By Desie Heita
Flats or town houses within complexes might be more affordable compared to freestanding houses but they come with migraine, especially for those with mortgage bonds on such units.
Major headaches come in when the owner wants to change the colour of the unit, having a front lawn or erect separating barriers between their unit and other units.
In addition, frustrations erupt in the management of such complexes especially with the sharing of costs for the maintenance of the complex.
Government has now realised that “the Sectional Titles Act, that is still applicable in Namibia, has defects and shortcomings”.
Unlike in South Africa, Namibia is still using the dinosaur Act of 1971 under which the registration of ownership and of mortgage bonds of such units is an ambiguous lengthy process and nightmare.
This has prompted Cabinet to approve “in principle” the tabling of the Sectional Title Bill of 2008 in the National Assembly.
The proposed Bill would provide for the division of buildings into sections that could be acquired in separate ownership. It will also allow for the joint ownership of common property and “the control of certain rights attached to separate ownership in sections and joint ownership in common property”.
When a new buyer buys a sectional title, he or she only buys the section, which is the flat or the town house, but agrees to share the usage and the upkeep of the common property within the complex.
This means the holders of mortgage bonds only own “the space contained by the inner walls, ceilings and floors of the bought sectional title unit”. Owners are entitled to paint, decorate or undertake alterations as desired, providing such alterations do not infringe on municipal by-laws.
The driveway before the flat and the garden are classified as common property owned by all those who live in the flat complex.
Therein lies the crunch for Namibian mortgage bondholders of sectional title units. Often managing the common property pits owners in a tussle against each other, as each tries to keep the maintenance levy – an issue not clearly defined under current law – within their respective budget and their lifestyle.
A simple choice on the new driveway tiles, for instance, could destroy neighbourly relations. Further, the common property comes with financial burdens of rates and taxes, water and electricity used on the common property, sewerage, insurance premiums on the common property, repairs and maintenance, security costs, and wages and salaries for cleaners and staff employed at the complex.
The proposed bill would give provision for the “establishment of bodies corporate to control common property and for that purpose apply the rules, and for the establishment of a sectional title regulation board”.
In essence, the bodies corporate would be the owner of the entire complex.
The bodies corporate would be made up of all the flat owners within the complex, who would then nominate and vote on the board of trustees, who would be tasked with the day-to-day management of the complex.