Sectional title living has grown in popularity for a number of reasons, including a heightened sense of security and affordability. Buying into a sectional scheme, however, has its advantages and disadvantages.
Unlike full-title ownership, where the owner is in complete control and is financially responsible for the property in its entirety, a person who invests in a sectional title scheme will own a part of the scheme. As a result, the person will need to comply with management and conduct rules as determined by a body corporate and, importantly for some, the body corporate may adopt rules relating to the keeping of pets.
The conduct rules annexed to the Sectional Titles Act, state the following;
- An owner or occupier of a section shall not, without the consent in writing of the trustees, which approval may not unreasonably be withheld, keep any animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property.
- When granting such approval, the trustees may prescribe any reasonable condition.
- The trustees may withdraw such approval in the event of any breach of any condition prescribed in terms of sub-rule (2).
In other words, the ‘no pets’ rule is the default position for sectional title schemes, provided the trustees do not unreasonably withhold their approval if an owner or tenant applies for permission to keep a pet. Conditions under which that pet must be kept can be imposed and permission to keep the pet may be revoked if these are not met.
The conduct rules pertaining to a particular sectional title scheme can be altered from the standard rules by the body corporate. These new rules are filed with the Registrar of Deeds and all owners and tenants must comply. This enables, for example, absolute ‘no pets’ policies.
The following comments by Adam Civin and Ramon Pereira in the February 2015 issue of de Rebus clarify what this means:
In Body Corporate of the Laguna Ridge Scheme no.: 152/1987 v Dorse 1999 (2) SA 512 (D), the court held that where the conduct rules have not been amended by the body corporate (e.g. the default position applies), the trustees must apply their minds in considering an application from a pet owner. If the refusal is based on the application of a general policy or the desire to avoid creating a precedent, the court may set aside such a refusal. The reasoning is that, in applying their minds to the circumstances of each individual request, policy considerations does not come into play and the creation of a precedent cannot, in itself, be a concern.
On the other hand, if the conduct rules have been amended to include, for example a “no pet” policy, the matter becomes contractual.
Upon purchase of a sectional title unit, or signing a lease agreement to rent a sectional title unit, the purchaser, or tenant, agrees to these rules and is contractually bound to abide thereby. In this case, the Trustees are not obliged to consider an application by a pet owner.
In simple terms, a prospective buyer who would like to keep a pet should find out what the situation is before commiting to a purchase in any particular scheme.
If you are already an owner or occupier of a sectional title unit, it is wise to apply for written consent from the trustees to keep a pet prior to bringing the pet onto the property.
Monty Rademeyer – Partner
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