Section Title Schemes

Responsibilities of Owners and Body Corporates

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.

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.

Window Frames:

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.

Window Panes:

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:

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.

Doors:

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.  The 50/50 rule may apply 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.

Regular maintenance that should be undertaken by body Corporates

As an owner of a section, you should insist that the following routine maintenance be done routinely:

Every Year

  • 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

Each Quarter

  • 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

If you are unsure about any item mentioned above always refer to the registered body corporate rules and sectional title plans.

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Boundary Walls

Preventing and Repairing Cracks in Boundary Walls

Damaged boundary walls around your property can spoil the whole look and feel of your property. Furthermore, cracked and leaning walls can also pose a danger to passers-by should the wall fall over.

boundary wall
This was a wall that was butt jointed against the neighbour’s wall. The danger here is that when the wall falls over portions of the wall will be spread over the pavement and possibly into the road. If a pedestrian is close by serious injury could result!

This article explains the correct way to repair boundary walls and install expansion joints!

Firstly, if your walls have ugly cracks and broken plasterwork and brickwork at the expansion joints do not plaster them up as shown in the photos below!

boundary wall
This expansion joint was chopped open and plastered up. The joint will crack at the joint again. This is a waste of time and money and will cause more problems than before!

Furthermore, the work done on these boundary walls will result in more cracking in the walls!

Many boundary walls and retaining walls may fail prematurely due to the lack of provision for movement. However, this is usually not a fault in the materials used, but usually a lack of proper design. Even when the design is correct, the construction of the boundary wall and expansion joints are often faulty.

What is an expansion joint?

It is a separation between two portions of the same structure. A butt joint in a boundary wall is not an expansion joint!

Expansion joints in boundary walls

When building a boundary wall, an expansion joint is a separation designed to relieve stress on building materials caused by movement induced by thermal expansion and contraction. They are therefore specifically provided in boundary walls to avoid cracks occurring in the wall.

Temperature changes and seasonal changes mostly cause the movement in the boundary walls. However, expansion joints also permit movement due to ground settlement, seismic events and expansive soils.

Many factors dictate how much brickwork will move due to temperature changes. Firstly, the orientation, geographical location and exposure to the elements of a wall will be a major influence.

Correspondingly, the brick type and the strength of the mortar also plays a part. Each unit will expand when heated by the sun and contract at night or due to cold weather. However, over a short distance, the total movement may be insignificant.

Whereas, over longer distances, something will have to take the strain of the expansion and contraction. Preferably, this will be an easily compressible joint. Furthermore, in boundary walling, unlike larger structures, there is not the mass of brickwork to restrict thermal movement. Consequently, the distance required between expansion joints should be a maximum of 5 to 6 metres. In addition, at a corner or change of direction, a joint should be provided at a maximum distance of 2.5 – 3 metres.

How is an expansion joint constructed?

Firstly, they must start at the foundation level and continue vertically through coping or capping courses. At the same time, joints should not be less than 6mm or wider than 25mm. Furthermore, never leave the gap of expansion joints open. A joint should be watertight by filling it with a compressible material. Notably, the compressible material should be built into the joint in the wall during construction. This is to avoid mortar projections within the joint and filling of the joint with mortar which would render the joint ineffective.

The following materials are required to render the expansion joint watertight

Joint fillers:

The joint filler should be a tight-fitting compressible material in the gap. However, Softboard or similar boards must not be used for brickwork expansion joints. Builder’s merchants stock purpose made foam rubbers or sheets of polystyrene that can be used for this purpose. Specialised Polyethylene, Polyurethane and Polypropylene joint fillers are available as well.

expansion joint
This an example of a closed cell polypropylene foam joint filler that can be obtained and used.

Sealing compounds:

The function of sealants is to seal the joint against the passage of moisture and to prevent the ingress of dust, grit or other foreign matter into the joint. In addition, it should be insoluble and readily workable.  The use of mastic or silicon sealing compounds is ideal for this.

boundary wall
The sealant used in this expansion joint was a grey mastic sealant. Different colours of sealants are available.

How does an expansion joint work?

For example, when a boundary wall heats up, the building materials used to build it expand.  As a result, this causes the expansion joint to close, thereby compressing the expansion joint system installed in the gap.

