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Sectional title schemes are usually designed as residential buildings and plans are submitted showing the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and lounges.

Parking will be shown on the building plans as garages or carports.

When buying into a sectional title scheme the buyer needs to understand that although they own the inside of the unit, they are not entirely free to do what they like with it.

We know that as a residential unit the buyer can let it out to a tenant or live there themselves.

In the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act, the covering law, there is no prohibition against whether that tenant’s lease is on an annual or monthly basis, though there is a lot of controversy as to whether weekly or overnight accommodation leases are allowed (it is considered by many to be running a business like a hotel).

What cannot be done would include:

  • Use the unit for business purposes (in a residential scheme). So, you could not let out a flat as a set of offices.
  • Use parts of the building for a purpose other than what they are designated for or the “normal” use of that part of the unit. So, for example, you cannot use a garage as a bedroom or office. You cannot change a one-bedroom flat into a two-bedroom flat by putting in a partition in the lounge.
  • You cannot make structural changes to the property without getting approval of the body corporate and making sure by way of an engineer’s report that it will not affect the structural strength of the building.
  • You may not extend a unit by, for example, enclosing the balcony unless it was shown as part of the unit on the sectional title plans – and even then, you need to remember that no changes can be made to the outside appearance of the building without approval of the body corporate which may impose a standard way of enclosing balconies.
  • In a similar way, you may not use the outside parts of the building to install solar panels, solar heaters, air-conditioning plants, or put Wendy houses in the garden without permission of the body corporate (which means all the owners, not just the trustees).

The purpose of these restrictions is to keep up the appearance and quality of the building.

Taking out inner walls while not seen by anyone might cause the building to collapse.

Adding extra bedrooms could well contradict building regulations or parking requirements or bulk.

Opening a business in a residential building could cause a serious security problem for the building.

Adding solar panels to the roof could cause structural problems, waterproofing problems and having different types, sizes and colours of panels might make a building look very untidy.

That is not to say that you cannot do any of these things, but rather that you must get permission from the other owners in your building and ensure that you comply with all structural and metro rules and regulations.

If you don’t do it in the correct way don’t cry when you are told to rectify the situation at your cost.

  • Mike Spencer is the founder of Platinum Global, a professional associated property valuer and consultant with work across the country as well as Eastern Europe and Australia. mike@platinumglobal.co.za

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