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Here’s how to run your business from a sectional title home

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At least 10% of South Africa’s working adults are now self-employed, with many unable to afford office space, a shop or manufacturing space; their enterprises are by definition home-based. This is according to Andrew Schaefer, MD of national property management company, Trafalgar.

“In addition, an increasing number of those who are in employment have been enabled by technology to work from home and are choosing to do so most of the time now rather than commute to an office every day,” he says, noting that establishing a home-based business or full-time home office in a sectional title scheme can be problematic.

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“It is clear from the Sectional Titles Act that a flat or townhouse is intended for residential use, and generally cannot be used as an office or place of business – unless the owners of every other unit in the sectional title scheme agree in writing to a change of use. This means that owners who have not secured this consent can be told by the trustees of the scheme to immediately close their home-based businesses or face legal action.

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“On the other hand, times and lifestyles have changed so much since the act was introduced that we as managing agents always encourage owners and trustees to consider change-of-use applications very carefully rather than just rejecting them out of hand. Running a home-based business may be the only way for a fellow owner to earn a living and keep up his levy payments, for example, so agreeing to him doing so may be in both interests.”

For the body corporate: How to decide on a change of usechanging the rules or regulations

  • Is the business noisy? An accounting or computing business is a whole different proposition to a vehicle repair or woodworking business.

  • The inconvenience or nuisance factor. Does the business cause inconvenience, particularly to security and parking? “If the business is a delivery company, for example, or a service enterprise like a cleaning or catering or recruitment company that would involve staff or customers coming and going all day, consent might not be a good idea,” says Schaefer. “Having said that, though, a teaching or coaching business that only attracts one customer at a time or a professional business with only one or two regular employees might not cause the other owners in the scheme any inconvenience at all.”

  • A question of visible marketing. According to the prescribed management rules for sectional title schemes owners or residents are prevented from doing anything that might harm the reputation of their scheme.  “Owners generally don’t want their sectional title scheme to lose its residential character and end up looking like an office park or a mini-factory complex with many signboards advertising the various businesses that it houses – and quite rightly so, as that would most likely have a negative effect on the value of all homes in the scheme,” he says. “Consequently, even if they do approve the change of use and establishment of a home-based business, they may want to veto the placement of any advertising material or signage for that business anywhere on the common property.”


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