A reader, who is considering purchasing one of two potential properties in different complexes, wants to know whether she can replace wooden window frames with lower-maintenance aluminium ones.
According to her, one unit forms part of a sectional title scheme while the other is a freehold property where a Homeowners’ Association (HOA) is involved.
When a permanent structure is built on a piece of land, the owner of the land becomes the owner of the structure.
See the reader’s question here.
To create and give ownership in respect of various buildings on a single piece of land to different owners, a sectional title ownership structure is created and registered.
Thus, when someone buys a unit in a sectional title complex, that person becomes the owner of a section and an undivided share of the common property, often comprising common-use areas.
The common property covers, for example, the driveway, the parking bays, garden area and the external part of the walls and roof of the unit.
A body corporate, which is made up of all the owners of units in the complex, governs and maintains that property and therefore changes regarding the exterior of a unit require approval by the body corporate.
When you buy into a freehold complex, you are responsible for the property in its entirety. This is very much in line with straightforward ownership of fixed property, where no governing body of any type is applicable.
It is however not completely without limitations as the constitution of the HOA may stipulate that certain aesthetics need to be maintained as far as the general appearance of the properties is concerned.
While there is a lot more independence in a freehold complex, the owner carries the sole responsibility for anything that must be fixed or maintained on the outside.
This responsibility is reflected in the levies that are often lower than those applicable to sectional title complexes.
Sectional title is very popular and has a fairly complex body of legislation, together with internally applicable rules.
It is therefore not automatically within the reader’s discretion to change the windows as the constitution may contain stipulations relating to the outward uniform appearance of the units.
At the time of purchase of either property, one would have to agree to abide by whatever rules are applicable subsequent to registration of ownership. The reader would need to ensure what these stipulations regarding changes to the outer appearance of the units are.
For peace of mind and prior to making an offer, it would be sensible for the reader to secure copies of any rules in respect of the properties.
Active control, whether internal or by a managing agent, may be indicative of a healthy complex not likely to fall into disrepair.
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