Written for Property Poser

Our Property Poser panel has dealt with the calculation of levies in a sectional title complex in a previous article, but, as this week’s reader question shows, it remains a sensitive issue.

The reader lives in a complex where, over the span of nine years, eight special levies have been authorised. At the last annual general meeting (AGM) an increase of about 40% in respect of the normal monthly levy was voted on and approved.

Unfortunately the reader also admits to not attending the meeting. It appears that new trustees were voted into power and thereafter the increase in the monthly levy was passed.

One of the responsibilities when dealing with “complex living” is to be part of the process, warns Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in Port Elizabeth. “Ensure that you are an informed and actively participating sectional title owner – and start by attending meetings.

“This way the owner will be able to determine if the rules have been followed – for instance whether a quorum was present, what the breakdown of the levy is and whether the budget was calculated correctly.”

Vermaak says the reader was told that the special levy had been raised since there were not sufficient funds available for “emergency use”. “Many owners think that because they were not consulted by the trustees or did not vote in favour of a special levy, that it was invalidly raised.

“Keep in mind,” says Vermaak, “that the trustees may from time to time raise special levies for expenses which are necessary, but were not budgeted for in the estimated expenditure approved at the previous AGM.”

Jacques Ehlers from Du Toit Strömbeck Attorneys in PE says it is important to note that the trustees only have the power to raise special levies for genuinely necessary and unbudgeted expenses. “Where a special levy is passed year after year, one has to question whether the annual budget is being calculated correctly.”

Ehlers says, according to the reader, one of the special levies raised over the years was in respect of the varnishing of the wooden window frames. “When she moved into the complex, she was informed that maintenance work to be done to windows or doors facing west would be for her own account.

“To avoid such maintenance, she replaced her unit’s window frames with aluminium ones – despite the fact that, ostensibly, the information given to her was incorrect.”

Ehlers says the responsibility of maintaining window frames, at least on the outside (since this forms part of the common property), falls squarely on the body corporate, regardless of the direction in which these windows face.

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