She woke up during the night, shivering … hearing water dripping on the laminate flooring next to their bed. Her husband mumbles that she must sort it out. She places a bucket underneath and tries to go back to sleep. It has been raining constantly for eight hours during the night. The next morning she empties the bucket … several homes in other areas were flooded and some people lost their belonging …
They bought the apartment on the first floor of a solid building some five years ago. The dampness during rainy seasons often frustrates her. The paint of the concrete ceiling, in both the corner of the kitchen and their main bedroom along the window, is cracked as result of previous peeling. The laminated flooring is damaged as result of swelling and the curtains stained by water.
This scenario is sadly true, but need not be the case. As owner/s of a sectional title apartment one owns the apartment as well as an undivided share of the common property of the scheme. Simply stated, the owner is responsible for the upkeep of the inside of her apartment and all owners together for the upkeep of the common property. Imagine a dollhouse, like the picture below.
Look at the room with the yellow twin-beds, above the kitchen and below the main roof-bedroom. Now imagine each of the walls, the floor and the ceiling of that 'apartment' consisting of two thin boards glued lightly together—that space in-between the imaginary two thin boards is the median line or boundary, similar to the boundaries of an apartment in a sectional title scheme.
The owner of the 'apartment' with the yellow twin-beds shares a boundary with the owners of the kitchen, the blue-room and the roof-main bedroom 'apartments'. However, the yellow wall serves as boundary of the 'apartment' and the outside, which belongs to all the owners collectively.
The Sectional Title Act, the Regulations and the Prescribed Management & Conduct Rules serve as regulating and guiding principles with regard to sectional title ownership. The interests of individual owners are protected in that all owners are accountable to one another with regard to maintenance, to budget sufficiently for all collective costs and to pay levies accordingly.
The fact that water is probably penetrating through a crack on the outside of the building (common property) and then causes discomfort and damage to the apartment below, makes this a body corporate (all owners collectively) responsibility. However, the dampness in the kitchen is probably caused by some leakage from in-between the two apartments and therefore need to be resolved between the two owners concerned.
Sadly, mumbling hubby served as trustee (albeit for short periods — once even as chair) but did not address the cause of the nuisance. At an AGM a maintenance committee comprising interested owners and trustees had been decided upon to manage a recently completed common property maintenance project, yet neither the woman nor hubby made use of the opportunity to ensure the probable leak is properly sealed.