Changes to the zoning scheme legislation in the Buffalo City Municipal area have now made it possible for granny flats or second dwelling units to be disposed of separately by means of sectional title.
In the traditional form of separate title land tenure property ownership is defined by surveyed boundaries represented on a surveyors diagram or general plan with the beacons placed on site to demarcate the boundary terminals. Sectional title is the form of tenure most commonly used to grant ownership to units in apartment blocks and to units in housing schemes which have communal facilities. A feature of sectional title is that the unit boundary is defined by the median line of the outside wall of the unit and ownership of gardens, braai areas and carports are assigned to the unit as exclusive use areas and all other land is assigned as common property. It is the land surveyors responsibility to ensure that the development complies with all statutory legislation and the zoning scheme regulations and for this reason the requirements would vary for different parts of the country as the zoning scheme regulations of the various municipal areas are not the same.
MEH Surveys offices are based in the Buffalo City Municipal area and a change to the zoning scheme regulations in that area in 2008 is going to have a significant impact on the housing market.

In terms of the zoning scheme regulations it is a property owners primary right to build a second dwelling unit provided that the unit is built in accordance with building regulations and approved building plans. Prior to 2008 a disadvantage of this has been that the units could not be sold separately unless they could be subdivided. In many cases subdivision is not possible as the zoning scheme regulations have to be complied with and these regulate the erf size, minimum access requirements etc.

The revised zoning scheme makes provision for the second dwelling units to be sold by sectional title and this will enable most home owners to sell there granny flats and second dwellings. This is certain to provide many opportunities particularly for those desperate to enter the housing market but one must also be cautious to avoid the disadvantages that are associated with sectional title ownership of this nature.

The change is going to provide much needed relief for those wanting to enter the housing market.
Granny flats and second dwellings are going to provide an additional source of housing stock particularly in the entry level market. The increased supply could provide much needed competition for the attention of first time home buyers who up until now have only been able to consider apartments and plot and plan developments in less favourable areas.
Another fantastic opportunity is to purchase a vacant plot the costs of which can be diluted and shared by two families. Two dwellings can be built on the one plot and the sectional title option provides security of tenure and individual financing options for each unit with the advantage of being able to sell the units individually should circumstances change.

Their would be benefits for those considering “hive” living and also opportunities for retired people.
Hive living is apparently the term given to extended families who live together on one property. Sectional title could provide an additional form of security in these situations should any of the big “Ds”(debt, divorce, death) threaten the financial viability of the arrangement. Having individual tenure on the separate dwellings on the property will safeguard the one family from creditors pursuing the other family.
Many retired couples opt to live in granny flats on their siblings property and in most instances contribute portion of their life savings towards the purchase of the home. In situations of this nature the repercussions of divorce are extreme and leave many bitter, desperate and sometimes homeless retirees in their wake. To obtain sectional title tenure of the granny flat is an essential retirement tool should this option be considered.
While this change in legislation is sure to provide many opportunities one must be mindful of the disadvantages associated with sectional title. The costs of proper professional advice at the outset could save much heartache and litigation later.
In a sectional title scheme a body corporate is formed to manage and fund the maintenance, service costs and rules of the scheme. In large schemes these functions are normally controlled by management agents and contentious issues can be voted on at body corporate meetings. The rules particularly regarding pets, parking and payment of fees in schemes with only two members will need additional thought and should be clearly understood at the outset to avoid unhappiness and litigation later. In schemes of this nature dispute resolution could not be solved by voting and costly litigation could destroy schemes that are not carefully planned.
To create a sectional title scheme on a property the buildings must comply with all the municipal statutory requirements, there must be approved building plans and the building must adhere to the zoning scheme requirements, building lines, coverage etc.
Neil Henderson of MEH Surveys is a registered sectional title practitoner, land surveyor and certified estate agent and can be contacted at neil@mehsurveys.co.za.

Answers to frequently asked questions on property sectional titles are as follows:-

Who do I approach to investigate the possibility of creating a sectional title scheme on my property?
Approach a Professional Land Surveyor to assist in the process. Contact neil@mehsurveys.co.za.

Do the buildings have to be attached to create a sectional title scheme and how many sections are required to create the scheme?
The buildings can be free standing and if there are garages they could also be assigned as part of the section or as separate sections. Ownership can be assigned to the garages even if they are not in close proximity to the dwelling units. At least two sections are required to create a sectional title scheme.

Are any statutory approvals required before you can commence creating a sectional title scheme on your property?
• An advantage of sectional title is that the onus is on the land surveyor to certify that the buildings are in accordance with the building plans and zoning scheme requlations. If the buildings comply with all building line, title deed and zoning scheme requirements then the scheme need not be referred to the authorities for approval. Under normal circumstances a sectional title scheme can be implemented far sooner than is the case with subdivisions.

I have a large yard with a second dwelling but was not able to subdivide my property as we could not provide the required 4,00m wide panhandle access to the subdivided portion. Will we now be able to dispose of the second dwelling by sectional title instead?
Yes sectional title would probably be possible and enable you to dispose of the second dwelling. The merits of each situation would however first have to be investigated on site to ensure the zoning scheme requirements are complied with.

