The information in this article will assist when reading strata plans. It discusses common property boundaries and who is responsible for what when it comes to apartment repairs and common property defects.
Jump directly to the QUESTION you are after:
- QUESTION: My window/sliding door leaks and my Owners Corporation say this is not their responsibility to repair. Why would they not be responsible for this maintenance and repair?
- QUESTION: A number of lot owners are having problems with leaking windows within their apartments. Where are the common property boundaries? Is this an owners corporation or individual lot owner issue?
- QUESTION: For some time we have had water ingress through the walls and windows of our investment unit. The body corporate say it is my cost to repair. Is this correct?
- ARTICLE: What’s yours and what‘s common property?
- QUESTION: Who is responsible for repairing roof tiles on my single storey strata unit?
Question: My window/sliding door leaks and my Owners Corporation say this is not their responsibility to repair. Why would they not be responsible for this maintenance and repair?
Our sliding door/window forms and is flush with the wall exterior on the east side of our building.
The subdivision shows that on the west side of the property the sliding door/window is under an awning/balcony. The east side of the building the doors are built into the wall, hence forming the exterior.
My east side window leaks and my Owners Corporation say this is not their responsibility to repair. My understanding is they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the east side door/window.
Is this correct?
Answer: The most obvious answer is that you own the window where the leak is coming from.
There are several reasons why the Owners Corporation may be stating the responsibility of the leak is yours to resolve.
The most obvious is that you own the window where the leak is coming from.
With these types of issues, the first question must always be, who owns the property in question?
Further, where is the leak originating from and who owns the property.
From the information you have provided, it is not clear as to what type of boundary exists where the window is located.
The easiest way to identify who is responsible is by referring to the plan of subdivision. This sets out the boundaries in the plan and can be interpreted to define ownership. Although most plans do not show specific detail like windows and doors, they provide the basics like walls, ceilings, and floors.
Depending on the type of plan, this will determine where to look for the information relating to the boundaries. The information can be on the front page of a plan under the section – notations, or on an older plan, the information is often two or three pages in.
One of the best guides to interpreting boundaries is set out in the Subdivision (Registrar’s Requirements) Regulations 2011 – Reg 10
I highly recommend checking out this regulation. Not only does it explain how to read and interpret boundaries, it also includes relevant diagrams which show how windows and doors fit into these boundaries.
In your case, the boundaries of the lot may be noted as exterior face, which would typically mean you own the wall and everything in it. This is only one example of many, so it is essential that you identify ownership as the first step.
Once ownership of the window has been clarified, this should assist with who is responsible for rectification of the leak. Of course, the issue could be the seal of the window has failed, or it could be something like the flashing requires attention. Whatever the problem, it needs to be investigated and resolved by the party who owns the window.
Alternatively, if the leak is originating from another location, it may be the duty of that party to resolve. Leaks can be difficult to solve, as water flows in all kinds of directions when it wants to.
Another thing to keep in mind is your Owners Corporation could have an agreement in place which stipulates each lot owner takes care of their window maintenance (repairs or replacement).
Sometimes Owners Corporations take this route in older style buildings, even when the boundary is noted as ‘median’.
Median boundaries are shared 50/50 ownership of a specific boundary. One party is responsible for one side, and the other party is responsible for the other. An example is when you have a boundary fence with your neighbour. Both of you will end up paying 50% of the cost of any work required to the dividing fence.
A significant majority of older buildings have median boundaries. Generally, the inside half is owned by the relevant lot owner, and the outside half is common property.
Owners Corporations sometimes deem it a fairer way to deal with windows in particular if the owner who benefits from that window takes care of the maintenance entirely. You might liken this to a”service” which benefits that lot exclusively. So, when maintenance is required to a lot owners window, the Owners Corporation may advise the relevant owner to deal with the repairs or replacement themselves, on this basis. This is even in the event the outside boundary is common property. While this approach may not be entirely correct given the ownership, it can be a fairer method for owners, in what is often a limited and not necessarily practical style of plan.
The above may be some of the main reasons why the Owners Corporation has advised you need to resolve the issue yourself. Whatever it is, you should seek clarification from them as to why it is deemed your issue before you take the next step.
This post appears in Strata News #364.
Question: A number of lot owners are having problems with leaking windows within their apartments. Where are the common property boundaries? Is this an owners corporation or individual lot owner issue?
We live in a block of 4 units in Victoria.
A number of the other owners are having problems with leaking windows within their own apartments. Our units are side by side not over the top of each other.
Where are the common property boundaries? Is this an owners corporation or individual lot owner issue?
Answer: The way to identify ownership of the area in question is to refer to the Plan of Subdivision.
This is a common question, but one that requires several pieces of information before a definitive answer can be provided.
When we look at repairs and maintenance, the first question is always “who owns the property”? Once we know the owner, we can then determine who has the responsibility to repair and maintain that property or service.
The way to identify ownership of the area in question is to refer to the Plan of Subdivision.
