By Bennie van Dyk – Senior Operations Manager: Community Schemes Management

With the current status of the electricity supply in South Africa, more and more homeowners are turning towards installing alternative energy sources in their homes. The question remains, however, as to what options are available to those who live in sectional title schemes. Generators are often not an option due to the noise pollution they create for neighbours in close proximity, as well as the uncertainty of fuel prices in the modern economy. The obvious solution to this problem thus seems to be solar installations with the support of an inverter.

As the owner of property in a sectional title scheme, there are a few things that you need to be aware of in order to proceed with such an installation. Firstly, you need to understand that everything outside your section (unit) is common property and that the solar panels would thus be installed on common property.  For Trustees to facilitate the influx of individual applications, it is recommended that an exclusive use area on the roof space is created where homeowners can install their solar systems.  Such a rule should contain the following elements to ensure a standard and to limit the maintenance risk after such installations:

·         Maximum panels that may be installed.

·         Generic design to cater for various models available.

·         Positioning of installation on roof.

·         Maintenance of the solar system.

·         Requirement to submit a Certificate of Compliance to Body Corporate.

·         Responsibility and indemnity regarding damages to common property, injuries, and losses to the body corporate.

·         Insurance requirements.  It is proposed that insurance be added to the body corporate insurance policy and that the owner should be liable for any additional premium.  This is to ensure sufficient cover is always provided.

·         Provision for owners to install as and when they want to, as not all owners may be able to install immediately.

·         Provide for inspection of installation and the right to remove, should the installation fall into disrepair and the owner refuses to address the issue.

The creation of the exclusive use area (EUA) rule would require a special resolution if the rule were to be added to the Conduct Rules of the scheme.  If the EUA rule were to be added to the Management Rules, a unanimous resolution is required.  Special resolutions require that 75% of the members (both in number and value) vote in favour of the resolution at a general meeting at which the normal quorum requirement was met.  For a unanimous resolution, the quorum requirement is 80% and all members present must vote in favour of the resolution.

Should a scheme wish to install solar panels on common property to ensure a continued electricity supply for the lifts, basement and passage lights, gates, and electric fence, the trustees could make use of PMR 29(1) and provide the members with a 30-day notice of this common property improvement.  The notice should contain the reason for this improvement, whether it is a necessary improvement, the cost of the project, and the way the project would be financed.  Members then have 30-days to object.  If no objection is received, the trustees may proceed with such proposed installation.

Should owners or trustees not be sure about the way forward, please consult with your portfolio manager, who will guide you in the right direction. 

Let there be light!