Roots and branches of trees can cause a lot of damage if left to grow uncontrollably, to avoid this situation they should be cut back every season. Large, overgrown and unruly trees in sectional title schemes can cause problems, not just in the owner’s garden, but the neighbour’ as well.
This can, understandably, lead to tension between the neighbours if the situation is not dealt with properly, says Michael Bauer, general manager of IHFM property management company. “Whichever side of the boundary the tree is on, it is that owner’s responsibility to maintain trees so as to prevent any damage to the fence or wall,” he said.
It must be determined whether the garden is an exclusive use area or common property. The demarcation of the area should be established by the trustees on the sectional plans, if it is marked as common property the body corporate is responsible for the cost of maintaining it.
If fenced in the tree doesn’t necessarily belong to the owner of the unit; he may just have exclusive right to it. In this case the owner pays a levy for this exclusive right (Section 37 (1b) of the Sectional Title Act) and pays for the maintenance of the tree according to Section 44(1) and PMR 68 and 70.
The clauses mentioned here state that the exclusive use area must be maintained by the section owner / exclusive use holder, and that the area must only be used for the purpose for which it was intended. Therefore, a garden cannot be turned into a parking area, for example. “It must be remembered that the levy the owner is paying to the body corporate is only for the exclusive use of the area,” says Bauer. “The direct maintenance costs of the garden are borne by the owner.”
In cases where damage caused by the tree has already occurred it is the responsibility of the owner of the tree to address this. “Compromise and reason is sometimes necessary,” reminds Bauer adding that these situations must be approached with communication and understanding for it to be resolved amicably.