n Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif - Apartment ownership : the English version needs reforming

Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1016-4359
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2193



In this contribution, the English commonhold system, which enables the development of freehold units in a multi-unit development, is critically re-visited. Provision is made for the development of freehold apartments on land with a registered commonhold title. At the date of registration, a management body for the scheme, the commonhold association, must be in place. Each purchaser of a unit in the relevant building obtains freehold property on purchase. The property and management of the building housing the units and of the common areas of the scheme are, by contrast, withheld from unit holders and vested in the commonhold association, which is a special kind of body corporate. Since the coming into force of the English legislation, a set of defects have been detected. This contribution re-assesses the main problem areas and makes a number of reform suggestions drawing on material from a number of jurisdictions, notably South Africa, France and Germany. Avoidable problems are likely to arise with any conversions to commonhold from the predominant English long lease system, owing to the narrowness of the conversion rules. The manner in which ownership of units and the common parts are regulated, a key aspect in any such system, merits re-assessment. It seems that here the English rules survive comparison. The rules pertaining to constitution of the commonhold association fail to provide sufficient safeguards for unpaid scheme creditors. The rules relating leasing of commonhold units seem inadequately thought out. There is a conspicuous absence of real remedies for non-payment of assessments by unit holders. The effect of these and other aspects may help to explain why commonhold has had a limited numerical impact. The time for a second generation reforming statute may have come.

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