Think before buying into a community scheme

Have you ever been driving around on a Sunday afternoon, viewing apartments in sectional title schemes, or houses in a gated community? Did you know that once the decision has been made to become a member of this type of community, a relationship, akin to a family (sometimes a very dysfunctional one) is entered into? I use this analogy as the relationship only comes to an end if you sell and move on, and during the term of the relationship, you pay, pay, pay for the expenses of the community, sometimes without a vote, and sometimes simply going along with the majority.

Before you get too distracted with the glistening blue waters of the communal swimming pool and the ever rolling green lawns of the childrens’ play area, or better yet, the golf course, that, yes gents, sometimes you are just forced to be a member of, or even the sense of security offered by the high walls, buzzing electric fencing and smiling guards at the front entrance, be realistic, and ask yourself: “Can I live with in peace, or at least a semblance thereof, with my neighbours so close to me, children screaming, dogs barking, smells of the neighbouring student’s marijuana joint wafting through my open sliding door? And more importantly, can I live with rules, which govern, what I sometimes feel, is my every move?” If the answer to any of these (and many more) is no, then reconsider whether you’re made to live in a community scheme. Yes, the developers do make these types of communal developments very inviting, with many promises, which may (will) fall away once the executive committee is in place and no more properties are available for sale. Roof deck parties are promised, full (and free) access gyms with personal trainers, no levy increases, no special levies and more. These are the things that attract us to invest our hard-earned salaries towards mortgages we will be paying for generations to come.

Perhaps, give it a test drive by being a tenant or a guest as part of a short-term letting scheme, and see whether you’re cut out to be one of members of the body corporate, and maybe one day a trustee. Remember, by simply living in a community, you are not guaranteed to be on such friendly terms with your neighbour that you are able to pop around for a cup of milk or better yet, a glass of wine. This very neighbour may become the person you hurriedly run away from when you see them approach – and sometimes force the elevator doors closed in case you are forced to endure 30 seconds with them in awkward silence. Or worse.

Think, read and listen before you sign on the dotted line. Otherwise contact us for our advice on consulting.pgpms@pamgolding.co.za or 021 426 4440, and we’ll do the thinking, reading and talking for you.

This article is published under Pam Golding Property Management Services (Pty) Ltd. and was written by Zerlinda van der Merwe BA (Law) LLB LLM (Cum Laude) (Stell.).