Can I install a generator at my sectional unit?

14 June 2022 ,  Corlia van Zyl 1608
“With the troubles of load shedding exacerbating the difficulty for many to work from home, many sectional owners are considering the option of a generator to keep things going through load shedding. But can you just install a generator in your unit, or do you need permission to do so?

Each owner of a unit in a sectional title scheme becomes a member of the body corporate the moment they become an owner of a sectional title unit, and also of an undivided share in the common property. In this community the body corporate remains the owner of the common property and the interest of the members of the community must be considered when doing anything in the scheme.

To manage a sectional title scheme the community must have rules in place to govern the action of owners, tenants and visitors in the scheme, and it is the body corporate’s duty to ensure compliance with any law relating to the common property and to enforce the management and conduct rules of the scheme.

The conduct rules of a scheme may state that (subject to exceptions) the person(s) who occupies a unit, must not store any flammable material in a section or on the common property or do any other dangerous act in their unit or on the common property which can have a negative effect on the insurance of the scheme. The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act also states that an owner may not cause a nuisance to any other resident in the scheme.

So, considering the noise that a generator can create, as well as the fact that they use petrol/diesel and generate noxious fumes, the use of a generator would need to be carefully considered. Depending on the layout of a scheme, the trustees will have to carefully consider whether they will allow individual owners to install their own generator or rather install one or more larger generators for the entire scheme.

Should the trustees decide to allow each individual to install their own generator, clear rules must be adopted by the scheme that state, among other things:

•    The type of generator that will be allowed
•    The location of the generator
•    Who will be responsible for the maintenance of the generator as well as the storage of fuel of the generator
•    Whether the cost for purchase and installation will be for the individual owner’s account

In the event that the trustees decide to install a central generator for the whole scheme, it will be considered an improvement of the common property and one will have to look closer at whether the improvement will be construed as a “not reasonably necessary (luxurious)” or “a reasonably necessary (non-luxurious)” improvement.  The importance of the distinction lies in the type of resolution required by the body corporate to proceed with the improvement. If a “not reasonably necessary” improvement then a unanimous resolution is needed, whereas a “reasonably necessary” improvement only requires a special resolution of the body corporate. With the current load shedding impact affecting everyone, there is a strong argument to be made that such a central improvement would be a “reasonably necessary” improvement.

Where a central generator is considered, the cost of installing the generator will be for the body corporate’s account. The trustees will also have to consider the cost involved in the installation, maintenance of the generator, purchase of the fuel and the noise it creates, before considering the vote of the body corporate.

An alternative approach to a central generator may also be to regard the installation of a generator as falling under the powers provided to the body corporate in terms of the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act. The Act also determines that the body corporate has the power to purchase movable property for the use of the owners. The maintenance of the generator would then fall under the power of the body corporate to keep in good and serviceable repair and properly maintain the plant, machinery, fixtures and fittings used in relation to the common property and units.

What the above should make clear though, is that installing a generator, whether as individual or for the complex, is not just a ‘go-ahead-and-do-it’ decision and the necessary permissions and decisions should be obtained before proceeding. Nothing should also stop a scheme to consider more renewable alternatives such as solar panels.

Disclaimer: This article is the personal opinion/view of the author(s) and is not necessarily that of the firm. The content is provided for information only and should not be seen as an exact or complete exposition of the law. Accordingly, no reliance should be placed on the content for any reason whatsoever and no action should be taken on the basis thereof unless its application and accuracy has been confirmed by a legal advisor. The firm and author(s) cannot be held liable for any prejudice or damage resulting from action taken on the basis of this content without further written confirmation by the author(s).
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