See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil: A gentle reminder for Trustees and Managing Agents – Mike Addison

In the dynamic world of sectional-title property ownership, the responsibilities of bodies corporate and trustees go beyond routine management tasks. A recent court case, Eze v Adderley Body Corporate and Another, serves as a poignant reminder of the essential duty to maintain and safeguard common property within sectional title schemes.

We say reminder, as it was just over ten years ago when we were also reminded after what we refer to as The Cascades case, Du Plooy v Cascades body corporate and another. There have been various cases over the years, involving swimming pools, balustrades, handrails, and so on.

The duty of care

In this matter, the case centred around Stephen Eze, a pedestrian injured by a falling wooden ceiling structure on Adderley Street in Cape Town. The Western Cape High Court emphasised the “duty of care” held by the Adderley Body Corporate to maintain a clean and safe building. Regular inspections, timely maintenance, and repairs to defects were deemed crucial. The judgment underscored the importance of alerting the public to safety risks and preventing access to hazardous areas.

Trustees and managing agents

For owners of sectional title properties, this case underscores shared responsibility. As a default member of the body corporate, property owners must actively participate in ensuring the scheme’s overall maintenance and, importantly, confirm the presence of liability insurance. While property management functions are often outsourced to agents, the ultimate responsibility for maintenance lies with the body corporate and its board of trustees.

Nonetheless, as the outcome of this case has once again shown, the managing agent is more often than not, dragged in as co-defendant and thus, also requires sufficient liability cover, even if only to defend oneself.

Common property defined

Understanding the term common property is pivotal. It encompasses areas and structures within the scheme commonly used by residents but not falling within any owner’s sectional title section. However, be reminded, that all owners in the scheme collectively own that common property. This can range from clubhouses, swimming pools, and play areas in townhouse developments to outer structures, stairwells, corridors, and lifts in blocks of flats. The monthly levy paid by owners primarily covers the maintenance of these common areas. This also underscores the importance of the statutory ten-year maintenance plan rather than just a box-ticking exercise.

Lessons learned

The court’s ruling in Eze v Adderley Body Corporate underscores the potential consequences of negligence in maintaining common property. The judgment makes it clear that unforeseen incidents resulting from neglected upkeep can lead to legal repercussions and unexpected expenses for both the managing agent and the body corporate.


In the spirit of the proverbial “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” this case serves as a gentle reminder for trustees and managing agents. Neglecting maintenance responsibilities can have serious implications, both in terms of personal safety and financial repercussions. Trustees are encouraged to proactively address their duty to keep buildings in good repair, fostering a safe and secure environment for all residents. Owners should also see, hear, and speak when noticeable neglect is present.

In the world of sectional title schemes, a collaborative effort ensures the well-being of residents and the longevity of the property.

Author: Mike Addison

Addsure is a leading sectional title insurance broker. Get fit and proper advice from advisors who understand sectional title.


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