Signage in sectional title schemes plays a crucial role in attracting public attention and displaying important information. This article explores the legislation and limitations regarding the placement of signage on common property in sectional title schemes. By understanding the rules and restrictions, scheme owners can make informed decisions about the installation and maintenance of signage.
What did the legislation previously prescribe?
Prior to the adoption of the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (the “STSM Act”) which came into operation in 2016, the external appearance of the building was dealt with in two provisions. In the first place prescribed management rule (“PMR”) 68(1)(iv) stated that owners may not do anything which is likely to prejudice the harmonious appearance of the building. In the second place, prescribed conduct rule (“PCR”) 5 states that owners may not do anything to the common property that is aesthetically displeasing.
What does the legislation now state?
The previous “harmonious appearance” rule was replaced by a rule that is more general in its application. The following provisions may have an impact on the installation of signage on the exterior parts of sectional title buildings.
Sections 13(1)(d) and (e) of the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (the “STSM Act”) states that:
“An owner must –
(d) use and enjoy the common property in such a manner as not to interfere unreasonably with the use and enjoyment thereof by other owners or other persons lawfully on the premises;
(e) not use his or her section or exclusive use area, or permit it to be used, in a manner or for a purpose which may cause a nuisance to any occupier of a section.”
Prescribed Management Rule 30(d) requires that:
“The body corporate must take all reasonable steps to ensure that a member or any other occupier of a section or exclusive use area does not make alterations to a section or an exclusive use area that are likely to impair the stability of the building or interfere with the use and enjoyment of other sections, the common property or any exclusive use area.”
Prescribed Conduct Rule 4(1) requires that:
“The owner or occupier of a section must not, without the trustees’ written consent, mark, paint, drive nails, screws or other objects into, or otherwise damage or deface a structure that forms part of the common property.”
Prescribed Conduct Rule 5(1) requires that:
“The owner or occupier of a section must not, without the trustees’ written consent, make a change to the external appearance of the section or any exclusive use area allocated to it unless the change is minor and does not detract from the appearance of the section or the common property.”
Prescribed Conduct Rule 5(2)(c) requires that:
“The owner or occupier of a section must not, without the trustees’ written consent display a sign, notice, billboard or advertisement if the article is visible from another section or the common property, or from outside the scheme.”
The rationale behind the limitations on signage
These rules appear to limit and even completely remove owners’ freedom to make changes to the external parts of their property. Why are these limitations or restrictions reasonable? It is important to distinguish that these rules apply to common property. Common property are parts of the scheme that are jointly owned by all the members in sectional title schemes. The shared property and community element of sectional title ownership makes it such that all owners need to adhere to the same restrictions when it comes to the external parts of the building.
Our recommendation for signage in sectional title schemes
The prescribed management and conduct rules are a set of generic rules that apply to all schemes, regardless of their actual physical attributes. As no two schemes are the same, and schemes are developed to have different physical attributes we suggest that your scheme adopt a signage conduct rule that deals with all elements relating to the harmonious external appearance. The rules will then set a uniform set of reasonable restrictions and limitations.
If your scheme is a commercial scheme that has owners or tenants that need to display signage on the exterior parts of the buildings for advertising purposes, then we suggest that your scheme adopt a conduct rule that specifically deals with this.
The signage rule should allow for specific signage subject to reasonable restrictions and limitations. The rule should include provisions that deal with:
- The minimum and maximum size that the signage, notice, billboard, or advertisement that is acceptable.
- The type of signage that is acceptable, including an image or plan illustrating the point.
- The appropriate placement, location and height of the signage, including an image or plan illustrating the point.
- How far from the building the signage ca project outward.
- Prescriptions on what colours are acceptable.
- Who is financially and operationally responsible to install and maintain the signage.
- Whether the signage can include lighting, and the time of night that the lights must be switched off.
- A provision on how the additional electricity costs are to be allocated and divided.
- If the signs are installed by a third party contractor then the rule should deal with which contractors are acceptable.
- Any other rules that deal with maintaining the external harmonious appearance of the scheme.
What about “for sale” signs?
In this regard we suggest that the sectional title scheme seek guidance from the estate agent hired to market the unit within the scheme. That estate agent should know what the local by-laws in that region require for the approval before placing “to let” or “for sale” signs to attract public attention. Again, we recommend that the body corporate adopt a conduct rule that deals with the placement of these signs within the scheme. The rule can set out what type of signs are acceptable; how many signs are allowed; where they can be placed; and for how long they can be displayed for.
Sectional title appearance rules can cause friction with the owners and occupiers of a scheme. That being said, the first impression from the outside of a scheme, and the overall aesthetic appeal of a property are of utmost importance. The primary capital investment for most people is their home. It is therefore important that the property be maintained such that it can retain (and grow) in value. The body corporate should maintain a harmonious external appearance to ensure that the scheme remains a desirable investment for all owners and possible future property purchasers.