windows in sectional title schemes

Who is responsible to maintain or replace windows in a sectional title scheme?

Maintaining the common property in a sectional title scheme is the body corporate’s responsibility. The scheme’s annual budget must make provision for both planned and unplanned maintenance during the financial year.

Does this budget have to include provisions for maintenance to windows in the scheme?

Bodies corporate often neglect to make the necessary provisions for this kind of maintenance resulting in a situation where the maintenance cost is often far higher than what it should be.

The difference between maintenance and replacement
Maintenance implies that – on an ongoing basis – something is looked after and kept in good working order to prolong its lifespan. Replacement, on the other hand, implies that something is to be substituted with a new item because it has come to the end of its life cycle.

Who pays for the maintenance of windows?
The body corporate budget should include provisions for ongoing maintenance to windows. Even if planned maintenance is not performed in a specific year, a body corporate will do well to accrue sufficient funds for when the maintenance is required. Less maintenance may be required to maintain steel or aluminium windows compared to wooden windows but the principle of accumulating funds remains the same.

The Sectional Titles Act determines that the median line of a window runs through the center of the window. This means that half of the window faces to the outside and the other half to the inside of the section. This only applies to windows that are set in an exterior wall of a section and not an internal wall located inside of the section.

The owner of a section is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the interior of its section, including that half of the window that faces inside.
The body corporate is responsible for the maintenance of all common property. The part of the window that faces outside is deemed common property; therefore, the maintenance of that (exterior) part is the responsibility of the body corporate.
The cost for maintaining the window is therefore split between the body corporate and the owner on a 50/50 basis.

Who pays for the replacement of windows?
In the case of windows that need to be replaced due to it being too old to be maintained, the same 50/50 principle will apply: the body corporate and the owner of the section will each pay 50% of the cost to replace the windows.

Where it becomes more complicated is when the replacement of windows is seen as an improvement to the scheme. The determining factor here is if the replacement is deemed necessary and useful. If this is the case, then the trustees may proceed to replace the windows with a better option – such as steel or aluminium.

However, if the replacement is deemed an improvement the trustees must inform the owners of the planned improvement in writing and should follow procedures as prescribed in the management rules. This process allows for participation by the owners in the scheme and transparency with regards to how the replacement will be funded and its impact on the levies in the scheme.