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An Introduction to Community Association Living

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What is the role of a community association? What’s the difference between sectional title and freehold communities? And how does all this work? These questions and others are answered here.

FIRSTLY, WHAT IS A COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION?

According to Jeff Gilmour, the president of the Association of Residential Communities SA, and as stated in the Homeowners Association Manual, by Peter and Marc Dunbar:

“Mandatory homeowners associations are part of an overall concept of residential property ownership. Purchase of the home brings with it membership of the association, which provides the structure for operation and management of the residential community concept. Membership includes certain mandatory obligations, financial responsibilities and rules of the association.”

A community association is an organisation established to govern a residential community. It usually owns and manages the common property of the community for the owners.

PURPOSE OF A COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION

Community living is very popular at present, due to the inherent benefits associated with communities and their associations. The main responsibilities of the community associations are to:

  • maintain and beautify all common areas
  • ensure that security is maintained
  • communicate with all residents
  • keep proper records and books of accounts
  • enforce agreed rules and regulations
  • protect the interests of property owners
  • offer various services and amenities to owners and residents
  • encourage or organise social activities, thereby fostering a sense of community among residents.

There are two basic types of community associations, namely sectional title and freehold developments. In a sectional title development, a body corporate is established through which levies are raised. In a freehold estate, each owner has exclusive ownership to the property purchased, as well as an interest in the communal areas. The common areas, such as roads and parks, are owned by the association, of which every owner is automatically a member

LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS

Regulations for freehold development are contained in the Companies Act, and for sectional title development in the Sectional Titles Act. Associations are obliged to comply with various codes and laws established by local government of municipalities, e.g. local fire codes or health and safety laws. Additionally, rates, taxes, and other charges are levied on all common areas by the municipalities. Any expenses arising as a result of these codes would need to be reflected in the association’s budget.

THE GOVERNING DOCUMENTS

The role of the governing documents of an association is to provide the structure for the operation of the community, e.g. to:

  • formalise the relationship, and detail the rights and obligations between owner and association
  • establish rules and regulations that will protect the value of the individual and common property, and create standards that will enhance the living conditions within the community
  • create a framework for managing the community and funding its operations.

Primary documents are the recorded plan or map of the development, the declaration, covenants, conditions and restrictions, or master deed, the Articles of Association, and documents pertaining to bylaws and resolutions.

Other documents include the rules, regulations and levies. It is imperative that prospective owners obtain information on the community levies as well as its rules and regulations, and ensure that they agree with the standards set, as once they have bought the property they are obligated to conform to the rules and regulations as they have been set out.

 

COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT

In order for a community association to be effective, it is essential to recognise that it is made up of people with different backgrounds. The community is made up of four distinct groups: the owners, the board members, committees and association management. Each group has different goals. In order for community leaders to manage these goals, they have to understand the different roles of each group, and its respective scope of responsibility.

Every community association is unique and will adopt the style of management that best suits it. Options include self-management, being managed by a management company, or the employment of a community manager.

THE PARTIES INVOLVED: RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Members of the homeowners association have two responsibilities – one to themselves and to their individually owned property, and one to the association and the community concept. Apathy by an individual member can render the association ineffective, and can destroy the community concept. To maintain the quality of life that accompanies a well-maintained residential community, each individual member must do his or her part. The success of the homeowners association will depend on how well each member meets and keeps the responsibilities that are established by the covenants creating the overall community concept. – Sean WolfeCoote, Chairperson of Eagle Canyon Golf Estate

Community associations are an excellent example of democracy at work. Ownership of the community rests with the owners, but the authority for the daily operation of the community is delegated to the elected representatives – the board of directors.

• Owners have the right to a well-run, efficient community association that they can participate in, have access to,
and have a say in.
• The board has the right to respect, and to expect all residents in the community (both owners and tenants) to
comply with the community rules, and pay their levies as required.
• Board members have the responsibility to perform their duties with due diligence and care for the reputation of
the association by acting within procedures, and ensuring that they act in the best interest of the community.

COMMUNITY BUILDING

Common areas do not automatically create a sense of community. Nurturing the community spirit is probably the greatest challenge facing community associations today. – Clifford Treese, CPCU, ARM, CIRMS

In managing a community association it is essential to focus on building a sense of community among residents. An integral part of creating this sense of community is to have members who are involved, and provide their unique viewpoint and suggestions on issues. Residents who feel that their viewpoints are taken into account are usually more motivated to be involved in the community.

Some activities that can be undertaken in order to build this sense of community are:

  • community activities that assist local charities
  • community assistance programmes, e.g. a supportive network of lift clubs
  • recognising achievements by members
  • organising safety and basic first-aid training
  • blood donation drives
  • annual events such as sponsored Easter egg hunts or tree planting on Arbour Day
  • including feedback on various events in the Estate Livings portal news feed to encourage participation.

Effective methods of involving members include:

  • undertaking regular surveys to determine community satisfaction and asking for suggestions for future activities
    or programmes
  • communicating all current programmes and upcoming events in the monthly newsletter • starting a welcome
    committee for new residents
  • ensuring that anyone who contributes to the community is appreciated and acknowledged
  • encouraging sponsorships from service providers
  • ensuring that the board or manager is accessible to the residents, and organising quarterly member meetings
  • arranging any community events in areas where residents traditionally congregate
  • establishing committees with specific functions (security, landscaping, social, etc.) and clear responsibilities.

Ultimately, the goal is to encourage a mindset of being part of the community, as opposed to merely living within a community.

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