By Saadiyah Kadwa
Superficies solo cedit is a maxim that says that the owner of land owns all buildings and structures erected on it. This maxim meant that there was no provision in law for separate ownership of different parts of a building erected on one piece of land. This is different ideology that existed in the past as today many people own units in buildings in sectional title schemes.
The Sectional titles Act 95 of 1986 and Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 are the empowering pieces of legislation that allows for this type of ownership i.e. individual ownership of your flat (unit) and simultaneously undivided co-ownership of the common areas (common property).
There are many positive aspects to sectional titles schemes some of which include:
- Better use of land as it houses many people in one scheme;
- Efficient construction methods which lead to lower selling price of units and therefore, a larger number of people will be able to get ownership of homes;
- Gives people security of tenure as instead of paying rentals they can use the amount to pay towards mortgage instalments which increases their interest in the unit, which they can later sell at an enhanced price, etc.
In South Africa many municipalities have begun to transfer sectional title units to poor persons who have been renting apartments from the Municipality. The reason for granting ownership was to enable these people to benefit from the ownership which will give them security with regard to their homes.
The initiative is an admirable one as it seeks to empower and benefit people in a disadvantaged position; however, in many of these schemes, people are unaware of the obligations that come along with sectional title ownership. This results in the owners becoming indebted to their body corporate which can result in the people losing their homes.
Although the initiative to grant ownership is a step in the right direction, the first step rather should be educating people about their responsibilities in ensuring that their schemes are properly managed. The key to a successful sectional title scheme is proper management.
Saadiyah Kadwa completed her LLB and is currently working on her Masters Degree in Child Care and Protection at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Her interest is in protecting the rights of children, indigent, and vulnerable people. She volunteered at the UKZN Law Clinic and the Family Advocate’s Office in 2018.