A Plan of Subdivision is a document that is automatically created when a plan containing common property is registered at Land Use Victoria. The Plan sets out the boundaries between lots and common property but also indicates other components such as roads, easements and services that are relevant to that subdivision.
There are various types of plans, and they fall under different Acts. Most commonly they would be associated with the more recent Subdivision Act 1988 or the one prior, the Strata Titles Act 1967.
Plans registered under STA.1967 bear the prefix RP (Registered Plan) or SP (Strata Plan). Later Plans that are registered with the SA.1988 bear the prefix PS (Plan of Subdivision).
Each of these types of plans has their unique quirks and, in most cases, (especially with the later Plans) they will note where the boundaries are.
To obtain a Plan of Subdivision, the cost is minimal, usually less than $20. This is done with Landata Victoria and is obtained through their website in under 5 minutes.
Once you have the document, you should read through and understand the boundaries. These are typically on the first page under notations, or in the older Plans, they are often a couple of pages into the document.
Understanding boundaries is the first step to working out whether your issue is the Owners Corporation responsibility or yours as a lot owner.
If the Plan identifies the boundary for the windows as private property, then absolutely, each owner has a responsibility to repair and maintain their respective windows. Wording on the Plan might state that “all other boundaries are external face”. If the boundary is noted as “median” or possibly “interior face”, then the Owners Corporation may have some or all of the responsibility.
Boundaries as a topic, unfortunately, can’t be covered briefly, because there is a significant amount of information that you need to be across. But this should give you the base to determine what you need to answer your question.
Once you identify who owns the windows, you will then know who is responsible for the maintenance of that piece of property.
Bear in mind though, and not to complicate the matter, an Owners Corporation also has the ability to on charge the cost of works to you if the work is for substantial benefit of one or some of the lots. This work can be to private or common property. Refer to Sec 49 of the Owners Corporation Act 2006. Put simply; we call this the benefit principle.
Windows are a perfect example where the benefit principle is often applied. Applying this principle can be a fairer way to apportion cost(s) for significant works.
If your lot has windows that benefit only your lot, then it is fair that you repair and maintain those windows. Where it becomes tricky, is if the window or windows are identified as common property. That is where the benefit principal comes in and can be applied under Sec 49 of the Act.
All these things need to be considered, and from the information you have provided, it sounds like your situation is relatively simple.
It might be worth asking your Owners Corporation Manager to clarify who owns the windows and take it from there.
This post appears in Strata News #339.
Question: For some time we have had water ingress through the walls and windows of our investment unit. The body corporate say it is my cost to repair. Is this correct?
I own an investment property in Melbourne. I have for some time been getting water into the unit through the walls at ground level from the rear courtyard and also through the windows. The Owners Corporation say the water ingress is my problem because it’s not common property.
Could this be true?
Answer: A difficult one without access to the plan of subdivision.
In response to the question, it is very difficult to give a definitive answer without reviewing the plan of subdivision.
However, in order to assist, I provide the following.
If the courtyard is a private courtyard incorporated in his title and the lower boundary is a specified depth below the ground surface which would indicate the foundations are included in his title as well, then it is likely that it is the owner’s problem. Particularly if the boundary is defined by the fence of the courtyard it follows the external wall may be incorporated in the title also. This is not always the case though and it depends on what is drawn on the plan.
In the event, there is one unit over another it is usually determined the upper level is a plan within the ceiling and the lower boundary is within the floor. This means the roof and the foundations are common. This is easily justified in that all units above the foundations benefit from the support of these the same as all units benefit from the protection the roof above provides.
External walls can be defined in many ways such as internal surface, median (middle of the thickness of the wall) or external surface. It is further complicated by whether the wall is a boundary or wholly contained within a lot. That is the boundary follows the fence of an adjoining courtyard and therefore the external wall is private. This can also vary in that the wall may be defined as common with the area inside the unit being private along with the area that forms the courtyard also being private but the structure of the wall being incorporated in the common property. This would be shown on the plan but may not be easily identified if you are not familiar with plans of subdivision.
It is also an issue if the water is originating from above and this is the common roof or another apartment when it would follow that the Owners Corporation needs to stop the water ingress in the case it is a common roof issue or the owner of the apartment above if there is a problem in their apartment, such as a burst pipe in the wall or leaking shower recess or bath or even a washing machine leaking. There can be many causes.
I would suggest I have sufficiently complicated the situation but any good manager should be able to define the boundaries and put the owner’s mind at ease.
This post appears in Strata News #186.
What’s yours and what‘s common property?
Questions are commonly received by strata managers from owners about Victorian common property boundaries along the lines of ‘What is mine and what is part of common property’. The list of questions can be somewhat exhaustive and often requires viewing the property’s plan of subdivision, however, we have attempted to address some of the more common areas of concern for owners and offer some insight below.
