SECTIONAL title units consist of town houses and flats. Some of the rules below apply more to flats than they do to townhouses and vice versa.
6. FIRE SAFETY: Fires don't happen very often but you still need to analyse the situation you are in and have a plan of what to do should this ever happen.
Ask yourself: "Is there a fire hazard in my unit?" If there is, be sure to advise your family of it. Check the exterior of the building too.
In big blocks of flats the trustees need to have a plan of what to do if there ever there were a serious fire:
How would you advise everyone that there is a fire?
Have the fire extinguishers been serviced every year? (This is a legal requirement and insurance companies may void a claim should the services not have been carried out.)
Is the hose reel working or has it rusted up from non-use over the years?
Are the emergency exits locked without keys available?
Will a fire engine get through the gates?
Is there a fire hydrant?
Ask the fire marshal to visit your complex, check it out for fire safety and give you recommendations.
Residents may not store any material that is flammable, such as petrol, paraffin, meths or turps, nor may they commit any "dangerous acts" in the building or on the common property which may increase the body corporate's insurance premium.
7. REFUSE AND CLEANLINESS: You are responsible for taking your refuse to the refuse area and placing it in the container provided. Your kitchen refuse must be placed in plastic bags. Tins must be completely drained so the bag will not leak.
Your unit must be kept free of bugs, including borer beetles and cockroaches. These must be eradicated immediately to stop them affecting the entire complex.
Littering in the complex is not permitted, which includes any rubbish, soil, cigarette butts and food scraps, and exclusive use areas allocated to you have to be kept clean and tidy.
You are not allowed to hang washing on any part of the building or the common property that will be visible from outside the building or from any other unit. No washing is to be hung on balconies – use the washing lines provided.
8. VEHICLES, SPEEDING AND PARKING: Vehicles: You must ensure that you and your visitors' vehicles do not drip oil or brake fluid onto the common property and no one is allowed to dismantle or do major repairs to vehicles on any part of the common property.
Speeding: Townhouse complexes usually have families, which means there will be children around. Do not endanger their lives by speeding to and from your unit.
Parking: You may not park or stand any vehicle on the common property without the written consent of the trustees – this does not include your allocated parking area. The Sectional Titles Act conduct rules allow the trustees to have vehicles towed away at the risk and expense of the owner of the vehicle.
9. SECURITY: A chain is as strong as its weakest link. Residents who open the gate/door for someone they do not know and drivers who take off before the gates are closed will always pose major security problems.
Your family and domestic worker need to be instructed not to buzz strangers into the complex and to be vigilant when they see strangers in the complex. Do not give all and sundry the code to get in. Be responsible.
These are trying times we live in and security is everyone's concern, so don't blame your trustees.
10. OWNERS: Body corporate levies: Your monthly levy is the lifeblood of the body corporate so make sure you pay it. The levy is payable in advance and due on the first day of each month.
Letting your unit: The Rental Housing Act obliges owners to make the body corporate conduct rules a part of your lease agreement. Remember you are responsible for their (and their guests) behaviour.
Try to match your tenants with the residents in the complex. If they fit in they will be happier, they will be good tenants and they will stay longer.
AGMs: Attending these is the very least you can do for your investment.
Trusteeship: Volunteer to become a trustee and have a say in the running of the complex.
Trustees' meetings: You are permitted to attend, so go as often as you can. You may speak, but you cannot vote.
These "10 Commandments" are by no means complete, but they do cover most of the owners' and occupiers' responsibilities, which are detailed in the Sectional Titles Act of 1986 and the management and conduct rules.
Each body corporate is unique and conduct rules need to be fine-tuned to suit your scheme's circumstances.
So, for example, if there is a pool in the complex this represents a danger to young children and you therefore need a rule to disallow children in the pool area without adult supervision.
You are also required to have a child-proof gate on the entrance to the pool enclosure and insurance companies insist on indemnity signs as well as signs detailing information such as the depth of the pool.
You could imagine the huge cost to the body corporate if a child drowned and it was deemed by the courts that it could have been prevented had the trustees applied their minds to the risks inherent in the scheme.
Les Reynard is a member of the National Association of Managing Agents and a committee member of the Sectional Title Association of PE. Email your sectional title questions to: Les@ReynardAgencies.com