The first and main article is loosely based upon a seminar presented to STASWEST during March 2014 and it covers the ins and outs of alterations by owners of sections in a sectional title scheme. As an introduction three important points to keep in mind are highlighted when it comes to alterations to the common property by owners:
- Alterations or improvements by owners do not equate to improvements to the common property effected by the body corporate, even if such ‘private’ alterations should affect the common property. Accordingly the provisions of Management Rule 33 in respect of luxurious and non-luxurious improvements do not apply.
- Trustees do not have superpowers to issue consents left, right and centre in respect of any request that comes their way. Before they consider a matter they should check by which provisions, if any, of the Act or the rules the particular situation is regulated, whether in fact the trustees are endowed with powers, and what the requirements are.
- Municipal approval of a building alteration, if applicable, is only one of the requirements with which an owner must comply. The approval of a building plan does not lend carte blanche to an owner to proceed with his project. This misconception stems from a continuing misconstruction that the municipality is the supreme authority in respect of sectional title schemes, whereas the body corporate in fact is. Of course the body corporate does not exercise such authority in a vacuum but within the parameters set by the Act and the rules.
With this in mind the procedures and principles regarding the following typical ‘private’ alterations by owners, indicating whether or not trustees have authority to grant consent, are discussed:
- Extensions of sections;
- Closure of balconies (part of a section);
- Internal alterations, not affecting PQ;
- Structures on Exclusive Use Areas;
- Chimneys, flues, ducts, plumbing and wiring;
- Minor external fixtures (locks, burglar bars, safety gates, screens)
- Other external fixtures (TV dishes, air conditioners, awnings, etc.)
- Subdivision/consolidation of sections.
In his second article Tertius covers the imposition of penalties on levy defaulters and the disturbing tendency which has taken root for owners to be penalised for their arrear levies with the imposition of a fine. In "Learning to count: Part 2", Tertius continues with his discussion of the different counting requirements prescribed for establishing a quorum and for counting votes.