When buying an apartment, it’s essential to have a full understanding of exactly what is ‘Common Property’ in a Strata Plan, and the associated maintenance responsibilities and boundaries that exist between individual apartment (lot) owners and those of the Owners Corporation (OC). The details might surprise you.

In some strata schemes, uncertainty can arise about whether the OC or the individual owners are responsible for the maintenance or repair of certain items. This is where a common property memorandum comes in, it clearly specifies the different areas of responsibilities for the maintenance, repair or replacement of common property.

In NSW, Fair Trading have issued a ‘prescribed memorandum’ designed to help individual owners and OC in dealing with most items within their strata scheme.

The memorandum (which is the only one that can be used) can be adopted by passing a specific by-law. It cannot be modified except to exclude an item/s that are not common property in a scheme.

An understanding of the separation of who’s responsible between the OC and individual owners is important, because it impacts every owner and their insurance requirements. In this post and the next we’ll summaries each area, starting with the OC.

Boundaries & Responsibilities – Owners Corporation

The OC responsibilities for maintenance, repair or replacement is extensive and includes the following areas:

Balcony and Courtyards

Columns and railings and doors, windows and walls (unless the plan was registered before 1 July 1974). Balcony ceilings (including painting) and security doors, other than those installed by an owner after registration of the strata plan.

The original tiles and associated waterproofing, in place at the time of registration of the strata plan along with common wall fencing, shown as a thick line on the registered strata plan. The dividing fences on a boundary of the strata parcel that adjoin neighbouring land.

Another area covers awnings within common property outside the cubic space of a balcony or courtyard and walls of planter boxes shown by a thick line on the strata plan. Here also responsibility covers any part of a tree which exists within common property

Ceiling/Roof

This is area of details worth noting, to OC is responsible for false ceilings installed at the time of registration of the strata plan, however, painting is the lot owner’s responsibility.

A more common finish in many apartments is plastered ceilings and vermiculite ceilings, here again it’s the OC obligation other than painting, which is the lot owner’s responsibility. Plus, the OC also must look after guttering and any membranes.

Electrical

This is a major area and for the OC includes an extensive list: air conditioning systems (importantly) serving more than one lot, automatic garage door openers, but not any installed by an individual apartment owner after the registration of the strata plan. But obligation this does not include any associated remote controls required for either common area or individual garage access.

Beyond these items, repair and maintenance extends to fuses and fuse boards in meter room, the buildings intercom handset and wiring and electrical wiring, light fittings and power points serving more than one lot, in common areas.

Smoke detectors generally whether connected to the fire board in the building or not, telephone, television, internet and cable wiring within common property walls. Television aerial, satellite dish, or cable or internet wiring that are serving more than one lot, regardless of whether it is contained within any lot or on common property and the big area of lifts all fall to the OC.

Entrance and Security Doors

This also extends to individual entrance doors to a lot including all door furniture and automatic closer devises but not any security doors, that may have been installed by an owner after registration.

Floors

This is an area that at time creates some confusion, the OC must look after all original floorboards or parquetry flooring affixed to common property floors, mezzanines and stairs within lots, if shown as a separate level

in the strata plan, this also includes original floor tiles and associated waterproofing.

Associated areas like the sound proofing of floor base, falls to the OC but not sound proofing installed by an owner after the registration.

General

Outside of the above areas generally the provisions of the memorandum cover what might be best described as the main building structure. This would include common property walls, the slab dividing two storeys of the same lot, or generally one storey from an open space roof area, a townhouse or villa, any door in a common property wall, skirting boards, architraves and cornices on common property walls, original tiles and associated waterproofing affixed to the common property, ducting covers or structures covering a service that serves more than one lot or the common property and ducting for the purposes of carrying pipes servicing to more than one lot.

Exhaust fans and hot water service located outside of the boundary of any lot or units that service more than one lot, letter boxes within common property, swimming pool and gym equipment, these all fall under the OC.

Parking/Garage

Carports, other than those within the cubic space of a lot and referred to in the strata plan, or which have been installed by an owner after registration, electric garage door opener (motor and device) including automatic opening mechanism which serves more than one lot

The garage doors, hinge mechanism and lock, if shown by a thick line outside the cubic space of the lot and mesh between parking spaces, if shown by a thick line.

Plumbing

Floor drain or sewer in common property, pipes within common property wall, floor or ceiling, main stopcock to units, storm water and on-site detention systems below ground.

Windows

Windows in common property walls, insect-screens, other than those installed by an owner after the registration, original lock or other lock if subsequently replacement by the OC.

Registration and changes or additions made by an individual owner are important and detailed in the prescribed memorandum. The next post details the responsibilities of individual apartment owners.