Written for YourProperty

The question posed to our Property Poser panel this week revolves around the issue of the liability to maintain the various areas that a sectional title complex consist of.

Our reader states that he understands the maintenance in respect of the outside area of the complex to be the responsibility of the body corporate.

He specifically raises the issue of ants infesting the paving in respect of the patio and pathway of his unit and wants to know what the position will be should they come into his unit and cause damage.

Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in Port Elizabeth says each owner in a sectional title complex is responsible for his/her section and the maintenance and repairs required in terms thereof. “This is therefore the part of the sectional title scheme over which there is exclusive ownership.”

Vermaak says this exclusive ownership must be compared to the so-called common property of the complex.

“This is essentially the rest of the property in the sectional title scheme. A simple definition will include the outside shell of the building, the roof, foundations as well as gardens, courtyards, parking areas and so on.”

However, says Vermaak, one further distinction one has to draw is that of “exclusive use areas”.

“This is really just a part of the common property that is exclusively used by the owner of a section in the scheme. Again, gardens and parking areas are a good example of such an exclusive use area.”

In terms of the liability of maintenance, says Vermaak, it becomes clear that anything on the outside is to be maintained by the body corporate and this includes the exclusive use areas.

Rian du Toit from Du Toit Strömbeck Attorneys in PE says ants infesting the paving outside the reader’s unit fall within the ambit of that which is to be maintained by the body corporate on the same basis upon which it is obliged to tend to the mowing of the lawns.

“As the infestation of ants is already causing some damage to the paving by removing its substrate, possibly eventually resulting in its partial collapse, it is foreseeable that the same ants, if not checked, could cause similar damage to our reader’s unit.”

Du Toit says the reader’s recourse could be strengthened if he presents his concerns regarding the ants – and potential consequential damage should the problem not be addressed timeously – to the body corporate in writing.

“In fairness, with ants being a natural occurrence, the infestation should be in reasonable proximity to the reader’s unit in order for it to be accepted that the same infestation is causing problems and that the ants are an extension of this initial infestation,” says Du Toit.

“Ants marching in from outside the scheme with the sole intent of settling, and subsequently doing so, on the reader’s unit could not fall within the scope of the body corporate’s responsibilities.”

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