ACT lot owners are wondering what unit title certificates are answered by Nina Cannell, Signature Strata.
Question: What is the accepted legal definition of an addition/alteration, and at what point is private property considered an addition or an alteration?
In the house rules for my complex, under “Alterations” it states that alterations and additions must not be undertaken without prior written consent from the Executive Committee.
It then goes on to state that alterations include, but are not limited to: the erection of any structure (such as fixed retractable clotheslines), portable covered gazebos, fixed retractable shade structures, planter boxes on railings or courtyard walls, aerials, air conditioning, timber and panels behind fences, so on and so forth.
What is the accepted legal definition of an addition/alteration, and at what point is private property considered an addition or an alteration? For instance, large plant containers unfixed to walls or railings, or a large sun umbrella attached to an outdoor setting?
Answer: In the case of an Owners Corporation, an Alteration would extend to any structure or addition which is affixed to the fabric of the building, or anything which may alter the defined parts of the building/load bearing walls.
In accordance with the National Construction Code (NCC) Alterations, in relation to a building, is defined as ‘includes an addition or extension to a building’.
One could reasonably deduce, therefore, that in the case of an Owners Corporation, an Alteration would extend to any structure or addition which is affixed to the fabric of the building, or anything which may alter the defined parts of the building/load bearing walls.
The Oxford Dictionary defines an Addition as ‘A change to something that makes a difference’ or ‘The Act of making a change to something’.
Either of the definitions provided above could reasonably be applied to the examples provided for in the Owners Corporation Rules, however a formal definition of Alterations and Additions is notably missing from the Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011.
The Registered Rules of the Owners Corporation are taken to be enforceable, however, the reasonableness of a Rule can be reviewed by making an application to the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).
It is important to note that with the implementation of the amendments to the UTMA which took effect from 1 November 2020, there is a requirement for the Executive Committee to provide consolidated Rules. The process of consolidation of the Rules may or may not result in some changes to the current Owner Corporation Rules, specifically in regard to alterations and additions.
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This post appears in Strata News #427.
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