If you’re new to complex or estate living, or are a first time owner of a sectional title property, understanding the in’s and out’s of sectional title schemes can get confusing. From understanding the basics of your scheme to remembering all the rules that come with sectional title properties.
It’s a bit overwhelming at first.
Which is why it makes sense that you may have a few questions about what the body corporate of your sectional title scheme is, how it’s established, and what its functions and powers are.
A lack of knowledge could cause problems or disputes in sectional title schemes, which are easily avoided simply by having the right information on hand.
So, let’s dive right in with answering the first question on many people’s minds – ‘what is a body corporate?’
What is a body corporate?
The meaning of body corporate is a collective of owners, units, and common property within a sectional title scheme. As soon as a property developer transfers a unit, flat, or apartment within a sectional title scheme to its new owners, a body corporate is effectively established. Owners of sectional title properties will become members of the body corporate when they become owners of their unit.
Did you know that within the first 60 days of the establishment of the body corporate, the property is obliged to convene the inaugural general meeting?
It’s at this meeting where the body corporate trustees will be elected, among other things.
It may also happen that property developers or other reps stay on as trustees if they have a vested interest in the body corporate. For example, they may have purchased a unit within the estate or complex.
What is a sectional title?
You may have seen the word ‘sectional title’ floating around property listings. In a nutshell, a Sectional Title Development Scheme (also known as a sectional title scheme or just “scheme”) caters to separate ownership of a property by a group of individuals.
When you choose to buy a property that’s part of a scheme, such as a flat, apartment, townhouse, or unit in a complex, you will own the inside of the property. You should know that this is strictly the space contained by the inner walls, ceilings and floors within your unit.
As such, you’re allowed to paint, decorate or make alterations as you wish – providing you do not infringe on municipal by-laws. For any alterations on the outside of your unit, you’ll likely need to first get permission from the body corporate. This could be anything from installing new gutters to building an extended patio.
It’s generally best to communicate with your body corporate and your board of trustees before making any impulsive decisions!
What is the role of the body corporate?
Now that we know what a body corporate is and how they fit into sectional title schemes, we need to know what they actually do.
The body corporate is essentially in charge of managing day-to-day operations and administration for a specific sectional title scheme.
A few examples of things that the body corporate is responsible for include:
- Enforcing property conduct rules.
- Managing common property within the scheme.
- Looking after the interests of all the owners within the scheme.
Practical examples include allowing an owner to keep a pet in an apartment, ensuring maintenance is up to scratch, performing maintenance on the property premises, and maintaining or installing common property, such as a pool, communal braai area, or even a park.
It’s also worth noting that the body corporate may take on some legal matters – which usually first go through the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS). Remember this when you put yourself up for election!
Where do trustees fit in?
While we know that the body corporate comprises of unit owners, the management of a body corporate is a bit different! This is because it usually involves trustees, which members of the body corporate will elect.
It is the duty of the body corporate and its members to appoint a set number of trustees for certain purposes. Body corporate trustees are elected representatives, who will gain specific duties relating to the body corporate.
Some of the trustees’ duties include managing the scheme’s funds, enforcing rules, and resolving conflicts when they inevitably arise.
Depending on the size of the complex or estate, you’ll usually have a few trustees each looking after a specific portfolio. For example, one trustee looking after the security portfolio and other looking after garden maintenance.
Because trustees are just regular people living within the scheme, with their own lives and jobs, it helps to split up the responsibilities.
You will probably notice that the body corporate trustees play a big role in the sectional title AGM. This is a forum for scheme-specific matters to be addressed, such as budgeting, rules, and appointing new trustees. We recommend attending this regularly to ensure your voice is heard, no matter what!
Is it worth hiring body corporate management services?
Trustee or not, as a member of a body corporate, you can expect to face a lot of challenges. From daily complaints to burst geysers, daily maintenance, and quoting needed before anything gets approved, there’s a lot going on during your day.
This is where body corporate management companies become invaluable. If you want to stay on top of your game, it may be worth looking at some additional support. This back-up comes in the form of property and body corporate management services to ease your workload.
Like we said earlier, trustees of a body corporate are generally kept busy with their own daily lives and managing the body corporate is most probably last on their to-do list. Making use of professional body corporate management services means that you’ll have a team dedicated to managing your sectional title scheme, full time.
A property management company will manage the daily activities of the property, make sure that the required maintenance is done, and that the books are kept in order.
Choose a management company that utilizes a body corporate software
Now, not all property management companies are made the same. Some are amazing, while others leave your emails unanswered, complaints ignored and maintenance forgotten about.
One way to check whether the management company is a good one, is to ask them what body corporate software they’re using.
If they’re still relying on Excel spreadsheets and email chains – run away!
Using a body corporate software, means that they can:
- Optimise their workload into a ticket-based system, prioritising tasks.
- Track projects online, and start approving online.
- Set up regular maintenance reminders as they are needed.
- Store contact details of important details, including owners, tenants, and contractors.
- Bridge the communication gap with third-party providers.
- Create online portals to measure trustees’, residents’ and tenants’ queries efficiently.
- Manage your property from anywhere, thanks to a cloud-based system.
Using a cloud-based management software makes property management so much more efficient.
This is where Unity comes in. Unity is a South African property management software, designed specifically with property management in mind. You can think of it as a ticketing system, but bulked up with extra CRM capabilities.
There’s nothing else quite like it in South Africa. It’s the perfect tool for body corporate management – a prime solution tailored for all of your scheme’s needs.
To make body corporate management even easier, we’re offering a 4-week trial period of the Unity software, so you can test our services before committing. What’s not to love?