Who is responsible for repairs for damages caused by balcony leaks in Sectional Titles?
Depending on the sectional title plan, the balcony can fall into three different categories namely balconies that are incorporated within a section, balconies registered as exclusive use areas and balconies which are unregulated common property. Depending on these categories, the responsibility to repair any leaks originating from the balcony changes. The category the balcony falls under will be determined by the sectional scheme.
The balconies are incorporated within a section.
Under this category, the balcony forms part of the owner’s section and the responsibility for any repairs will depend on the sectional boundaries. The sectional plan will show that the balcony is included in the section by including it in the section’s boundary. The ‘median line’ will dictate the section of the floor, walls, and ceilings that each owner owns and is responsible for.
In this category, there is no common property, and the body corporate is not responsible for any repairs or obliged to become involved in any disputes. The higher owner will own and be responsible for the balcony floor and the lower owner will be responsible for the underside of the balcony which forms their ceiling. According to the Sectional Titles Act, each owner is obliged to repair and maintain their section in a state of good repair. It is therefore the responsibility of the higher owner to ensure that the balcony is adequately waterproofed and the responsibility of the lower owner to repair any damp on their ceiling caused by the leak. The lower owner may sue the higher owner for any damages caused by their lack of adequate waterproofing and maintenance to their balcony.
The balconies are registered as exclusive use areas.
These balconies are regarded as common property, but the owner of the sectional title has exclusive use rights over them. Section 37(1)(j) of the Act states that the body corporate will be responsible for maintaining and repairing all the common property, but the owner entitled to exclusive use of an area is responsible to pay the maintenance and repair costs for that area.
In these circumstances, the owner of the lower property who may be experiencing damp and water damages due to a leak from the upper property may claim the cost of any repairs from the body corporate and can insist that the body corporate repair the upper balcony. The body corporate will then claim these costs from the owner of the upper property.
The scheme’s rules may have amended this provision to ensure that repairs to exclusive use areas are the obligation of the owner of these rights and the higher owner will have to be approached directly for repairs. However, should the owner not comply with a request to repair the balcony leak, the body corporate may be approach to make the repairs and claim back costs from the owner.
The balconies are unregulated common property.
In these schemes, balconies are regarded as common property and the owners do not have exclusive use rights over them. The body corporate is therefore obliged to fund any maintenance or repairs of the balcony and any damages caused by the leaks.
Leaks in sectional titles can become complicated quickly, especially when they originate from a balcony. If you notice water damage in your unit, locate its source and try to find out who is responsible for its repair as soon as possible.
Article written by Sarah Day
14 June 2021