Conversely, when the temperature drops, the materials cool causing the joint gap to open.  For this reason, this requires the movement of the joint material to expand to follow the joint movement.

If boundary walls do not have any expansion joints they need to be installed! Cut two joints 12 to 25mm apart on both sides of the wall with an angle grinder, with the joints spaced as discussed above. Chop out the material between the two cuts to form a clear gap through the wall.

When boundary walls or expansion joints fail

Expansion joints fail for many reasons:

The most common reason for cracks and the failure of boundary walls are the lack of expansion joints. Walls with butt joints can fail as well.

no expansion joints
There were no movement joints provided in this boundary wall at all!

Incorrectly constructed expansion joints are another reason for expansion joint failure. Either incorrect joint fillers and sealants are used, or none are used at all. Furthermore, the joint is often plastered over and a joint ruled at the joint. The result of all this incorrect application is that the joint is partially or completely filled up with mortar. Likewise, adhesion loss of the sealant and loss of elasticity of the sealant and joint filler can, over time, result in the tearing of the sealant. This may allow debris and dust to enter and fill the joint.

Cracked walls, leaning walls and the spalling or shattering of the brickwork at the joint can be the result of joint failure.

Repairing expansion joints in boundary walls

Tools and materials required:

  • Grinder and cutting blades 
  • Block brush (for cleaning out the joints)
  • Paint brushes (for applying bonding liquid and primers)
  • Masking tape 
  • Foam backing strip
  • Bonding liquid
  • Plaster sand (plastered boundary walls only)
  • Cement
  • Bricks and building sand (depending on the damage to the wall)
  • Recommended sealant (by sealant manufacturers or local hardware supplier)
  • Primer (if required)
  • Slightly tapered wooden battens
  • Caulking gun
  • Safety equipment ie Dust masks, eye protection etc.

The process of repairing expansion joints

Most sealant manufactures recommend the following process:

  1. If the wall is a plastered wall, use a grinder with a diamond blade disc to remove all existing material and vee out the edges of the nosings on both sides of the joint.
  2. If the wall is a fair-faced (face brick or semi-face brick) wall the process is somewhat different. Broken and shattered bricks will have to be carefully removed and replaced with the same or similar face bricks.
  3. Clean and wash out all the debris and dust so that the joint is completely open through the wall. With fair-faced boundary walls go to Step 8.
  4. Thoroughly apply a good quality bonding liquid to the vee shaped portions of the joint
  5. Apply diesel or a release agent onto the slightly tapered wooden batten and position it in the joint.
  6. Trowel a 1: 4  cement plaster mortar with some plaster primer mixed in and plaster up to the former to rebuild the expansion joint nosings. In addition, make sure to fill in all the empty spaces with mortar.
  7. Once the plastering has cured, carefully remove the wooden former from the joint.
  8. Insert the foam backing strip into the joint
  9. Cover the sides of the joint with masking tape.
  10. Using the sealant primer (if required), condition the internal parts of the joint up to the backing strip.
  11. Fill the joint with the recommended sealant using a chaulking (silicone) gun.
  12. Smooth out the surface, leaving it slightly concave and allow the joint sealant to cure.
  13. Remove the masking tape. At this stage fair-faced expansion joints are complete.
  14. For painted and plastered boundary walls, using a conventional paint roller, apply a plaster primer, followed by an undercoat over the expansion joint repair area.
  15. The repaired areas or the whole wall can now be repainted after the rest of the wall has been suitably cleaned.

Importantly, don’t forget to treat the top of the boundary wall in the same manner!

Fixing cracks in the Boundary wall

Any cracks that have occurred in the boundary wall as the result of defective or lack of expansion joints will have to be repaired. Cracks will allow rainwater to penetrate in the wall causing moisture damage and require additional maintenance.

fixing cracks
Don’t fix cracks by chopping the open and replastering them as shown here! They will crack at the patches again!

Repair cracks as follows:

Plastered brickwork

Reinforce the wall across the cracked area.

  1. Remove the plaster approximately 75 to 150 mm on each side of the crack and remove all debris and dust.
  2. Nail a strip of expanded metal or chicken mesh the width of the area to the wall and wet the wall.
  3. Force the plaster mortar into the area and work it to match the surrounding plastered area.
  4. Allow a drying period to repaint the wall between expansion joints in the wall.
fixing cracks
Chicken mesh or expanded metal fixed over the crack before plastering over the crack.

