“Owners Corporations – What is Common Property?” is a common question for apartment owners, commercial property owners, and property managers. The question often only arises when the matter who should pay for the repairs and maintenance comes up. We are often contacted by residential and commercial property managers when it comes whether it is their landlord’s responsibility to pay for fixing something, or whether the owners corporation should pay. Generally speaking, the below items are common property of the owners corporation:
Thick Continuous Lines as Defined by Buildings are Common Property.
Private and Common Property on Apartment Balconies.
Shared Services and Utilities Belong to the Owners Corporation.
Particular to the Plan of Subdivision and Owners Corporation Rules.
Additional Resources in Identifying What is Common vs Private.
So, for those that are planning on going through this process for the first time, let’s discuss Owners Corporations – What is Common Property?
1. Thick Continuous Lines as Defined by Buildings are Common Property.
Common property on plans of subdivisions are usually defined by thick continuous lines. The location of boundaries (the point of delineation) are usually interior with structural columns and walls being considered common property.
In Davies v Owners Corporation 1 PS414649K  VCAT 1159, Senior Member Kirton ruled that common property need not be building structures that are load bearing. Aluminium framed glazed panels with sliding doors (to balconies) were deemed to be common property.
Referencing the plan of subdivision for your owners corporation will guide how common and private property is defined and the methodology for defining where the boundary lie (i.e. interior face, median, exterior face, or other location).
2. Private & Common Property on Apartment Balconies.
Typically, when it comes to apartment buildings the cement sheeting and joists in conjunction form part of the structure of the building and are considered to be common property.
Whereas decking, screed, non-originally installed tiles and waterproofing membrane will often form of the lot (i.e. private property).
3. Shared Services and Utilities Belong to the Owners Corporation.
Shared services and utilities such as sewer, water (including water for fire services), electricity, gas, drainage, and NBN will belong and be covered by the owners corporation.
Generally, these services and utilities are fed into the building from one main from the road / utility provider and therefore within the plan of subdivision these will be considered common property. Furthermore, within the building and plan of subdivision pipes and electrical wiring servicing more than one lot will often be considered common property.
We had a client which was an owners corporation made up of townhouses with shared walls. The building had 2 separate rows of gutters that extended and connected all the townhouses, with the gutters being defined as private property per the plan of subdivision. It was ultimately decided and agreed that the owners corporation would take responsibility by organising and paying for the cleaning of the gutters as a service to the lot owners. This by far a lot more cost effective and logistically more effective.
4. Particular to the Plan of Subdivision and Owners Corporation Rules.
Another important thing to note is that what is private (lot owner responsibility) and what is common (owners corporation responsibility) can sometimes be dedicated by what the particular building, plan of subdivision, and owners corporation in question.
The plan of subdivision is the source document that defines the owners corporation and the lots within it – and can often influence what is common vs private property. Another area to consider is that the owners corporation may have made a decision (by way of a special resolution) to mandate that common property (i.e. windows) will the responsibility of the lot owners (or vice versa).
5. Additional Resources in Identifying What is Common vs Private.
Below are some further resources on this topic that might help decide what is owners corporation and common property vs what is private property:
Common Property Boundaries And The Water Act – Who Is Liable For Unreasonable Flows Of Water Into An Apartment?
Owners Corporation Managers Oversee Not Just the Common Property and the Owners Corporation But Also Your Money.
Due diligence and choosing carefully is important – have a read of this article for one example of where things didn’t go right – Don’t Trust a One-man Band with Your Money (or Owners Corporation Management).
Lastly, Strata Management Consultants specialises in not only advising and guiding Committees on how to change body corporate management companies but have also carefully vetted every management company we work with. Find out more about the value of having a Strata Consultant working for you here, or feel free to get in touch on 1300 917 848 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owners Corporations – What is Common Property? – Content Copyrighted 2020 by Strata Management Consultants