/Installing solar panels in complexes in South Africa – what you need to know

Installing solar panels in complexes in South Africa – what you need to know

Wright Rose-Innes says sectional title owners regularly ask it if they can install solar panels in their sectional unit, with many trying to minimise the effects of load shedding.

The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (Act) and the Sectional Title Schemes Management Regulations (Regulations) outline the responsibilities of the body corporate of a sectional title scheme and state how common property in a scheme must be used.

According to Wright Innes Rose, owners of a unit in a sectional title scheme automatically become owners of an undivided share in the common property in the scheme – including driveways, elevators, and swimming pools.

The body corporate selects the trustees of the sectional title scheme who must attend to the management of the sectional title scheme on behalf of the body corporate.

The Regulation’s conduct rule 5(1) states that an owner of a unit cannot make any changes to the external appearance of their unit or any other exclusive use areas assigned to that unit without the consent of the trustees in writing – unless the change is minor and would not lessen the appearance of the unit or common property.

Therefore, an owner looking to erect solar panels on the roof of their unit would do so on the common property of their sectional title scheme.

In addition, the Management Rule 29(1) and (2) says that a unanimous resolution of the body corporate is required for non-reasonably necessary improvements to the common property.

However, reasonably necessary improvements to the common property will only need a special resolution from the body corporate.

The Act’s Section 1 says a unanimous resolution needs a meeting where 80% of the votes cast by the present or represented body corporate members are in favour of the resolution or a written agreement by all members of the body corporate.

Whereas a special resolution needs at least 75% of the votes of members represented at a general meeting or a written agreement by 75% of the corporate body members.

Wright Rose-Innes said that an improvement of various subjective factors – location of the scheme, market value and the needs of the body corporate – dictate where an improvement is reasonably or non-really necessary.

However, the firm said that installing solar panels on the roof of a sectional title unit should be seen as a necessary improvement to the common property as it is a simple renewable energy solution to minimise the effects the nation’s energy crisis.

The tax incentives announced during the budget speech for solar panels should support the argument that they are necessary.

Wright Rose-Innes said that Section 14(1) of the Act indicates that an owner can get insurance for any damage to their section due to certain risks that may not be covered by the body corporate’s insurance policy.

Sectional title owners should thus insure their solar panels if the current insurance policy of the body corporate does not, as they can be costly to replace due to damage.

Although sectional title owners can install solar panels, they must ensure that they have received the necessary approvals from the body corporate.