Window repairs to sectional title units

The owners of units in sectional title schemes are usually aware that it is the body corporate’s duty to maintain and, if necessary, repair all common property in their schemes while they themselves are responsible for all maintenance in their section.

“This,” says Michael Bauer, General Manager of IHFM in his latest sectional title newsletter, “is an easily understood concept – however, there is one grey area, the windows, about which we regularly have to sort out disputes.”

Why is this?

The reason, says Bauer, is that many owners are not familiar with the concept of the median line.

This concept, he says, lays it down that every unit has a median (middle) line running through its walls, floors and ceilings. Windows and doors can be situated either inside, outside or even on this median line.

If they are inside the line, their maintenance is the responsibility of the owner – if outside, they will be the responsibility of the body corporate. If the window is on the median line, the owner and the body corporate are jointly responsible for its upkeep. (There have, says Bauer, even been cases where the architect designed the window to be on one side or the other only to find that the contractor has placed them in a position of his own choosing.)

An amendment to the Sectional Title Act of 1986, which is now being considered, proposes that any feature in a building wall, ceiling or floor, shall in future be considered part of the structure of the building and therefore is the body corporate’s responsibility.

These issues may seem rather trivial, said Bauer, but they are not – and the reason for this is that on many of the older blocks the window frames in walls have become inefficient, allowing both draughts and moisture to penetrate and cause damage to the inside of the section and in some cases even to neighbouring units.

“The costs of repairing or replacing windows have been known to run into hundreds of thousands of rands,” said Bauer, “so it becomes important as to who will carry these costs. The great advantage of the body corporate doing this is that they can usually raise a special levy to replace windows (or build up a reserve) and then spread the required investment over many months’ levies.”

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