Altering the facade of a building – what are the rules?

Sectional title developments typically have standardised designs and uniform materials are selected for windows and doors. Although windows and doors are part of a section, they effectively form part of the common property.

While the management and maintenance of common property are the trustees’ responsibility, owners are responsible for 50% of the cost to maintain windows and doors.

Replacing windows or doors

When an owner wants to replace a window or door located inside the four walls of their section, they need to obtain written permission from the trustees. Such written approval is required to ensure that the structural integrity of the building is not affected. The windows and doors do not have to be of the same design or style as the originals.

When an owner intends to replace external windows, i.e. on the outside of their section, a different approach is required. As all outward-facing windows and doors form part of the common property, it falls under the responsibility of the trustees.

The prescribed conduct rules require that an owner obtain written consent from the trustees to change the general external appearance of a section. Changing the style of a window or door may be interpreted as changing the appearance of the section – the facade of the building, i.e. the common property.

Increasing the value of properties

In the case of older buildings, owners who want to change their windows or doors with a new style of fitting will have a good argument assuming that the purpose is to improve the value of their property and the rest of the complex. Here the trustees will be hard-pressed not to promote the proposed changes. Engaging all owners in such a proposal is critical as it will affect the entire complex and have a financial impact.

The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act allows for this process to take place with a number of key requirements and resolutions that must be acquired. This process can be a lengthy one and may frustrate the individual owner who want to upgrade immediately.

Replacing windows or doors with a style that is different from the existing style of the complex will affect the appearance of the complex. The trustees are the custodians of the building’s appearance and should ensure that no changes are made to the common property that may have a negative impact on the value of other sections in the scheme.

Reasonable changes

Bodies corporate often face situations where owners carry out changes to windows and doors without following proper procedure. There are arguments for and against changing the style of windows or doors in schemes that will enhance the overall value.

It is important to always remember that legislation prescribes how sectional title schemes must be managed and that trustees are appointed to ensure this is enforced.

Owners who want to deviate from the norm will be best served if they approach the body corporate with a coherent and comprehensive plan showing how the changes will benefit their own investment as well as other owners in the scheme.