Festive decorations in sectional title schemes

With the holidays looming, festive decorations are everywhere you look. Do you know what the laws require for Festive Decorations within Sectional Title

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! The festive season is upon us, and with that it is time for all the lights and festive decorations to be showcased. Although decorating the exterior of residential properties is less common in South Africa, there are exceptions. There are pockets of neighborhoods that do display Christmas decorations on the exterior parts of their homes. Commercial properties such as retail establishments also decorate the exterior parts of the building with festive displays.

Legislative requirements

The exterior parts of sectional title buildings are part of the common property of the scheme. There are therefore restrictions and limitations that affect how individual owners may use these areas. The following provisions may have an impact on the installation of festive decorations 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.”

Our recommendation

If your scheme is a commercial scheme that annually displays festive lights and/or decorations, or has individual freestanding units with owners that are keen to display festive decorations on the exterior parts of the buildings, then we suggest that your scheme adopt a conduct rule that deals with this.

To avoid the need to be a party pooper and giving a blanket ban on the installation of festive decorations and displays we suggest the rule allows for it subject to reasonable restrictions and limitations. The rule should include provisions that deal with:

  1. The dates that the decorations and/or lights can be put up and the date that the decorations must be removed by.
  2. The type of decorations and/or lights that are acceptable, including an image or plan illustrating the point.
  3. The amount of decorations and/or lights that are acceptable, including an image or plan illustrating the point.
  4. The time of night that the lights must be switched off.
  5. If the decorations make noise (for example where they have festive bells ringing or carols sounding), then provisions that deal with the acceptable volume and times that are acceptable audibles .
  6. If the decorations and/or lights are installed by a third party contractor then the rule should deal with which contractors are acceptable.
  7. A provision on how the additional electricity costs are to be allocated and divided.

Written by Dr Carryn Melissa Durham

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