Prescribed Management Rule 29 (2), which deals with the insurance of a sectional title scheme, also covers public liability and it sets out clearly that trustees must have cover for a minimum amount of R100 000.
However, this amount might not be enough, says Michael Bauer, general manager of the property management company IHFM.
This sort of insurance is there to cover a number of on-site activities that could cause an injury to a visitor while visiting the scheme or damage to their property, but the trustees of the body corporate should also protect themselves in other ways.
The trustees are responsible for ensuring that the residents and visitors are safe, and things such as swimming pools, for example, must be amply fenced as well as a self-locking gate installed, and ample warning signage must be around the pool, said Bauer.
“It is interesting to note,” he said, “that the building regulation bylaws for swimming pools can differ from municipality to municipality so this needs to be checked to ensure that all requirements are met. Some areas, for instance, require pools have a 1.8 meter fence around it as well as a net.”
The first thing an insurance company will do if there is a public liability claim is check that the scheme complies with all the bylaws and has taken all the necessary steps to protect its residents or visitors, said Bauer.
“There are various things that can cause injury that trustees need to be on the lookout for, such as loose light fittings in a basement garage, sunken paving, gas bottles that are incorrectly stored or installed, and the list can go on and on, depending on how big the scheme is and the amenities it has,” said Bauer.
Other items that would need to be checked are the safety railing heights on staircases or outer walkways, fire escape signage (these need to be self-illuminating), emergency lighting that is independent of the major power source and that the fire equipment is serviced regularly. Slippery pathways or driveways due to moss growth in damp areas can cause someone to fall and break a limb, and these need to be cleaned regularly. Some staircases have been painted with incorrect paint which can become very slippery when wet, or incorrect tiles have been used in certain areas, and steps need to be taken here to prevent an accident.
“Risk disclaimer signs must be put up in all the common areas, the entrance, the staircases, clubhouse, swimming pool area, etc., so that those in the sectional title scheme have been warned ahead that the body corporate cannot be held responsible for certain events,” he said.
“The reality is that the scheme must cover itself for any event, is someone is injured on site and lodges a claim against the scheme, if the insurance is inadequate the owners will probably have to pay this by raising a special levy. Even if a claim is not successful, even defending this claim in court will end up costing the scheme over R200 000, and this money could have gone to repairing and refurbishing a scheme instead,” he said.
This article “Public Liability Insurance Might Not Be Enough” was issued by property management company IHFM – http://www.ihfm.co.za/