Fair-faced brickwork

Cracks in fair-faced walls pose a different challenge!

  1. Here you will need to remove the mortar joints across the crack for about 50mm deep and between 150mm and 200mm on either side.
  2. Drill holes another 50mm deep, one on each side.
  3. Then insert epoxy and a reinforcing bar with the ends bent up in a U shape into the holes.
  4. Repoint the joint with mortar.
Repairing face brick walls
This is a typical stairstep crack in a boundary wall. In this case, the section of the wall should be demolished and rebuilt with a proper expansion joint!

Alternatively, remove the brickwork around the crack is and re-instate the brickwork if you can find the same or similar face bricks or reuse some of the existing bricks.

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Seller Mistakes

estate agents

Critical Home Seller Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

By Kay Pascale.

Selling your home is one of the most important life-changing decisions you’ll make. It’s both personal and financial, and the stress of the home sale process can leave you open to some critical, and costly, mistakes. Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Choosing the Wrong Real Estate Agents

The second most ill-advised choice, beyond trying to sell your own house, is the wrong choice of estate agents. Properly-vetted estate agents, with proven sales records, can help you with many of the costly legal requirements of property transfer as well as avoiding the myriad of pitfalls of a poorly marketed home. Consult several local estate agents and ask each how they would market your home. Also, ask for a comparative marketing analysis that would give you the values of homes in your area.

Poor Staging

Part of a successful home sale is the attractive staging of the property. Decluttering your home will allow the potential buyer to visualize themselves in the home. Putting your extra clutter from the garage, attic, and even some of the main rooms of your home in storage will make your home feel more spacious to the buyer.

Small upgrades like fresh paint and home repairs are necessary to secure the best price for your home. The basics of home maintenance give the buyer confidence in your home as their choice. Keeping your home picture-perfect and ready at a moment’s notice for a showing can greatly improve the likelihood of a successful and quick sale. A well-staged home ready for viewing will get the most potential buyers for your home.

Pricing Your House Too High

Pricing your home too high is one of the costliest and time-delaying mistakes. Too high a price can turn off buyers and delay the sale of your home. Each subsequent lowering of your sale price will put you in a more vulnerable position in negotiating an optimum home sale price.

Not Giving a 90-Day Notice

One of the legal pitfalls that good estate agents can help you avoid is not giving a 90-day notice of cancellation to the bank. This is a costly mistake since it results in a penalty of 1% on the remaining balance on the bond for the full 90 days.

Forgetting to Secure Your Funds for a Down Payment on Your New Home

Once you give a cancellation notice on the bond, your bank will freeze the funds. If you need those funds for a down payment, it could jeopardize the purchase of your new home. The cancelled bond will pay out usually in 10 weeks. Withdrawing the necessary funds for your purchase before giving a cancellation notice would avoid a costly delay.

In the End

It’s essentially the researched choice of an experienced estate agent that will help you avoid critical and costly mistakes when you sell your home. Take the time to choose the right agent, so you can feel confident in relying on their guidance during the entire home sale process. When you’re ready to find your dream home, speak to an experienced agent who can help you sell your current place and move on to your next adventure in life.

Note: Kay Pascale is a writer on the subject of real estate and will be contributing more interesting and informative articles towards my blog.

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » home inspection blog

Weekend Projects

Weekend Projects to Increase Resale Value

by Kay Pascale

resale-value

If you’re trying to increase the resale value of your home, there are probably more than a few side projects you want to finish before putting the house on the market for all to see. While some of these, like any kind of roof maintenance, are true renovations that likely require the help and vision of an expert, there remain some weekend projects that you can complete in a single weekend. Here are a few tips to help increase the resale value of your house.

Fix Outdoor Landscaping to Improve Curb Appeal

The first thing potential buyers will see when they walk up to your home is the landscaping. Do trees and bushes look overgrown? Is the lawn too long, or are there unsightly stumps and plants littering the yard? A little prevention in the form of weeding, gardening, watering, and trimming will have the front of your house looking immaculate and inviting to potential buyers. According to Home-Dzine, your lawn is probably one of the first things someone will notice about your house. Therefore, keep your grass trimmed, remove dead branches, and plant some flowers for a pop of colour.

