Solar power systems in sectional title schemes explained – Creamer Media’s Engineering News

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Homes in sectional title schemes, commonly known as ‘complexes’ are becoming increasingly prized by South African homebuyers, with these types of properties particularly appealing to the first-time homebuyer segment for their relative affordability.

However, while sectional title schemes offer buyers a host of benefits including increased security, amenities and lower maintenance costs, the way these schemes are governed has created additional hurdles for savvy homebuyers looking to switch to solar power. Installing solar panels on a sectional title property requires adherence to specific rules and regulations that don’t apply to freestanding homes.

“Solar panels are becoming increasingly commonplace in sectional title schemes,” explains Dominique dHotman, Head of ooba Solar, a platform that provides consumers with solar installation quotes for comparison and assists them in securing financing for their solar projects. “But completing the installation process can be an administrative headache for those who fail to familiarise themselves with the additional steps and documentation needed.”

For a start, a sectional title is governed by a Body Corporate and therefore actions undertaken by homeowners and/ or occupier (tenant) need to be approved prior to installation. “We aren’t talking about the painting of an internal wall but rather large external works, including solar power installation.” 

The Body Corporate is a legal entity that represents all owners and manages the financial, administrative, and physical needs of the complex.

Receiving written permission for an individual solar panel installation is a legal requirement because doing so impacts three regulatory guidelines of sectional title living, namely: The Sectional Title Schemes Management (STSM) Act; the Prescribed Management Rules and Prescribed Conduct Rules.

Aesthetic impact and solar insurance must be factored in

Of relevance are the Prescribed Conduct Rules, which states that the owner or occupier of a section (home within the sectional title development) may not, without the trustees’ written consent, make a change to the external appearance of the section. This is unless the change is minor and does not detract from the appearance of the section or the common property.

“Solar panels on the roof of a section are considered a major change, as well as deemed by many to be unsightly and detract from the overall appearance of the sectional title scheme -making written approval necessary before starting the installation process”.

“However, given the severity of the ongoing energy crisis and the pressing need for alternative solutions, Body Corporates across the country are relaxing their rules to allow for owners and occupiers taking measures to protect themselves from daily blackouts,” says dHotman. 

He does stress that while it is highly likely that the Body Corporate will give their consent to an installation, they will not do so if the section owner has not obtained insurance to cover the solar panels and associated infrastructure. “As per Section 14 of the STSM Act, any damages to the panels will not be covered by the Body Corporate’s general insurance policy for the sectional title scheme.” 

Solar for sectional title scheme renters

For occupiers of sectional title scheme sections, more commonly known as renters or tenants, the solar system installation process has an additional layer of complexity. 

“Many tenants don’t realise that if they install a backup power system like solar panels in their rented home, it will become the property of the landlord unless both parties sign a written agreement that the tenant will remove the installation once the lease agreement is terminated,” says dHotman. “The same applies for tenants of freehold homes.”

To avoid any ambiguity and the risk of a tenant losing their expensive investment, he recommends adding an addendum to the lease agreement that clarifies who will be responsible for the cost, installation, and maintenance of the solar panel system, as well as the electrical system of compliance for the installation. 

Navigating all the additional stipulations and complexities involved in transitioning to solar within a sectional title scheme can be overwhelming. Here, using an all-in-one platform like ooba Solar can be a great help in streamlining the process and taking the guesswork out of it.

“Homeowners and occupiers have peace of mind knowing that they’re getting a trusted and quality-checked system installer, who is compliant with all the requirements of the Body Corporate, taking the guesswork out of the process of switching to solar,” dHotman concludes.

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