The Owners Corporation is responsible for maintaining and repairing common property. However, what is and what isn’t common property is often not well understood by owners and occupants.

This is very important as the Owners Corporation is required to repair and maintain common property and will take out insurance for common property (property that is not common property is owned by an individual owner or tenant and is not insured under the Owners Corporation policy).

You should be aware that the following is provided as a general guide although there can be some debate as to whether specific items are the responsibility of the Owners Corporation or the lot owner.

Waratah Strata manage Residential, Commercial and Industrial properties, including retail and mixed-use properties. Accordingly, the following is relevant for owners and occupiers of such property.

What is common property?

What is and isn’t common property is defined in legislation. As a guide the Office of Fair Trading on its website, sets out its view on the subject.

“In most strata schemes, the lot owner owns the inside of the unit but not the main structure of the building. Usually the four main walls, the ceiling, roof and the floor are common property”

Common Property includes:

  • Any part of a building (walls, floors, and ceilings) not included in a current strata lot.
  • Common passageways, ramps, stairs, lifts, landings, ducting, ceiling cavity, under floor footings space, structural cubic space etc. within the building.
  • The land occupied by the air space above and the land below the building.
  • All land outside a building excluding the land occupied by a strata lot or any part of a strata lot not within a building (car space, development lot, courtyard etc.).
  • You should note that in many Strata Schemes, the by-laws will grant exclusive use right over certain property (e.g. Air conditioners, intercom system, windows, doors and roller doors).
  • Simply stated, this means that the lot owner is responsible for the repairs and maintenance and at times (dependant on what is stated in the by- laws) replacement of the same items.

The following is a list for some of the more common items of common property:

  • Floor includes a ramp or stairway;
  • Wall includes ceramic tiles originally attached to a common property surface (e.g. the floor or boundary wall);
  • Pipes in the common property or servicing more than one lot;
  • Electrical wiring in the common property or servicing more than one lot;
  • Parquet and floor boards originally installed;
  • Vermiculite ceilings, plaster ceilings and cornices;
  • Magnesite finish on the floor;
  • Balcony doors are usually common property if the strata plan was registered after 1 July 1974;
  • The slab dividing two storeys of the same lot, or one storey from an open space roof area or garden areas of a lot;
  • Any pipes, wires, cables or ducts that are not for the enjoyment of a single lot;
  • Balcony doors are usually common property if the strata plan was registered after 1 July 1974.

What is not common property?

A lot owner effectively owns the airspace (and anything included in the airspace) inside the boundary walls, floor and ceiling of the lot. The internal walls within the lot (e.g. dividing wall between the bathroom and office space or office and warehouse) is also classified as not common property.

Everything within the airspace must be maintained at the owner's cost.

Such items found within a lot may include:

  • Carpets, floating floor boards
  • Cork tiles
  • Linoleum/vinyl tiles
  • Rubber floor coverings
  • Paint
  • Wallpaper
  • Light fittings
  • Blinds and curtains
  • Kitchen/bathroom cupboards (covered for insurance purposes only)
  • Toilet bowls and hand basins.
  • Electrical cables and plumbing pipes inside a lot (unless servicing multiple tenancies)

It also follows that in the event of damage to the above items, the cost of the repair or replacement cannot be reclaimed against the Owners Corporations building insurance.

Under the new Act, owners can establish a “Common Property Memorandum” that can set out what is and is not common property.