Clean Your Gutters

Power washing the walls and the driveway is a great way to make your home look well cared for. This allows your house to stand out in a positive way from the rest of the houses on your street. Moreover, Gutters are often overlooked when cleaning up the outside of a home because you can’t see them from ground level. But rest assured it will make a big difference.

Make Any Necessary Repairs

Repairs can easily be completed in the span of a weekend. In addition, to ensure that there are no visible red flags, have a walkthrough or seller’s inspection. This will pinpoint any areas that need to be worked on prior to selling the home. Things that may be simply annoying to you might be deal breakers for a buyer. In particular, leaky taps, mould damage, or a faulty light switch could be the difference between that SOLD sign and spending weeks or even months languishing on the market.

Update with Fresh Paint to Increase Resale Value

The project around the house that will have the greatest impact is a fresh coat of paint in each room. Go for neutral, on-trend colours like beige or grey. However, if you want to appeal to the most buyers stay away from any colour that could be considered controversial. New paint makes the house look well tended and clean, and it’s one of the easiest projects you can complete in a weekend. If you don’t have time to paint the entire house, then stick to one or two common areas for the biggest bang for your buck.

Note: Kay Pascale is a writer on the subject of real estate and will be contributing more interesting and informative articles towards my blog.

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » home inspection blog

Renting Out a Home

renting

6 Major Things to Know Before Renting Out a Home

By Kay Pascale

With the rising rate of short-term and long-term rentals, there’s a lack of knowledge when it comes to what exactly needs to be done. Different scenarios for renting out your home could yield different challenges. Overall, if you’re deciding to rent out a home to others, there are some basics you should know before you market the home to find a tenant.

1. Pay Attention to Your Home’s Exterior

If you don’t think the exterior of your home matters, think again. Houses are instantly judged just by how the outside looks. If a home looks clean and manicured from the outside, potential renters will remember it and have a more positive outlook before seeing the inside. Although keeping up your curb appeal may be demanding for you and your wallet, you can follow some simple tips to manage the toll nature may take on your home and achieve a beautiful look.

2. Understand Indoor Mechanics

The inside of your home goes a bit beyond just looking nice. You need to be prepared for questions about appliances, recent updates, home improvement projects, and how well the working parts are doing within the home. Specifically, air quality can be a huge question among potential renters. Become educated on indoor air quality and other mechanics of your home so that future tenants can feel safe inside.

3. Learn About Required Legal Actions

Before renting out a house, know that there are some legal actions that need to be addressed if you’re becoming a landlord. Things like insurance and the Rental Housing Amendment Act are good places to start. There are also specific taxes that need to be considered and extra taxation claims to your personal account. Seeing a professional may be a good way to make sure your legal odds and ends are covered.

4. Lease Writing Is Not Simple

Writing a lease is a way to cover your rights as an owner and your tenant’s rights within your home. There is a multitude of things that need to be evaluated and thought about in detail when writing the lease. Leasing terms can be monthly or yearly—it depends on how long you’re planning to rent. Other things like security deposits, regulations, pet policies, utility payments, and behaviour expectations can all go in the lease.

5. Figure Out Pricing

Setting a price on rent is very tricky. You want to make sure you’re getting a profit from all the money you’re putting into the home, but you don’t want to price the home too high. If your home is priced too high, it may turn off potential buyers. As a result, you may need to experiment with pricing and seeing if tenants will take the prices you set; this may be a long process so you’ll have to make sure your patience is in order too.

6. Prepare for Eviction and Lease-Breaking

There’s always the unfortunate circumstance of eviction. People are not always as cooperative as you wish and sometimes they change their mind. However, if you’re prepared for these unfortunate circumstances before they arise, they aren’t as bad as you may think. Ask a professional what can happen to you and your money if you have to evict someone. It’s good to figure out what lengths you’ll need to go to if you get brought to court as a homeowner. Therefore, it’s also important to figure out what actions can be taken before it gets to this point.

Note: Kay Pascale is a writer on the subject of real estate and will be contributing more interesting and informative articles towards my blog.

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » home inspection blog