In many ways, sectional title ownership is more complex than conventional title ownership. This is because, when a purchaser buys into a sectional title scheme, he becomes part of a closed community which is governed by particular legislation (the Sectional Titles Act) and rules that aim to balance the interests of all the owners in the scheme. Common law rules relating to neighbour law are also applicable.

For example, where an owner is desirous of extending his unit, be it by way of extending into the small hallway adjacent to his apartment or by enclosing the balcony, it generally impacts on the balance of rights of all owners in the scheme and involves more red tape than is often appreciated.

How does it work?

Any alteration that increases a unit's boundaries or floor area is considered an 'extension', in which event the Sectional Titles Act prescribes the following steps:

Step 1

Obtain the body corporate's consent by way of passing a special resolution. For this purpose, the trustees must be approached to call a special general meeting, on 30 days' notice, at which meeting the proposed extension can be considered and approved by passing a special resolution.
To pass a special resolution at a meeting, it is required that:

  • notice of the meeting, specifying the proposed resolution, must be sent to all persons entitled to attend general meetings, giving at least 30 days notice (unless the trustees have decided that shorter notice is appropriate); 
  • at the meeting a quorum of persons entitled to vote must be present or represented; and 
  • of those present or represented and entitled to vote, 75% in number (by show of hands) and in value must vote in favour of the resolution.

It is otherwise also possible to obtain a special resolution by having three quarters of the owners (in number and value) sign a "round robin" resolution.

Step 2

The owner must then have building plans prepared and submitted to the local authority for authorisation and building can commence thereafter. As soon as the building works are completed to the point that they can be measured, the owner must instruct a land surveyor or architect to draw up a draft sectional plan of extension and submit this plan to the Surveyor General (SG) for approval. (A sectional plan is different from a building or site plan. By law, it must indicate the dimensions of the section, ie the length, width and height of a section. This is why it can only be drawn up once the building works have neared completion. The boundaries of a section and the owner's ownership are accordingly clearly delineated on such a plan.)

Step 3

Once the SG has approved this plan, the owner must instruct a conveyancer to register the amended sectional title plan in the Deeds Office. At the same time, the change in the unit's extent will be noted against the owner's title deed in the deeds office records. If a bank holds a mortgage bond over the section, the bank's consent must also be submitted.

Step 4

A further administrative issue that may arise is where the planned extension will change the unit's shareholding in the common property by more than 10%. (The shareholding is determined by the section's floor area in relation to the floor area of all the sections in the scheme). If so, the conveyancer must obtain the consent of each bondholder holding bonds over units in the scheme. This is understandably a huge task in large schemes!

For assistance in this process, contact Martin Sheard at or on or telephonically at 021 673 4700.