How do I go about having my granny flat/second dwelling converted to sectional title? Firstly is your property in the Buffalo City Municipal area?
If so then get a copy of your title deed , a copy of the approved building plans for your granny flat and forward those to MEH Surveys Land Surveyors who will prepare a quotation to do the sectional title survey. Please bear in mind that the entire property becomes subject to a sectional title scheme and the existing dwelling as well as the second dwelling become sections in the scheme.

If the land is 500m˛ and I build a double storey, can I sectionalise the ground and first floor?
Yes

If the land is 500m˛ with a house on with a parapet wall through the middle, can I sectionalise the house into two section with a garage on either side, each with its own street access?
You need to have revised building plans drawn up and approved showing the division of the existing house into two dwellings. Only one access is permitted per erf.

If I have 2000m˛ how many sectional title units can I erect without applying for re-zoning?.
Only the main dwelling and a second dwelling. You could possibly subdivide a property of this nature into 4 X 500 square metre plots and then build and sectionalize two dwellings on each plot. Total 8 units Do you need neighbours consent to sectionalise? No provided you have approved building plans and all the building lines and zoning scheme regulations have been adhered to.

Do you need neighbours consent to sectionalise?
No, provided you have approved building plans and all the building lines and zoning scheme regulations have been adhered to.

Can you have more than one street access to the site?
No, but if you have a corner site then you may have one access per street frontage.

Can I create a sectional title scheme on a vacant piece of ground?
No. You need a minimum of two buildings or sections on the property in order to create the scheme.

I have a dwelling with an outbuilding on the lower portion of my site. Can I sell the outbuilding or lower portion of my land to someone else for them to upgrade and renovate?
No. The zoning scheme is specific in that it states that sectional title of the “main and second dwelling shall be permitted….”. My interpretation is that both buildings must exist and be represented on approved building plans as two dwellings not as an outbuilding.

Your firm has already established that my property cannot be subdivided. Is there any way I can dispose of portion of my site by sectional title if I really don’t have the funding to build the second dwelling?
The financing of projects is not my specialty but an option to explore is as follows:- The minimum building size of a second dwelling is 35 square metres. (that is equivalent in size to a double garage). The purchaser could design their dream home on your property in such a way that the first phase comprises a 35 square metre unit. The building plans could be approved showing the phased construction of the second dwelling. Some arrangement would have to be made to obtain bridging finance to build the first phase. When the first phase has been built the purchaser could take transfer of that unit and at the same time acquire the real right to extend the scheme. The purchaser has then acquired an asset and can look to the financial institutions to fund the extensions.

What are the steps in the process of registering a sectional scheme of my property?.

  1. Appoint a land surveyor to attend to the preparation of the sectional title plans. Only professional land surveyors with the required sectional title qualifications are authorized to prepare the block plan of a sectional title scheme. Our firm would require a copy of the approved building plans and title deed of the property in order to advise on the cost implications and timing of the process.
  2. The project requirements are then assessed to determine the developers needs as regards exclusive use areas and the division of the units. If there are restrictive conditions in the title deed then the procedures to have them removed are immediately initiated. A typical example is that the title deed might stipulate that only one dwelling be permitted on the erf or onerous building lines requirements might have been transgressed. It is a very time consuming process to remove these conditions if the normal procedures are followed. The process could be expedited by application through the courts but this proves to be a costly alternative.
  3. Appoint a conveyancing attorney to assist with the registration of the sectional title scheme. The conveyancer has to prepare a schedule setting out the servitudes and conditions of title burdening or benefiting the land. The Sectional Title Act also has certain requirements that the developer has to comply with when the units are occupied by lessees. The conveyancer normally assists in preparing the various notices to the tenants and a report is also required from an architect or engineer on the general physical condition of the buildings.
  4. On completion of the sectional title plans the required legal documentation are forwarded to the Surveyor General for examination.
  5. When approved by the Surveyor General the documents are handed to the conveyancing attorney to register the scheme and transfer the units.

I have a residential property with a second dwelling and approved building plans. Do I need to rezone the property or can we proceed with the sectional title process without consultation with the local municipality.?
Rezoning would not be required as already mentioned the onus is on the land surveyor to certify that the buildings are in accordance with approved building plans and the zoning scheme. In the revised zoning scheme the panhandles providing access to more than one unit shall have a minimum width of 6,00m and in the old zoning scheme the minimum width was 4,00m. If your property has a 4,00m wide panhandle and the building plans were approved using the old zoning scheme then we would have to apply for a departure from the zoning scheme to permit the sectional title of the units having a reduced panhandle width.

Do I have to install separate municipal service connections for the second dwelling?
No the second dwelling unit is required to make use of the existing municipal connections serving the primary unit on the site. I understand that you can apply to have a 3 phase electricity supply installed and in this way you can get separate electricity bills for the units.


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