What is a Common Property?

Posted by Dino Biordi

With the significant increase in urban population, cities around the world are turning to high-rise residential buildings to cater to the growing demand for shelter. Approximately a quarter of the world's population is living in a strata scheme whereby a building is divided into lots. An area of the land and building not included in any lot is referred to as Common Property which is controlled by two or more persons with no right of single ownership.  It is collectively managed and owned by all lot owners otherwise known as the Owners Corporation.

 The lot owner owns the air space and everything within the boundary walls of the lot. Common property and the lots are outlined on the schemes respective strata plan document included with the purchase of any schemes apartment. Common Property within a lot includes:  

- the floor (excluding carpet)
- the beneath surface of the under-slab
- outermost or common walls (includes window and door). 

All paintwork within a lot is the responsibility of the lot owner. 

Common property includes: 

- Stairway and floors (including ramps)
- Plumbing pipes that are used by more than one lot
- Electrical wirings or used by more than one lot- Balcony doors are mostly Common Property if the strata plan was registered after 1 July 1974 (you must look at the registered strata plan) 

Any renovation or alteration of a Common Property will need permission from the Owners Corporation. The Common Property Memorandum can be used to clarify the responsibility for repairs. Owners should notify the strata managing agent or the secretary of the Owners Corporation about the prospect of changes, and if this is a significant concern, a Strata Committee will need to decide and take action for any unauthorised changes to Common Property. 

The Owners Corporation is typically accountable for maintaining: 

  • The outside of the building;
  • The foundations and roof of the building;
  • All waterproofing membranes unless stated otherwise in the By-laws;
  • Essential structural parts of the building (like foundation structures, roofing structures that offer protection and supporting walls;
  • Roads, gardens and lawns on common property;
  • Facilities on common property (like swimming pools and barbeques);
  • Railings or balustrades on, or near to, the boundary between a lot and common property, together with the barrier on a personal balcony;
  • Any doors or windows, and their fittings,  boundary walls between a lot and the common property;
  • Utility infrastructure (Firefighting equipment, lifts, pipes, and wiring) that is outside the lot and on Common Property.

With larger schemes, it’s important to appoint a Building Manager to assist in not only identifying who is responsible but to also arrange for the common property repair work. 

Owners Corporation is liable for the installation and maintenance of all safety devices. However, the Owners Corporation will adopt a standard property rights by-law that confers the correct and obligation to put in and maintain any protection or safety to individual lot homeowners. 

There will be uncertainty around who is accountable for the upkeep or repair of certain items in Strata Schemes. A Memorandum for Common Property specifies whether the Owners Corporation or a lot owner is responsible for the maintenance, repair or alteration of a Common Property. The Memorandum (which is not the sole memoranda that may be used) are often adopted by passing a By-law. The Owners Corporation ought to obtain a professional recommendation to search out whether or not the Memoranda is suitable for its' scheme. 

If you would like detailed information to “Who’s Responsible”, a guide to common property further please use this link here.