Thinking of making alterations to your unit? Make sure you comply
OWNERS of units in sectional title schemes are subject to more restrictions than owners of freehold property.
When you want to make alterations to your section, you may well need body corporate approval as well as local authority consent before you can start. Freehold property owners are not subject to the additional level of governance exercised by sectional title bodies corporate. Sectional owners therefore need to be aware of the correct procedures, to ensure they comply wi t h t h e a p p l i c a b l e l e g i s l a t i ve requirements before making alterations to their sections.
Section 24 of the Sectional Titles Act 95 of 1986 deals with extensions of sections, and states that any alteration to your section that increases its boundaries or floor area is considered an extension of the section.
In terms of section 5(4) of the act, a section is owned to the median line or midpoint of its dividing floors, walls and ceilings. The scheme’s sectional plan filed at the deeds registry indicates the boundaries of each section, shown as solid lines.
If your section is on the ground floor and you decide to push out your bedroom into the garden area, you are almost certainly going to be extending the boundaries and floor area of your section and will be hit by the provisions of section 24 of the act.
It is possible to extend your section without actually extending the boundaries of your section. For example, if your section has a double-volume ceiling and you decide to build a mezzanine loft area within the section, you will be extending the floor area and section 24 of the act will apply. Even if you just use the loft area for storage space, you will have effectively extended the floor area of your section.
What authorisation do you need to get before you can legally extend your section? Section 24(3) of the act stipulates that owners must first obtain a special resolution of the body corporate authorising the proposed extensions before they are allowed to effect the alterations. This would involve putting a proposal to owners, normally via the trustees, and perhaps asking them for a general meeting where the proposal can be considered and voted on. Alternatively, you could send or take your proposed resolution to each owner individually and get written consents.
A special resolution can be passed at a general meeting of the body corporate, or by the necessary majority of owners agreeing in writing in what is known as a “round robin” procedure.
A special resolution at a meeting requires that a notice of the meeting, specifying the proposed resolution, must be sent to all persons entitled to attend general meetings, and at least 30 days’ notice must be given unless the trustees have decided that shorter notice is appropriate. At the meeting a quorum of persons entitled to vote must be present or represented; and of those present or represented and entitled to vote, 75 percent in number (by show of hands) and in value (75 percent of the participation quotas present or represented at the meeting) must vote in favour of the resolution.
A special resolution by round robin procedure requires that 75 percent in number and value of all owners must agree to the resolution in writing.
The special resolution might be approved only if it contains conditions that apply to your building operations, such as an obligation to pay a deposit to cover the body corporate against any damages it may suffer in the process. It may also approve the extension on the condition that you pay the body corporate a capital amount as compensation to other owners for the loss of the use of the common property that your extension will cover. The trustees should not sign any building plans for submission to the local authority until the required special resolution is obtained.
Your next step is to get the buildings completed to the point they can be measured. During this process you will need to liaise with the local authorities and ensure that all their requirements are met. You will need to instruct a land surveyor or architect to draw up a draft sectional plan of extension and submit this to the surveyor-general for approval. Once the surveyor-general has approved this plan, application must be made to the registrar of deeds to register the plan.
To find out about sectional title courses, call Kate on 021 674 7818 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org