Sectional title rules: What you need to know

You have just moved in and settled down, ready to plan a little house-warming party. Sounds great; what can we bring? But before you start drafting your guest list, priming your sound system and allocating parking areas for your guests, it’s crucial – whether you’re a tenant or owner – to check your complex conduct rules before transforming your peaceful living space into a war bunker.

It is important to know that a tenant may only be represented through his/her registered owner of the unit, as the Body Corporate does not normally enter into correspondence with a tenant.

It is essential to realize that there are two types of rules within a complex:

  • Management rules – which determine how the complex is governed.
  • Conduct rules – which determine how the residents should behave.

The conduct rules play a vital role in determining the harmonious lifestyle within a complex and when these are properly implemented, they can be very effective. The Trustees – duly elected by the Body Corporate members at an AGM – are given the task of implementing, and in some cases enforcing the rules. Therefore, you need Trustees that can play a pro-active role in their duties.

Often it happens that when an individual is taken to task, the defence mechanism is usually that of a counter attack. Representation to the trustees or managing agent should be done by the owner of the unit and not the tenant, as the owner of the unit is responsible for the actions of the tenant. Normal practice is that Trustees and the managing agent only correspond with the registered owner, considering the legal entity they have recourse over.

Trustees have a duty to act in the best interests of the complex at all times and they should set the example. If a member of the Body Corporate feels that an individual – regardless if he/she is a Trustee – is behaving outside the conduct rules, they are fully entitled to make a written representation to Trustees. Trustees would then be obliged to discipline their own if required.

The Trustees or managing agent usually sends the first written warning to the registered owner that some transgression has taken place and request that it be resolved. The second written warning will be firmer and usually advises the owner that if the situation is not resolved within a required time period then the Trustees will take further action, usually through an attorney. The third and final warning might be from an attorney, advising the owner that the situation has not been resolved and they demand that the matter be taken to arbitration. Owners who are in breach of the rules must be aware that the administration and legal costs will be recovered from them.

It’s therefore important to ensure that you’re fully aware of the rules within your sectional title complex and if you’re renting out your property, that your tenants are too.

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