Sectional title owners do not have the right to alter their properties indiscriminately

It is not yet widely appreciated in South Africa that if a person buys into a sectional title property and then wishes to make changes which can affect the aesthetics of the scheme or the “welfare” - a very general term - of others living in it, they have to receive the approval of the vast majority of those in their complex or in their estate.

Pointing this out recently, Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank, said,

“This ruling can be frustrating to those who believe that, having paid the purchase price, they have the freedom to do as they wish with the property - but the principle is ensconced in South African law and is unlikely to be changed.”

The whole sectional title issue, said Steward, has been brought into the light again by a case in the Helderberg where a homeowner wanted to establish a small commercial laundry in his garage but was initially prevented from doing so by an objection lodged by another resident on the estate. When the case was then taken to court, said Steward, the complainant was overruled as the judge decided that the laundry was beneficial to the estate as a whole and was accompanied by a very low security risk.

“Many of the rulings in the sectional title schemes relate to pets and noise,” said Steward, “but where people overstep the mark here, matters can usually be settled fairly quickly and without a great deal of fuss. When it comes to design and aesthetics alterations, however, the whole situation can be a great deal more serious.”

People opting for sectional title schemes should, said Steward, realise that they may well be restricted in one way or another by the simple fact that they are sharing homes and facilities with others, a reality recognised by sectional title law worldwide.

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