Definition of Common Property in Strata Schemes Not So Clear

People familiar with the concept of strata schemes generally have a broad understanding of the definition of the term “common property” and take it to mean any part of the land and buildings that are not included in any lot owned individually. They may identify items such as tennis courts, swimming pools, boundary fencing, driveways, gardens and landscaping, barbeque areas and the like. In many cases this would be correct, but equally there are many cases where this is incorrect.

It is difficult to make a blanket statement about common property that will be correct for the whole of Australia. Each state has its own legislation and processes for the registration and management of strata schemes. While they all have many similarities, they also differ in certain areas from state to state. For this reason, it is important to source the correct information for the particular state in question.

In Western Australia, for example, changes to the Strata Titles Act have created a number of possible scenarios for individual ownership as opposed to common property. In many cases some, if not all, of the building structure is actually common property. The differences fall roughly into two timeframes – for strata schemes created prior to 30 June 1985 and for strata schemes created after 30 June1985. There was also one other significant change which became effective on 20 July 1997.

Changes Made to Legislation on 30 June 1985

Where the strata scheme was created prior to 30 June 1985, the building and areas outside the building are common property with only a few exceptions. One exception is where a strata plan of re-subdivision was lodged which changed the lot boundaries. Another exception involves two to five single tier strata schemeswhere the boundaries were moved to the external surfaces of the buildings on 20 July 1997. The third refers to single tier strata schemes where the boundaries of the lots were moved by resolution of the strata company some time after 20 January 1997.

After 30 June 1985 amendments to the Strata Titles Act allowed for individual ownership of land and buildings outside, as well as the cubic space inside the building. This created a number of combinations of common property and individual ownership. For example, there can now be individual ownership of buildings and areas inside and outside the buildings. There can also be individual ownership of inside and outside areas but only part of the building, and ownership of inside and outside areas but not of any part of the building.

While these changes have no doubt created a degree of flexibility in the use and enjoyment of strata schemes, it has also created some complexities, making it more important than ever for schemes to have professional strata management. With even the definition of common property now requiring knowledge of the relevant legislation, nothing can be taken for granted.