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Questions about common property

Friday, 09th April 2010

The Office of Fair Trading helps Matt and Kristy with their questions about common property in relation to pruning trees, parking, repairs and gardens.

Kristy and Matt have a few questions about Common property.

  1. Who is responsible for pruning trees on the property?
  2. Who is responsible for looking after the wheelie bins?
  3. We want to use the garden area outside our unit just for ourselves. Can we do this?
  4. We want to park in a section of the driveway that's common property.  Can we get permission to do this?
  5. Can we do our own repairs to common property?
  6. Can we do anything we like to our backyard?
Before we answer those questions, let's take a look at what common property is.

Common property is all the area of the land and building not included in any lot.  It is jointly owned by all owners and the Owners Corporation is responsible for its management.

The common property boundaries of each lot are generally formed by:

  • the upper surface of the floor (but not including carpet)
  • the under surface of the ceiling
  • the external or boundary walls (including doors and windows).
Generally common property includes:

  • floors including a ramp or stairway
  • boundary wall including any door, window or other structure within the wall and their working parts
  • ceramic tiles originally attached to a common property surface (eg. the floor or boundary wall)
  • pipes in common property or servicing more than one lot
  • parquet and floorboards originally installed
  • vermiculite ceilings, plaster ceilings and cornices
  • magnesite finishes on the floor
  • balcony walls and doors are usually common property if the strata plan was registered after 1 July 1974, unless the registered strata plan says it is not
In addition, structural cubic space is usually common property unless the registered strata plan shows that it forms part of the lot.

Structural cubic space includes:

  • any pipes, wires, cables or ducts that are not for the enjoyment of a single lot
  • any cubic space enclosed by a structure enclosing any of these pipes, wires, cables or ducts.

If you are unclear about which parts of your unit are your individual 'lot' and which parts are common property, check on the strata plan.  The common property boundaries are usually shown on strata plans by thick black lines.  Sometimes it may be necessary to refer to the registered strata plan if the boundaries between common property and lots in a Strata Scheme are unclear.  If you wish to obtain a copy or seek interpretation of the registered strata plan of your scheme, contact the Department of Lands at www.lands.nsw.gov.au or call 9288 6666.

Care of common property

The Owners Corporation is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of common property (unless it decides by special resolution that it is inappropriate for a particular item and its decision will not affect the safety or appearance of the strata scheme).  This includes repair work and replacing and renewing common property when needed.

Repairs and renovations involving common property

Any repairs or renovations to an individual lot that involve common property (for example, installing cable television or adding a new window) will need the permission of the Owners Corporation.

The Owners Corporation can decide by special resolution at a general meeting to all or a particular lot owner to make additions to, or alter, common property.  They can pass on an exclusive use by-law which gives the owner the use (not ownership) of that area of common property and makes them responsible for the repair and maintenance of the area, otherwise the Owners Corporation is responsible.  An exclusive use by-law must be registered with Department of Lands within two years.

Now to answer Kristy and Matt's questions:-

  1. Who is responsible for pruning trees on the property?
    If the trees are common property, it is the Owners Corporation responsibility.  If the trees are part of your lot - you are responsible as the owner.

  2. Who is responsible for looking after the wheelie bins?
    The owners (or residents) are responsible for putting their own bins out, bringing them in, and keeping them clean.  The Owners Corporation usually owns the bins.

  3. We want to use the garden area outside my unit just for ourselves. Can we do this?
    If it is part of your lot, yes.  If it is common property, you will need to get the permission of the Owners Corporation.  This usually requires an exclusive use by-law to be passed by special resolution (75% of members of the Owners Corporation have to vote for it) at a general meeting.

  4. We want to park in a section of the driveway that's common property.  Can we get permission to do this?
    Send a written request to the Secretary or Strata Managing Agent.  Permission should then be voted on at a general or executive committee meeting.

  5. Can we do our own repairs to common property?
    Only if you have the permission of the Owners Corporation.  If common property needs repair or maintenance, the Owners Corporation would undertake that work, not an individual owner.

  6. Can we do anything we like to our backyard?
    If your backyard is part of your lot, you can do anything as long as it doesn't breach by-laws, for example, you must not damage common property or create disturbing noises.
Information supplied by the Office of Fair Trading www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

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Comment from LULU on Friday, 18th March 2011

One of the unit owners wants to raise a special levy to erect a fence on common property. This fence will only provide privacy for their unit giving no benefit to other unit owners. Her argument is for security. We live in a secure block. I am at a loss to understand why all other owners are obliged to pay for something that has no benefit to them.

Comment from Tim Everard on Tuesday, 07th December 2010

I have query re. garage doors in a Unit Block as to responsibility for repairs to the lock and operating mechanism. The doors adjoin common property. I have referred to the Strata Plan and it gave no indication as to what was common or private property. Under a previous Chairman repairs to garage doors & locks were repaired by the Owners Corp. as were repairs/replacements to other doors eg front, patio etc. The building was completed in 1988, and approved by North Sydney Council. Subsequently a Strata Plan was drawn up, this has not been altered. When I was Chairman and the property was run by Jamesons of Cremorne I was informed that garage doors were Common Property and the responsibility of the Owner's Corp. I understand that Jamesons used Robinson's book "Strata Titles in NSW" as a reference. It was decreed at a meeting that owners who installed automatic doors assumed responsibility for repairs to mechanisms of such doors. The door for which I am trying to claim was as originally installed and not automatic. I would appreciate a prompt response as this matter has been dragging on for some months.

Comment from Strata Guy on Thursday, 20th May 2010

Hi, Gotta be honest, first I have heard of this! Wow - makes you think about what you throw out. The place to raise it is with the strata manager or Executive Committee. There may be a logical reason why she is doing it (can't think of one myself, but...), but it is clearly bothering you so you should approach them directly.

Comment from amandan2 on Tuesday, 18th May 2010

I have a neighbour that literally goes through the bins this includes undoing garbage bags to see whom in the properties (Townhouses) the rubbish belongs to.
I find this an invasion of privacy and am wondering if this is even legal?
She is on the body of Strata within our development but isn't this going a bit far i have consider making a complaint to the police.
What are my rights is she allowed to do this.

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