban areas where space is at a premium. These schemes not only offer a practical solution to housing and commercial space but also introduce a unique set of rules and ownership structures, particularly around what is known as "common property." This blog post aims to demystify the concepts of sectional title schemes and common property, providing clear insights into what these terms mean, the rights of owners, and the governance structures in place.

What is a Sectional Title Scheme?

A sectional title scheme refers to a complex or development where individuals can own separate units or sections within a larger property. Unlike traditional property ownership, where one owns the land and the building outright, sectional title schemes in South Africa allow for individual ownership of a "section" of the property, with shared ownership of common areas. This form of ownership is governed by the Sectional Titles Act and the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act, which outline the rights and responsibilities of owners and the management of common property areas.

Sectional title schemes can include residential complexes, office blocks, retail spaces, or any development where multiple units are contained within a shared property. This form of ownership is appealing for its shared maintenance costs, enhanced security features, and the community lifestyle it fosters.

What Does a Sectional Title Owner Actually Own?

When you purchase a unit in a sectional title scheme, you are buying into more than just the walls and floor space of your apartment or office. Your ownership extends to a section of the property, defined in the sectional plan registered with the Deeds Office. This includes the interior of the unit and any exclusive use areas that may be allocated to it, such as balconies, gardens, or parking spaces, subject to the scheme's rules.

However, the ownership of a unit within a sectional title scheme comes with the collective ownership of the common property, which is all the parts of the complex not included in any section. It's a shared responsibility among all unit owners, managed through the body corporate, a governance structure that oversees the maintenance, administration, and overall management of the scheme.

what is common property in sectional title

What is the Common Property?

Common property in sectional title refers to the areas of a complex or development that are not included within any one section or unit. This typically includes gardens, driveways, stairwells, hallways, recreational facilities, and the exterior of buildings. The definition and extent of common property are detailed in the sectional plan, underscoring its importance in the overall structure of sectional title ownership.

Common property serves the interests of all owners within a scheme, providing shared facilities that enhance the living or working environment. Its maintenance and upkeep are funded by the levies paid by the owners, proportional to their participation quota as outlined in the scheme's governance documents.

What are Exclusive Use Areas?

Exclusive use areas in sectional title schemes refer to parts of the common property that, while not forming part of any owner's section, are designated for the exclusive use of a specific owner. These areas often include parking spaces, gardens, storerooms, or patios. The designation of these areas is governed by the rules of the sectional title scheme and is typically noted in the sectional plan or by a special resolution passed by the body corporate.

Owners granted exclusive use rights do not own these areas outright but have the exclusive right to use them, subject to the conditions set out by the body corporate. The maintenance and responsibility for these areas can vary based on the scheme's rules, often requiring the designated owner to care for and maintain their exclusive use area.

Who Owns the Common Property in a Sectional Title Scheme?

The common property in a sectional title scheme is jointly owned by all the unit owners, with each owner's share determined by their unit's participation quota. This quota is usually based on the size of their section relative to the total size of all sections in the scheme. While no single owner has exclusive rights over the common property, all owners collectively share the benefits and responsibilities that come with it.

This shared ownership structure necessitates a collective approach to the management and maintenance of common property, ensuring that it remains in good condition and serves the best interests of all residents or businesses within the scheme.

What is a Body Corporate?

The body corporate is the collective name given to all the owners of units within a sectional title scheme. This entity is automatically formed when the developer of the scheme transfers the first unit to a new owner. The body corporate's primary role is to manage the common property, enforce the scheme's rules, and oversee the financial aspects of the scheme, including collecting levies from owners to fund maintenance and improvements.

Membership in the body corporate is mandatory for all unit owners, with voting rights typically proportionate to the participation quota of their unit. The body corporate is governed by the provisions of the Sectional Titles Act and the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act, ensuring its operations align with national standards and legal requirements.

How is a Body Corporate Established?

A body corporate is established automatically upon the registration of the sectional title plan at the Deeds Office and the transfer of the first unit in the scheme. From this moment, all unit owners are considered members of the body corporate. The initial meeting of the body corporate must be called within 60 days of its establishment, where members will elect trustees to manage the day-to-day operations of the scheme.

The trustees are responsible for executing the decisions of the body corporate, managing its finances, and enforcing the rules of the scheme. They play a crucial role in ensuring the sectional title scheme is well-maintained, financially sound, and that the living or working environment is enjoyable for all occupants.

Van Deventer & Van Deventer Incorporated – Property Law Attorneys South Africa

The management of sectional title schemes and common property in South Africa presents a unique set of challenges and responsibilities for owners. Understanding the nuances of what a sectional title owner actually owns, the significance of common property, exclusive use areas, and the roles and establishment of the body corporate is crucial for anyone involved in a sectional title scheme. This knowledge not only aids in navigating the complexities of ownership but also in fostering a harmonious and well-managed community.

At Van Deventer & Van Deventer Incorporated, we specialize in property law, offering clear, informed guidance to ensure your rights are protected and your property investments are secure. Our experience in sectional title schemes, combined with a straightforward approach to legal advice, positions us to assist you effectively.

Contact us for support with any aspect of property law, and trust us to provide the clarity and expertise you need.

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