What is the difference between a unit and a section?
Sectional title terminology can be quite confusing and two terms that often get confused by owners are ‘section’ and ‘unit’. While an apartment can be called either of these two terms, there are distinct differences between a section and a unit.
A section is indicated on the sectional title plan of the scheme; it is demarcated with a solid line and has a section number attached to it. The section will also have a square meterage attached which is important in the calculation of the participation quota of all sections in the scheme.
Other areas of use that may also be indicated as sections include storerooms, garages, parking bays, roof areas and balconies. The allocation of these areas as sections is dependent on the way the scheme was developed. As Sectional title schemes vary, some may not have all these types of sections.
A unit is the section plus its undivided share in the common property. The undivided share in the common property is calculated by determining the individual owner’s section (in square meters) as a percentage of the total square meters of all the sections in the scheme.
Say the section is 80 square meters and all the sections together equal 800 square meters, the owner will have an undivided share of 10% in the common property (800 / 80 = 10). The owner’s section is therefore 80 square meters in size and the unit has a participation quote value of 10%.
This percentage is also known as the participation quota (PQ) of the section which is used in all the general meetings of the body corporate to determine the quorum and weight of votes.
Primary vs utility section
Before 7 October 2016 – when the new Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act (STSMA) was promulgated – no distinction was made between different types of sections. With the introduction of the STSMA, sections are now either referred to as primary sections or utility sections.
A primary section is a section designed for human occupation. This includes sections in residential, commercial and industrial developments. A utility section, such as a garage or storeroom, is a section that is linked to a primary section but not used for human occupation. Like a primary section the utility section will be indicated on the sectional title plans of a scheme. Both types of sections will be indicated on the Title Deed of the owner and can be sold separately from each other.
Primary and utility sections are measured in square meters. Both types of sections have PQ values based on the calculation mentioned earlier. Utility sections are just as important as primary sections in terms of its role in determining the quorum for general meetings and calculating votes.
The general term used to refer to an apartment in a sectional title scheme is section. Referring to an apartment as a unit is not incorrect but it may include more than just the area that the owner occupies. Both terms are important for owners and managing agents to understand and distinguish as they both play an important role in general meetings and voting on important matters.