Victoria: Common Property Boundaries
Foundations and Roof
Many Victorian strata plans state something along the lines of, ‘The lower boundary of units 1 to 14 (both inclusive) lies one metre below that part of the site which lies within the vertical or near vertical boundaries of the relevant unit’. The upper boundary of each of these units is usually about 15 metres above its lower boundaries. In this case, the owner is responsible for their roof and the foundations under the floor. In this example, the common property is all the land in the parcel except the land contained in units 1 to 14. A prospective purchaser should be aware of this.
In other strata plans (i.e. Single storey units) areas above and below the units are deemed to be common property and therefore the owners corporation is responsible for the repair and or replacement of the roof and the foundations of the unit. It also means that the owner could not build a second storey without unanimous approval from the owner’s corporation, or build something below the surface such as a wine cellar.
Some plans of subdivision state that ‘depth and height limitations do not apply’. This means that the unit owner owns the immediate airspace above their unit (to the Commonwealth of Australia boundary). So, providing they obtain a permit they can build another storey onto the existing building. It also means that they own the land down into the ground and can build, for example, a wine cellar, providing a permit can be obtained. So there is no common property above or below the unit.
A plan of subdivision often states the location of boundaries defined by a building’s ‘median’ (marked ‘M’ on the plan) and ‘exterior face’. The median means that the two owners would share any repair costs of the wall dividing their two units. The exterior face means that the owner is responsible for all works from the plaster through to the paintwork on the exterior of the wall, which would include windows, rising damp, concrete cancer repairs or replacement. The ‘interior face’ means everything from the exterior paintwork through to the plaster and is the owners corporation’s responsibility.
If the strata plan states that all the air between floors to ceiling is private, that means everything above the ceiling is common property and anything below the floor is common property. So, if the foundations or roof deteriorate, it would be the owners corporation’s responsibility to repair or replace them.
If the street-side front fence of a block of units has a private courtyard behind it and the fence adjoins a footpath without any common property between the footpath and the fence, then the fence belongs to the owner of the unit that sits behind the fence. Councils rarely pay for the repair or replacement of a fence attached to an owners corporation, so this is usually left up to the owner.
If there was common property between the fence and the footpath and there was a private courtyard behind the fence, then the cost of repair or replacement would be shared equally between the owner and the owners corporation. If there is common property behind and in front of the fence then it is the owners corporation’s responsibility to repair or replace the fence.
A common problem that can occur is that a person purchases a unit under the belief that the backyard belongs to the unit, yet the plan of subdivision clearly shows that it is common property. What happens is that over time people install fences on common property to create private backyards for themselves.
The problem is that if a person slips, trips or falls and can prove negligence, it will be the owners corporation that is legally responsible because the area is common property. Yet the owners corporation quite often has no idea that this is common property, or they choose to do nothing about it. A simple and fairly cheap option is for the owner’s corporation to agree to lease or license the area to the unit holder.
Separate water and gas meters
If a property owner is renting their property to a tenant and only has one meter for both gas and water for the entire owners corporation, the tenants cannot be charged for the water or gas bills. In order to pass the costs of these services from the owner to the tenant, a separate water or gas meter must be installed.
The Victorian Government encourages the installation of separate water meters in unit complexes, apartment blocks and commercial properties to encourage efficiency and provide a financial reward for people who reduce water use.
In older flats and apartment complexes, separate water meters can be retrofitted after first gaining permission from the Owners Corporation to complete the work. Once in agreement, the Owners Corporation should contact the relevant water corporation in their area and have them explain the cost and process of installing individual water meters.
This article about common property boundaries is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
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Question: Who is responsible for repairing roof tiles on my single storey strata unit?
Who is responsible for repairing roof tiles on my property? Do roof tiles fall within the common property boundaries? I believe the cost of repair should fall to my strata / owners corporation.
My strata managers are saying it is my cost. I have previously seen other resident’s tiles fixed at a cost to the strata so would like some further information in regards to this issue.
What is the next step I should take to get these repairs underway?
Answer: The responsibility of maintaining and repairing roof tiles is that of the owner of those roof tiles.
The responsibility of who must repair and maintain the roof tiles is that of the owner of those roof tiles. To determine if the roof is within Common Property boundaries or part of your Lot you would need to refer to the Plan of Subdivision for your Owners Corporation (available from your Owners Corporation Manager if you don’t have a copy). The Plan will identify where the boundary to your lot ends and the Common Property begins.
You could assume that if other Lot owners have had their roofs fixed at the cost of the Owners Corporation then at some point it may have been determined the roofs are within Common Property boundaries and therefore repairs are paid for from the accumulated Owners Corporation funds.
A precedent may have been set in your Owners Corporation if this is the case, however, I would suggest you refer to the Plan of Subdivision to identify the Lot boundary before proceeding.
If you would like to send in a copy of your plan I’m happy to review it on your behalf to advise you where the Lot boundary lies and who is the responsible party.
This post appears in Strata News #158.
Have a question about common property boundaries or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
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