It is not uncommon for owners in sectional title schemes to make improvements to their units with the aim of increasing both their comfort levels and the unit’s market value. Improvements to the section itself could include a security system, upgraded finishes and fixtures, air conditioning and garage conversions. Typical improvements to an exclusive use area may include braai areas, lapas, swimming pools and carports.
Structural additions or extensions
What owners often do not realise is that all structural additions and extensions have to be approved, first by the body corporate (STSM Reg 30), and then by the municipality. Following construction, the alteration must then be verified by a land surveyor and approved by the Surveyor-General to make the amendments to the sectional plan official.
Plan deviations usually come to light when trustees study the valuation report and notice that the floor areas shown in the calculations do not correspond with their floor areas. Typically, this discrepancy is a result of one of the following two reasons:
- the owner did not obtain approval prior to construction; or
- the sectional plan was not amended
The importance of the sectional plan
The valuer’s assessment must include all areas and assets for which the body corporate is responsible. It is essential that the valuer refers to the latest approved sectional plan, as this helps to identify the common property areas and offers a breakdown of the registered section sizes.
Any non-registered extensions will be recognised when members of the body corporate discover that the section sizes indicated on the valuation report do not concur with the size they had in mind for their section. Such instances must be referred to the insurance broker for further advice.
The insurer might deem a non-registered extension to be illegal and, subsequently, uninsurable; and may insist that the sectional plan be updated in order to grant cover for the extension. Such discoveries are better made at policy renewal than at claim stage.
An updated valuation will not only confirm the latest sum insured, but it will also assist the body corporate in uncovering any illegal structures that they may not be aware of, including structures that pose a safety hazard or may require preventative maintenance.
Process that owners must follow when making alterations
Prior to making additions or improvements to their section, owners would be well-advised to follow these four steps to avoid frustration when lodging an insurance claim or selling their unit:
Step 1: Submit proposed buildings plans to the body corporate for approval
Step 2: Obtain approval from the municipality
Step 3: Ensure that construction work is done to approved plans
Step 4: Appoint a land surveyor to draft an amended sectional plan for approval by the Surveyor-General
Keeping the sectional plans up to date at all times is beneficial to the body corporate and individual owners alike and, besides being adequately covered, ensures that every owner is apportioned the correct levies.
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