O-YES Properties | The conduct rules causing the most headaches in Sectional Title Schemes

The conduct rules causing the most headaches in Sectional Title Schemes

Community scheme living can be challenging as it often involves people from diverse backgrounds and with different personal preferences. Issues that become a point of contention involve noise disturbance, the keeping of pets, parking problems and refuse disposal, to name only a few.

The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act (STSMA) has prescribed rules known as conduct rules, which schemes can apply to curb some of these issues. The Act also allows for schemes to add or amend these rules. This is especially helpful considering schemes are not alike and certain rules may not be relevant in their prescribed area, advises Stonewood Property Management.  

So how do schemes change their conduct rules?

Changes to these rules can be proposed to the members at a special general meeting. For the meeting to commence a quorum of 33.33% of the registered members must be present in person or by proxy.

Proposed changes are approved when 75% of the votes are in favour of the proposal. This 75% is calculated as a percentage of the quorum. Once the changes have been approved, it must be submitted to the offices of the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS) for review and approval. A certificate will be issued by CSOS confirming the changed rules. The rules only become enforceable once this certificate has been issued.

The prescribed conduct rules

Issues that schemes mostly have problems with are known in the industry as the three P’s: pets, parking and people. The rules that deal with these aspects are:  

1. The first P: Pets

While not all schemes are conducive to having pets in the apartments, this rule allows occupants to keep pets as long as they have written approval from the trustees. In considering these applications, the trustees must be reasonable and consider aspects such as the conditions in which the pet will be housed and whether there are other pets in the complex.

The conduct rules will also determine the number of pets you are allowed.  

It is important to note that, in terms of section 39(2)(b) of the CSOSA, if  an animal kept in a private area or on common areas is causing a nuisance or a hazard or is unduly interfering with someone else’s peaceful use and enjoyment of his or her private area or common area, the application may be made for an order requiring the owner or occupier in charge of the animal to take specified action to remedy the nuisance, hazard or interference, or to remove the animal.

The trustees can retract permission previously granted if the circumstances and conditions in which the pet is housed are found to be unacceptable. Residents who have disabilities and rely on dogs for assistance do not have to obtain explicit approval from the trustees to house the animal. 

2. The second P: Parking

Parking on scheme grounds is always a hot topic, especially in large complexes where there is never enough parking, making it hard to manage as trustees. The relevant conduct rule states that vehicles must be parked in designated parking bays and may not be parked on common property.

Visitors must also park in designated visitor bays and not on common property, or in bays belonging to other residents.

Michael Bauer, managing director of property company SAProperty.com says Conduct Rule 3 of the Sectional Title Schemes Management Regulations clearly states that “[t]he owner or occupier of a section must not, except in a case of emergency, without the written consent of the trustees, park a vehicle, allow a vehicle to stand or permit a visitor to park or stand a vehicle on any part of the common property other than a parking bay allocated to that section or a parking bay”.

However, Rule 3(2) does make allowance for special conditions where vehicles are allowed to park in non-demarcated areas or parking bays allocated to their section, stating that “[a] consent under sub-rule (1) must state the period for which it is given”.

This is self-explanatory, it should not be an indefinite period and the owners of the vehicle are required to adhere to the rule and remove their vehicle when told to do so or when the time is up.

3. The third P: People

‘People’ relate to the behaviour of occupiers and visitors in the complex. This rule requires residents to keep noise levels to a minimum and to take responsibility for their visitors. It further stipulates that the use of common property may not be to the detriment of any other residents.

Aside from the three P’s, there are five further rules providing guidance on how to effectively govern behaviour in sectional title schemes. These are:

4. Waste disposal

Refuse disposal that is not controlled can lead to very undesirable conditions. Residents are responsible for placing their refuse in bins in the designated refuse area and are not allowed to leave any refuse on the common property as this may pose a health and safety risk to other residents.

5. Damage to common property

Anton Kelly, Sectional title and homeowners' association specialist firm at Paddocks, says the basic maintenance and repair responsibilities are set out in the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act “the Act” in Section 3, Functions of the body corporate and Section 13, Duties of owners. The body corporate must maintain all the common property and keep it in a state of good and serviceable repair, and an owner must repair and maintain his or her section in a state of good repair.

Of course, failure to maintain the property for which one is responsible often has an adverse effect on other property. Examples are leaking roofs and showers that damage the sections below. But not all damage is caused by neglect, says Kelly.

The common property in a scheme belongs to the owners in undivided shares. Therefore, owners are not allowed to deface the common property unless they have the approval to do so. Permission is automatically granted for the installation of protective items, such as burglar bars, given that the materials being used have been approved by the body corporate.

Owners who deface common property in any manner will be held liable for the costs of reinstating the common property facade.

6. The appearance of the section and exclusive use area

This is similar to the previous rule in that it also deals with common property and exclusive use areas. Installing items on common property or exclusive use areas may not be done unless approved by the trustees. Trustees need to check if they are actually authorised to grant such permission via special general meeting or not.

7. Storage of flammable materials

As per the building’s insurance policy, residents are only allowed to store certain flammable items in their units or exclusive use areas. Any flammable material other than gas cylinders for domestic heating, and fuel for generators and vehicles, may only be stored if trustees have given their express permission.

8. Pest control

Owners are responsible for pest control inside their unit. Wooden flooring, for example, requires regular inspections to identify wood borer species and to address any possible damage.

Owners who do not attend to this requirement can be forced to do so by the trustees and will be held responsible for any damage caused. Left untreated, it can spread to other units in the complex, causing further damage.

Finally

Managing a scheme with many owners can be challenging, especially if a scheme does not adhere to its rules to guide them. The rules can only be effective if it was carefully composed and designed to best serve the specific needs of the body corporate.

While it is vital that trustees are involved in drawing up the rules, it is also prudent to enlist the valuable help of a sectional title attorney.

Courtesy of Property24

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This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)