The defining principle of sectional title is the distinction between a section and the common property. What you can do with your property without seeking the consent of the trustees or the body corporate, and the extent of your financial liability for what has to be fixed or upgraded on the common property, is determined by the division between your section, or sections, and everything else.
A section is a part of the property that has been demarcated as such on a sectional plan and can be individually owned. Each section is defined by an imaginary line – called the median line – that runs through the middle of the walls, doors, windows, floor and ceiling that form the physical boundaries of that section. What is outside of the median line is either another section or common property. A section can be a residential flat, a garage or a storeroom. A section may include a garden or a balcony. If you, for example, buy a flat, a separate garage and a separate storeroom, you will be the owner of three sections.
When you buy into sectional title, however, what you actually own is not a section, but a unit, which always consists of a section and its undivided share in the common property.
“Undivided share” means that no owner can claim ownership of a certain part, or parts, of the common property. Your share of the common property is not, for example, the exterior wall outside your section. In a sense, your share is at once everywhere and nowhere.
Your undivided share of the common property is determined by the size of the section, or sections, that you own. This share, which is known as your participation quota, is calculated by dividing the floor area of the section (rounded off to the nearest square metre) by the total floor area of all the sections.
The result is expressed as a decimal fraction correct to four places.
Your participation quota will usually determine:
* The value of your vote at general meetings of the body corporate. Votes at general meetings are usually taken by a show of hands, in which case an owner has one vote for each section registered in his or her name. However, the chairman has the discretion to change the voting method to a poll, in which case the value of each owner’s vote is reckoned by his or her total participation quota. An owner can ask the chairman of the meeting for votes to be counted in value instead of number, which request may be agreed to. Special resolutions of the body corporate must always be counted in both number and value.
* Your liability for levies (including special levies). Any contribution you are required to make to the body corporate should be based on your participation quota. The exception is contributions for exclusive-use areas.
* Your liability for body corporate debts.
But the participation quota does not always determine the value of votes or liability. Either the developer (when the scheme’s register is opened) or the body corporate (by taking a special resolution) can make rules that alter the effects of the participation quotas. These rules could create an entirely new basis on which the value of votes or liability is determined – such as the market value of the sections – or they could state that the participation quotas will determine the “basic” liability of all the owners, while setting a formula that will determine their liability for “additional” contributions for certain types of expenses. The scheme’s management rules will state if the effect of the participation quota has been changed.
In sectional title, it is unwise to assume that “use” equates with “ownership”. The fact that a townhouse comes with a landscaped garden and braai area, or that an enclosed balcony can be accessed only via the living room in a flat, does not automatically mean that this area forms part of its adjoining section.
The only way to know for certain where a section starts and ends is by inspecting the sectional plan. Sections are demarcated by solid lines. If the section includes an unenclosed area, such as a balcony or veranda, the division between the enclosed section and the open area will be demarcated with dashed lines. The sectional plan will be accompanied by a schedule, which will state the floor area and the participation quota of each section. Each section is allotted a number, which will probably not be the same as its door number. The sectional plan will also show if there are any registered exclusive-use areas on the common property.
The body corporate is entitled to rent out parts of the common property to owners. If the seller of a unit is renting an area that you want to be able to use, such as a parking bay, don’t assume that, as the new owner, you can automatically take over the lease. Ask for a copy of the lease agreement and find out what will happen to this area on transfer, as well as any obligations on you, as the lessee.
Source – https://www.iol.co.za/personal-finance/sectional-title-all-the-ins-and-outs-1858044