I’m hoping to buy a Strata Title unit. What do I need to be careful about?

Maintenance and Repair

Communal living is not an original concept, and ancient problems to go with it: Camille Pissarro, Boulevard Montmartre, morning, cloudy weather 1897

Communal living is not a modern concept, and has ancient problems to go with it: Camille Pissarro, Boulevard Montmartre, morning, cloudy weather 1897

Strata Title units and schemes have ongoing maintenance requirements like any property. The danger for purchasers is to understand that every owner through the Owners Corporation has an obligation under Section 62 of the Act to pay for the maintenance and repair of the common property.

What constitutes “common property” is much wider than what you might logically think. It is defined in the Act as anything in or on the land that isn’t comprised in any lot. However, what the property “comprised in any lot” is quite narrow. For example windows generally constitute common property. Thus if there are water issues with old windows or window frames in any lot, everyone has to chip in to have them fixed or replaced even though possibly only one owner receives the benefit.

Thus it is crucial that any purchaser obtain an strata inspection report from an appropriate provider (which is generally arranged through your solicitor) who accesses the strata managers file on the property and provides a report of what is contained within that file. That would generally include the agenda and minutes of all the annual and extraordinary general meetings of the owners corporation. Common issues which are disclosed are orders from the local council (e.g. fire upgrade orders) or reports on defects and other disputes within the owners corporation. The strata report will only disclose those things on file so some careful attention to the documents is crucial.

Normal and Special By-laws

While a condition of the contract that the registered by-laws be attached to the contract, careful attention needs to be paid to them. Of special interest are by-laws which give certain owners “exclusive use” rights over sections of the common property. While on one level this is good as it provides a benefit to that owner, it usually comes with an special obligation to pay for the maintenance and repair of that common property. This might be a significant cost in certain scenarios.