Of pipes and old defects

Question:

My sectional title units consist of two sections converted into one. My scullery was previously a bathroom that was converted by the previous owners. I have been living there for more than three years.

The problem is that the water that was going out from my scullery has been leaking into the flat below and dampening the walls to the section next to mine. After many visits from various plumbers, one finally managed to sort out the problem. According to him there was a blocked pipe therefore the water wasn’t going through and because of the previous renovation the other end of the pipe was not sealed hence it started leaking out that way as it could go through the block.

Please advise if I am responsible for the damage seeing as the blocked pipe was an outlet pipe and the renovations were done before I bought the place.

Is the body corporate not responsible for the pipes in the walls?

Answer:

The law relating to pipes in sectional title schemes is as follows:

  • If the pipe is part of your section (i.e. within the median line) it is your responsibility unless the pipe serves a number of parts of the scheme (i.e. more than one section), then it is the body corporate's responsibility.
  • If the pipe is outside your section (i.e. on the common property) the body corporate must maintain and repair it even if it only serves your section.
    I suggest you find out whether the pipe forms part of the common property, in which case it is the body corporate’s responsibility, or whether it forms part of your section. If it forms part of your section and only serves your section then you are responsible for it, but if it forms part of your section and serves more than one section then the body corporate is responsible for it.

If you do find that the pipe forms part of your section and only serves your section, the fact that the previous owners effected the renovations does not mean that you are not responsible to repair the pipe. When you purchase a property you "inherit" any defects in it from the previous owner.

You may have a contractual claim against the previous owners for any money you spend on rectifying the defect, but the chances are that the legal costs of pursuing such a claim may well outweigh the amount of the claim.

Article by: Jennifer Clements - www.paddocks.co.za