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Solar Panels in Sectional Title Schemes

Solar Panels in Sectional Title Schemes

In light of the prevailing power crisis in South Africa, caused by recurring load shedding, finding alternative solutions to mitigate the adverse effects of power cuts has become imperative. This article aims to discuss:
  1. The installation of individual solar panels in Sectional Title Schemes, focusing on the authorization process and associated considerations.
  2. The installation of Solar Panels for the entire Sectional Title Scheme.
It should be noted that this article has been prepared by Solver Property Services to assist our clients in navigating this issue effectively.

The Challenge of Implementing Solar Panels within Sectional Title Schemes:

The installation of individual solar panels in Sectional Title Schemes can present certain challenges due to the unique rules and regulations governing these community schemes. Factors such as physical features, layout, and the distribution of units within the scheme influence the feasibility of such installations. Consequently, it is crucial to explore the intricacies and considerations involved in implementing these alternative power sources.

Legislative Considerations:

The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (STSM Act), along with the prescribed management rules (PMRs) and conduct rules (PCRs), provide important considerations before the body corporate should consider authorizing the installation of individual solar panels in the scheme.

Some key legislative provisions that shape this decision-making process include:

  • PMR 30(b), which imposes a duty on the body corporate to prevent members or occupants from causing nuisances.
  • PMR 30(e), which requires the body corporate to take reasonable steps to avoid any actions that negatively impact the value or utility of other sections or exclusive use areas.
  • PCR 5(1), stipulating that changes to the external appearance of sections or exclusive use areas require written consent from the trustees unless the changes are minor and do not detract from the overall appearance.
In the context of South Africa's power crisis, it can be argued that although solar panels may have aesthetic implications, granting permission for their installation is reasonable and necessary.

From a legislative standpoint, it is crucial to recognize that the roof, although covering a specific unit, is Common Property collectively owned by all scheme members. Any installation or modification on the roof, such as installing solar panels, must comply with the rules and regulations governing the use of Common Property. Careful consideration of the rights and interests of all scheme members is necessary to ensure that the value and utility of other sections or exclusive use areas are not compromised. The body corporate, as the custodian of the Common Property, plays a vital role in facilitating fair decision-making processes to authorize solar panel installations while balancing the individual needs of unit owners with the collective interests of the scheme.

Additional Considerations

In addition to the legislative aspects, there are other essential factors that the body corporate should consider before authorizing the installation of individual solar panels:

  1. Structural Integrity: PMR 30(d) emphasizes the importance of maintaining the building's stability and ensuring that alterations to sections or exclusive use areas do not compromise the overall structure.
  2. Additional Insurance: Section 14(1) of the STSM Act allows owners to obtain insurance coverage for damages arising from risks not covered by the body corporate's insurance policy. As a prerequisite for consent, it is advisable to require owners to obtain appropriate insurance for the solar panels and associated infrastructure.
Consent for Authorization:

Once the trustees have considered all relevant aspects and decide to authorize the installation of individual solar panels, the next step is determining the required level of consent.

In cases where solar panels can be installed and facilitated within the scheme, it is recommended that the body corporate make the portions of common property on which the solar panels are installed subject to the exclusive use of the respective section owners. This can be achieved through the adoption of a conduct rule, requiring a special resolution where 75% (in both number and value) of the owners support the installation. The conduct rule should address various aspects, including the permitted type of solar panels, appropriate placement, preferred contractors, and the responsibility for maintenance and repairs.

Weighing up all of these factors – plus the obvious requirement to keep the lights on in the face of continued planned power outages – will help each sectional title scheme and body corporate to determine whether or not individual solar panels should be permitted, and under what conditions.

An alternative option: Installation of Solar for the Entire Complex

In addition to the authorization process for individual solar panels, another viable option for Sectional Title Schemes is for the Body Corporate to consider installing solar panels to cater to the entire energy supply of the complex. This alternative approach eliminates the need for passing a special resolution for exclusive use areas. However, several factors need to be carefully considered before pursuing this option.

  1. Reason for Installation: The purpose behind the installation of solar panels is crucial, as it can influence whether it is perceived as a luxurious item or a necessity. The specific reason for the installation will determine the type of approval or resolution required. In this regard, seeking guidance from your Property Portfolio Manager is recommended to ensure compliance with relevant regulations and requirements.
  2. Financial Position of the Complex: The financial standing of the Sectional Title Scheme plays a significant role in determining the feasibility of installing solar panels for the entire complex. The costs associated with such an installation, including equipment, installation fees, and ongoing maintenance, should be carefully evaluated. Conducting a comprehensive financial assessment is essential to ensure that the complex can afford this investment and derive long-term benefits from reduced energy costs.
  3. Directives and Restrictions: It is important to consider any directives or restrictions imposed on the trustees that may impact their decision-making process. These directives could arise from governing bodies or regulations that outline specific guidelines or limitations regarding renewable energy installations. Consulting with professional managing agents who possess expertise in this area will provide valuable insights and guidance on navigating any pertinent directives or restrictions.
Weighing up all of these factors – plus the obvious requirement to keep the lights on in the face of continued planned power outages – will help each sectional title scheme and body corporate to determine whether or not individual solar panels should be permitted, and under what conditions.

For expert advice on sectional title schemes…

Contact Solver Property Services today for advice on any of the points covered in this article. Alternatively, seek the advice of a professional valuer with experience of sectional title schemes.

Disclaimer: Kindly note that the above article is merely for information, and is not intended to be comprehensive, to provide legal advice or to assist Community Schemes with the discharge of their fiduciary duties. It does however cover some important aspects on trustee responsibilities, body corporate insurance, Sectional Title insurance replacement values, and more.

Solver is amongst the larger property managing agent companies in South Africa and have been managing community schemes effectively since 2005. High-rise sectional title buildings, Homeowners Associations, share blocks, apartments, we manage it all. For more information, please contact 010 822 2882. Solver Property Services has a team of experienced Property Managers / Managing Agents that can assist you.

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