Responsibilities of Owners and Body Corporates
I do a fair amount of inspections in sectional title schemes. Often, owners ask me if body corporates will pay for repairs inside their units. Obviously, their concern is about damage caused by external factors such as rainstorms, burst geysers and so on.
Each case is usually based on its merits. Usually, the body corporate’s trustees use their discretion when deciding to whom they allocate the cost of repairs and replacement. However, there are many grey areas and the differences between the owner’s and body corporate’s liability and responsibility.
The Body Corporate’s obligations
Body corporates are responsible for the repairs and maintenance and upkeep of the common properties.
Furthermore, the body corporate maintains all pipes, ducts, wiring etc. for the common property and services to more than one unit.
Your obligations as an owner of a section
You must maintain and keep in good state your section. Moreover, you must also keep any part of the common property to which you have the right neat and tidy. These are exclusive use areas such as gardens, patios, balconies, parking areas, garages etc.
You are responsible for the costs and remedy of all damages to your section. However, you can claim against another owner and or the body corporate if the damage resulted from an external factor.
Your body corporates won’t get involved if you have a dispute with another owner.
You should refer a dispute with another owner to the Ombud at the Community Schemes Ombud Service. However, with claims against the body corporate’s insurance, the body corporate will get involved.
If you have a complaint or a dispute with the body corporate that is not being resolved you should get hold of the newly formed Community Schemes Ombud Service as well!
Specific disputed items between owners and body corporates
You and the body corporate normally share the costs of replacement or repair on a 50/50 basis. However, if you are negligent the body corporate may refuse to pay half the costs of the damage repair or replacement. Similarly, if the body corporate is negligent you may refuse to pay half the costs.
In some of the body corporate’s rules, you will have to replace or repair your windows at your own expense. Therefore, you will need to check the copy of the body corporate rules before you claim.
Furthermore, body corporates will use the 50/50 split when negligence is difficult to prove.
The cost of repair or replacement is usually your responsibility. Ultimately, there are very few exceptions.
The cost of the excess normally outweighs the cost of and is often not worth claiming for, as the cost of the excess outweighs the cost of replacement. Obviously, it’s your responsibility if you don’t close or tighten a window and panes are broken.
The body corporate will probably pay for panes on a split on a 50/50 basis in most cases.
Geysers are normally included in insurance policies as fixtures.
However, the Sectional Titles Act points out that if a geyser services only your unit then you should maintain it. But having said that geysers are also fixtures.
All insurance policies differentiate between burst and leaking geysers, water, sewerage and drainage pipes. In addition, insurance policies cover any consequential damage caused as a result of either leaking or a burst geysers.
If a geyser bursts, you may claim from the insurer and will be liable for the excess. Notwithstanding, the age of the geyser may determine the excess.
You will probably pay an excess for claims against the body corporate’s insurance policy.
If a geyser bursts you as the owner should have a new geyser installed. You should then claim from your complex’s insurer. In addition, if consequential damaged has occurred you should claim that as well. As the owner, you will have to pay the excess in terms of the claim.
If a geyser leaks, you will have to have it repaired and claim for consequential damages if there are any. Firstly, check if the insurance policy covers geyser leaks. If it does you will be liable for the excess payment.
You are responsible for repairs and maintenance to all internal doors in your unit.
With external doors, the body corporate will have to inspect the doors with you to determine liability and responsibility. Usually, the 50/50 rule applies on the same basis as windows if the liability and responsibility cannot be determined.
The body corporate may replace external doors on a 50/50 basis including doors to common property or to exclusive use areas unless the body corporate rules state otherwise.
Trees and Shrubs
Your body corporate normally maintains or removes trees or shrubs.
However, you must maintain trees and shrubs in exclusive use areas if you enjoy the rights to that area. On the other hand, the removal of trees and shrubs are usually the responsibility of the body corporate.
Roofs, Exterior Walls and Foundations
The roof, the outside walls and foundations are all part of the common property. Therefore, if water and damp problems originate from the roof, the foundations or through an outside wall, the body corporate is responsible for any work necessary to stop a water leak, and for the cost of those repairs, in terms of Section 37 of the Sectional Titles Act.
The owners of sections, where there has been interior damage as a result of water seeping in from common property, are entitled to expect the body corporate to also pay for the costs of those repairs. Usually, the body corporate can claim from insurance if the leak and resulting damages are the results of an unusual event such as a severe storm.
Regular maintenance that should be undertaken by body Corporates
The body corporate, by law, should have 10-year maintenance plans in operation. As an owner of a section, you should insist this plan be given to you and that the following routine maintenance is done routinely:
- Gutters and Downpipes: Clean out and inspect for damage
- Roofs and Flashing: Inspect and repair
- External Geysers: Inspect, drain and descale
- Fire Extinguishers: Inspect and recharge
- Storm Drains: Inspect and clean
- Lawn Sprinklers: Inspect, test, replace heads, and reset timers
- Exterior Doors: Inspect weatherstripping, thresholds, hinges
- Parking Area and Driveways: Inspect for cracks and potholes
- Carports: Inspect for corrosion, damaged covering and lighting
- Balcony and Stairwell Balustrading: Inspect for secure fastening
- The exterior of buildings: Inspect for wood rot, loose or damaged fascia and barge boards, paint deterioration and cracks.
- Checking of the lifts: If applicable, by the service provider
- Tree trimming: Instruct the garden service
- Drain and waste pipes: Leaks, damage and clearing of roots that may damage the drains
- Boundary walls: paint deterioration and cracks.
- Swimming Pools: Inspect filters, timers and pumps and pipework and adjust
- Exterior, Common Area and Signage Lighting: Inspect and adjust timers or photocells.
- Pest control: This is especially important if your complex has problems with termites and other pests
- Servicing of the electric fence: This including removing/cutting back vegetation that may damage the fence
- Gates and gate motors: This includes the main gates, pedestrian gates and gates leading into private use areas.
- Swimming pool fencing and gates: All fences and gates at swimming pools have to be in working condition and conform to safety requirements.
If you are unsure about any item mentioned above always refer to the registered body corporate rules and sectional title plans.
Inspected Once, Inspected Right!®