A Paddocks Sectional Title Lifestyle Blog
By Anton Kelly
No one may erect a building without the approval of the local municipality, and the municipality will only approve a building plan if it complies with the required building regulations. Like all legislation, the building regulations are changed from time to time and the question facing sectional title bodies corporate is how far they must go to implement these changes.
Many of the changes to the building regulations over the years address safety issues. For example balustrades and handrails on stairs and ramps, the type of glass one must have in windows. A complicating factor is the concern with accommodating people who have disabilities, and so the question facing bodies corporate of residential schemes is whether they are obliged to install wheelchair ramps, handrails in passages and so on, upon the request or demand of a disabled person who becomes an occupant, and if they do make these installations, who is liable to bear the costs.
Guidance on the application of the building regulations and standards is contained in a document called SANS 10400. Part A deals with alterations and extensions to buildings approved before the current version of the building regulation legislation, and indicates that, as a general principle, while the alteration must comply with the latest regulations, the original building need not be altered so as to comply. Exceptions are if the alteration affects the structural integrity, compromises escape routes, or will affect the health of the occupants of the original building. Buildings erected as approved therefore do not have to be changed to accommodate new safety and access regulations but a body corporate could consider a request for an addition such as a wheelchair ramp. This kind of addition would have to be regarded as an improvement to the common property.
Improvements are usually made for the benefit of all owners and paid for by the body corporate but there is nothing preventing an individual bearing the cost of an improvement that will only be to their benefit. The required resolution consenting to the improvement would probably be easier to obtain if the other owners were not required to share the cost.
Assuming it would be physically and practically possible to install a wheelchair ramp, the trustees should follow the below process required to authorise an improvement to the common property which is reasonably necessary.
They must notify the owners of their intention to make the improvement and the notice must include why the improvement is desirable, its intended effect, what it will cost, how it will be paid for and how that will affect the owners’ levies. Once the notice is sent, the trustees must wait 30 days before making the improvement. During that period, if any owner objects to the idea, they must make a written request for a meeting to discuss the matter, and the trustees cannot then make the improvement without the authority of a special resolution.
Image source: immaculate-conception.org.uk