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Owner or Owner's Corporation?

Monday, 16th August 2010

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One of the most confusing aspects of owning a lot within a strata scheme is understanding who is responsible for the maintenance of certain elements within the lot - an individual owner or Owners Corporation (Body Corporate)?

The debate has existed since strata schemes legislation was first incepted in 1961 and has been further confused by the way in which Owners Corporations may pass specific resolutions or by-laws changing or absolving the Owners Corporations maintenance responsibilites applicable to your property the following should be undertaken;

  1. A detailed examination of the 'Strata Plan' for your strata scheme
  2. Considering general rulings of the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) regarding maintenance items applicable to strata schemes
  3. Specific rulings of the CTTT relating to your strata scheme
  4. Absolution of maintenance responsibilities by your Owners Corporation pursuant to section 62(3) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996.
Ownership of Cubic Air Space

Prior to 1961, and sub-division in NSW only allowed for the vertical boundaries of a property to be defined.  There were no upper or lower limits specified on property titles, which simply meant the owner of a lot in a 'traditional' housing estate owned their property from the centre of the earth upwards indefinitely.

Strata Title legislation revolutionised property ownership in NSW by allowing for upper and lower limits on property titles to be defined horizontally, as well as vertically.

In a strata scheme, the vertical and horizontal boundaries of a lot are defined by a plan, which specifies these boundaries both by diagrams and written notations on the plan - this document is know as the Strata Plan.  The Strata Plan is drawn from the building/s or other permanent structures located on the property and gives birth to the cubic air space of a lot.

Generally speaking, all the elements of the property that fall within the cubic air-space of the lot are the lot owners responsibility to maintain.  Those areas that fall outside the lot are considered to be common property or the Owners Corporations responsibility to maintain.

Common Property - Owners Corporations' Responsibility

Section 62 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1966 (the Act) specifies that an Owners Corporation has a mandatory duty to maintain, repair, replace or renew all elements of the common property.

General Owners Corporation Responsibilities

  • Windows, front doors and balcony doors, including locks and door closers originally installed.
  • Garage doors if detailed as common property on the plan
  • Structural elements of the building such as the floors, ceilings, roofs, roof voids and boundary walls
  • Lawns, gardens, driveways, pathways and stairwells located throughout the common areas
  • Plaster or Vermiculite Ceilings including cornices
  • Timber and Parquet Floor Boards
  • Floor tiles affixed to balconies, kitchen, laundries, bathrooms and any other area of the lot if originally installed and not noted on the strata plan as otherwise
  • Wall tiles affixed to a boundary or common wall
  • Skirting or Architraves located on a common wall
  • Electrical Wiring, if located on a common property wall, or if it services more than one lot
  • The floor dividing the ground floor and first floor within a townhouse
  • Fences located on the boundary of the strata scheme or adjoining common property
Lot Property - Individual Owners Responsibilities

Lot space within a strata scheme is commonly defined as:

"The cubic air-space contained within the inner surface of the boundary walls, under surface of the ceiling and upper surface of the floor"

By this definition, all elements of the building that are contained within the cubic air-space of the lot are the individual owners responsibility for maintenance, items such as;

  • Carpets, cork tiles, vinyl/linoleum tiles, floating timber floorboards
  • Paint and wallpaper
  • Light fittings
  • Blinds and curtains
  • Internal walls
  • Internal doors
  • Wall tiles located on an internal wall
  • Skirtings and Architraves located on an internal wall
  • Toilets and pedestals
  • Bath tubs, basins and vanities
  • Shower screens
  • Built-in Wardrobes
  • Kitchen sinks, cabinets and bench tops
  • Electrical wiring located on an internal wall
  • Appliances that only service the lot, eg: bench ovens, cook tops, rangehoods, hot water heaters, air conditioners etc.
  • Pipe work housed exclusively within the lot (eg: the hot water pipe from hot water heater) or pipes located on an internal wall
  • Fences separating two lots (eg: separating the courtyards of two lots)

Generally speaking the guidelines detailed above will be applicable in the vast majority of cases, however there are three exceptions to these guidelines as follows:-

1) A specific notation of your Strata Plan

There are currently over 60,000 registered strata plans in NSW, each one of these buildings has their own individual plan that defines lot property and common property within the strata scheme.  On occasions due to a design complexity of the specific need of a building, a strata plan may have a specific notation that varies these guidelines.  As such it is important to check your strata plan to ensure no specific limitations apply.

2) Where the Owners Corporation absolves their responsibility

Section 62(3) of the Act allows an Owners Corporation, via a special resolution (75% majority vote) at a general meeting, to absolve their obligation to repair or maintain a specific element of common property as long as the absolution does not affect the structural integrity or safety of the building.  Common examples are door locks to front doors and garage doors or settlement cracking on internal boundary walls and ceilings of a lot.

3) A ruling by Strata Schemes Adjudicator or Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT)

If in a particular circumstance the Strata Schemes Adjudicator or CTTT has made a particular ruling affecting your strata scheme

For information on any exceptionsthat may apply to your strata scheme simply contact your strata manager

Story supplied by Netstrata

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