Living in strata is quite unique when it comes to what you own as a lot owner and what is shared ownership of all lot owners, known as ‘common property’.
According to Consumer Affairs Victoria, when living in strata title “Each unit in a block or multi-unit complex is individually owned by the resident. In addition, all the owners in the building or complex have shared ownership of the common property, which is managed by an owners corporation”. (Consumer Affairs Victoria https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/owners-corporations/definitions, accessed 13 February 2020)
When purchasing a strata property, a Plan of Subdivision is included in the contract of sale. This plan highlights where the private and common property starts and ends and the types of boundaries which separate them.
Private property is property owned exclusively by a lot, as stated on the Plan of Subdivision. A lot’s private property is the responsibility of that lot owner/s.
Section 129 of the Owners Corporation Act (Vic) 2006 states:
A lot owner must:
(a) properly maintain in a state of good and serviceable repair any part of the lot that affects the outward appearance of the lot or the use or enjoyment of other lots or the common property; and
(b) maintain any service that serves that lot exclusively.
As a lot owner you are legally obliged to ensure your lot and any service which exclusively services your property is maintained and kept in good repair.
Common Property is property which is jointly owned by multiple owners in an owners corporation. It is managed by all lot owners, as stated by Lot Liability and Lot Entitlement on the Plan of Subdivision.
Lot Entitlement: Lot entitlement is a lot owner’s share of common property ownership. This can also determine voting rights. Not every lot owner has the same amount of lot entitlement.
Lot Liability: Lot liability represents the proportion of owners corporation expenses the lot owner is liable for. Not every lot owner has an equal share of liability, meaning some pay more and some pay less. An owner’s share of liability and entitlement is not necessarily the same.
The owners corporation manages common property through decisions made at meetings or by the elected committee of owners.
The Plan of Subdivision provides direction on who is responsible for the repair and maintenance of property within a plan. If the damaged property is private, then it is the responsibility of the owner of that private property to fix the issue. If the damaged property is common, then it is the responsibility of the owners corporation to repair the issue.
However, determining responsibility is often not straight forward. For example, when a leak is identified it may require investigative works to determine what is causing it. If it is due to disrepair of private property, then the lot owner who owns the private property may be liable for all the resultant damage of that leak not only to their property but also common property.
It is important for all owners to understand private and common property and their responsibilities with regards to each.