Buying in a sectional title scheme: Some important considerations


Over the last number of years, property buyers have increasingly looked to sectional title schemes – such as townhouse complexes – for their homes, and for investment properties. The sense of security brought by life in a townhouse complex and the attraction of communal facilities are factors that make sectional title living attractive to many.

However, in addition to the “homework” which every prospective purchaser should do before signing an Offer to Purchase, a person looking at buying in a sectional title scheme has additional important considerations to make, such as the following:

1. As a sectional title unit owner, you would share, with the other owners, on a proportional basis, the liabilities of the body corporate, whether they be municipal charges, the costs of maintenance, upkeep and upgrading of facilities, and the like. Therefore, the financial health of the body corporate must be of special interest to you. Always obtain copies of the body corporate’s financial statements for the preceding couple of years so that that health can be gauged before you buy into a struggling scheme.

2. It is important to familiarise yourself with your responsibility as an owner for payment of levies and ensure that you will be in a position to meet these commitments. Bear in mind that, though as an owner, you have a vote in electing the trustees of the body corporate, it is they – and not the owners – who will determine the levies payable, based on the needs of the scheme.

3. Special levies are sometimes raised to cover extraordinary expenses or upgrades. These can represent a considerable expense, especially if not foreseen or anticipated. Find out if any such special levies are foreseen. Responsibility for the special levy can be determined by agreement, but absent such an agreement, the owner at the time the special levy is raised, becomes responsible for payment.

4. Buying into a sectional title scheme, binds you to adhere to the Rules of the scheme – always ask for a copy, and familiarise yourself with the Rules first. You are bound by the Rules, even if you were not familiar with them!

5. Facilities such as a garage, carport or storeroom may not be “yours” in the strict sense – they might either constitute a Section in their own right, or an “exclusive use” area (a portion of common property allocated to you) or simply be assigned to you in terms of the Rules. Always check this to ensure that it is properly dealt with in the sale. Bear in mind that the nature of the facility may determine whether it can be bonded or not (facilities assigned in terms of the Rules cannot be bonded).

6. Pet-owners take note: many schemes prohibit pets, or certain kinds of animals. Don’t be taken by surprise.

As in all property transactions – be sure to seek professional advice from experienced conveyancing attorneys, and enter the sale with your eyes wide open!

For more information please contact Nicholas Mitchell at Goldberg de Villiers on 041 501 9800