Making Improvements to Common Areas is Complicated

What you need to know as an owner

Making Improvements to Common Areas is Complicated
Living in strata title communities is on the increase.

Strata living in Australia is on the increase due to affordability of this type of home ownership, the availability of facilities for owners, the increased security and the fact that someone else is doing the maintenance around your property.

But what happens when you are not happy with the standard of the maintenance or the timeframe it is occurring? Many owners will often take the project on themselves but there are rules which you need to be aware of.

What is ‘common property’?

When you buy into strata title you are generally entitled to make changes within the boundaries of your lot (with some limitations) but the areas surrounding the lots is referred to as common property and the responsibility of the body corporate.

Examples of common property include:

  • stairways, lifts and foyers

  • basement car parking

  • gardens

  • pool areas

  • gyms

  • access roadways

  • infrastructure such as power, sewerage and water

  • joint external walls (where half the wall is a lot and half is common property)

  • roofs

Making improvements to common property.

There is a difference when referring to maintenance and improvements in a strata community.  Maintenance is the responsibility of the body corporate and they are liable if it is not completed to standard. However if something is an improvement, the body corporate is not legally obligated to carry out the work and may not commence any work without first seeking approval from the lot owners at a general meeting.

An improvement could be something such as an addition of a new building (such as building a new gym in a complex), a voluntary structural change to the common area (fenced in areas, a playground etc) and non-structural changes such as installing air-conditioning into a common area. Defining what is maintenance and what are improvements is not always clear cut but a body corporate should reach agreement on this based on the legislation of that state.

Where the body corporate can make improvements to common areas.

The body corporate are able to carry out improvements to common property, but this must be approved by the committee and adhere to cost restrictions. For example, basic improvements which cost less than a stipulated amount per lot can be approved by the committee, subject to the relevant committee spending limit set by the body corporate.

There are different levels of authority required for certain values of improvements and it is important that the proper approvals are obtained.

There are several options owners of a strata community may consider when financing larger improvements including asking owners to pay a special levy or even seeking strata finance which relieves the direct burden on owners.

Talk to StrataLoans about options in your community.

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Monday, April 15, 2019