I thought you fixed that: Misconceptions about who looks after what in strata-titled buildings
Organising repairs in a strata-titled development, like an apartment building or townhouse complex, can get confusing. Although owners are responsible for all repairs and maintenance in their own home (their lot), figuring out what is considered part of the home, and what isn’t, leaves many people scratching their heads. By learning the difference, you can quickly discern whether a maintenance issue is the responsibility of the strata manager or if you need to organise repairs yourself.
To help you get your head around what is part of a lot and what is common property Matt, Jessica and Sarah, three residents of strata-titled developments that all encountered maintenance issues, share their stories.
Matt and the broken door
It’s Tuesday, 10:00 am. Exhausted from working the night shift, Matt stumbles up the stairs toward the front of his apartment building. But there’s a slight problem: the door has come off its hinge. Matt picks up his phone and sends an email with a photo of the disjointed door to Kate, his Independent strata manager.
Kate immediately reaches out to her network of reliable trades for a couple of quotes and then emails the quotes to the executive committee for approval.
Fortunately for Matt, the committee of his building are very active and get back to Kate with approval in a matter of hours. Success!
Kate books the tradesperson to come first thing on Wednesday, following up at lunch to make sure the job has been done and is to the right standard.
Repairs of common property
In order to organise any repairs, your strata manager must get spending approval from the executive committee, the 3-7 owners selected by the owners corporation as representatives. This gives control of the administration and sinking funds (where your strata levies go) to the owners.
The downside of this is that approvals can sometimes take time, particularly if your executive committee is not very active. At the end of the day a strata manager can only be effective as the committee, so it’s important you attend your annual general meeting. That way, you can vote for committee members who will be engaged and proactive. Even better? Get involved yourself.
Jessica and the blocked pipe
Jessica lives in a detached townhouse in a strata-titled complex and is having some trouble with the pipe that brings water to her home.
Since the pipe runs through common property, Jessica calls her strata manager, Jack, to organise repairs. Afterall, she knows that things in the common property are the responsibility of strata management. But it turns out it’s not that simple.
Jack explains to Jessica that although the water pipe runs through the common driveway and gardens, the pipe only brings water to her home. This means it is Jessica’s responsibility as the owner to organise and pay for repairs. Disappointed, but by no means defeated, Jessica calls a plumber that her strata manager has said is cheap but good, and gets the issue sorted.
Pipes and wiring in common areas
Just because something is in common property, doesn’t mean that it necessarily falls under strata. If a pipe or wire only services one lot (such as an apartment or townhouse) then it is the responsibility of the owner to repair it, regardless of whether it is located inside their lot or not.
Take for example tempering valves, a special type of valve that affects a lot’s water temperature. In apartment buildings these valves are usually located inside the walls in common areas. However, since each lot has its own individual tempering valve, it falls under the responsibility of the owner to repair or replace.
Sarah and the missing swipe card
Sarah stands at the front door of her apartment building as she fishes around in her handbag for her swipe pass. Unable to find it she gets a neighbour to let her in.
Since she is a renter, Sarah calls her Independent property manager, Simon, to organise a replacement. She asks Simon for the contact details of the owners corporation so she can get in contact with them to organise a new pass. But, much to Sarah’s pleasant surprise, Simon says that he can organise that for her, since it is his job as property manager to be the middleman between tenants and strata.
Strata managers and property managers
Sometimes people confuse strata managers with property managers or don’t quite fully understand where one’s responsibilities begin and the other’s ends.
A property manager is a specialist who helps to market your home, find and manage tenants and assist you in building an investment property portfolio. Property managers are used when an owner decides to rent out their property to a tenant.
In the example of an apartment building, since the building and its common areas are looked after by strata, that means the individual apartments (the lots) and everything inside them are looked after by you, the owner. If you have leased out the apartment, then the apartment is looked after by a property manager.
The property manager also acts as the conduit between the tenant and the owners corporation. They contact and deal with the owners corporation on behalf of the tenant.
Strata manager vs property manager vs owner: a responsibility cheat sheet
Roller door of communal garage: Strata manager.
Roof: The roof of a communal building falls to your strata manager. The roof of a townhouse (connected to others or not) is the responsibility of the owner or property manager. Interior walls and ceilings of apartments/units are the owner or property manager’s responsibility.
Foyer carpet: Strata manager.
Carpet inside unit/apartment: Owner or property manager.
Pipes: Pipes that service more than one lot fall under strata. Pipes that only service one lot are the responsibility of the owner or Property Manager, regardless of where they are located in the building.
Electrical wiring: Wiring that services more than one lot fall under strata. Wiring that only services one lot are the responsibility of the owner or Property Manager, regardless of where they are located in the building.
Tempering valves: Because they only service one lot, tempering valves are the owner/property manager’s responsibility.
Guttering: In an apartment complex the strata manager is responsible for organising gutter cleaning and maintenance. In a complex with townhouses the owner/ property manager is responsible.
Lifts: Strata manager.
Bin room: Strata manager.
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