All Lot Owners Responsible for Common Property Maintenance

Living in close quarters and sharing costs and responsibilities sounds like a very community-minded approach to addressing the problems associated with urban sprawl. Group title living arrangements such as retirement villages or an apartment complex benefit the owners of individual lots in economies of scale. The costs of maintaining common areas are shared in proportion to lot ownership, and there is always someone handy to help out in emergency situations.

Recent University Study Results Show Lack of Understanding

If the reality matched the intention, this style of living would be idyllic. However, human behaviour being what it is, there is always a catch, and according to a recent university study, the catch is the blurred lines associated with responsibility. This study found that 51% of owners in strata titled developments had a dispute with neighbours and 39% had issues with the management concerning repairs as well as who should pay for them.

The obvious outcome of it all was that many owners did not understand firstly, what was common property and what was theirs, and secondly, what the law required in terms of their contribution to common property repairs and maintenance. Unfortunately, this is a situation we encounter regularly at WA Strata Management.

Our company provides management services to hundreds of group living schemes and one of our biggest issues is informing owners about their responsibilities for the maintenance of their properties. As a reliable strata management service provider it is our role to perform many of the duties of the Council, a body elected by the owners to manage the scheme on their behalf.

Boundaries of Common Property Set by Law

Even though all states have legislation setting out these responsibilities, there are always owners who will not accept that they must pay a share of the maintenance of common property. Exactly what is common property can vary slightly from state to state, but regardless, the laws are very clear on this issue. Whether the common boundaries are the outside, middle or inside of the walls, floors or ceilings are irrelevant in any disagreement because these can be determined by law.

Court Decisions Uphold Shared Costs for Maintenance of Common Property

It may seem unfair that ground floor owners must pay to maintain a lift they never use. This case was referenced in the report but the court found that as common property, they were responsible for its maintenance. In another case, the court found that rising damp in a ground floor unit was the responsibility of the body corporate. Again, this decision was based on what was designated as common property.

We recommend that people buying into group living schemes make sure they understand this before making this financial commitment. It would certainly make our job at WA Strata Management a lot easier.