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STRATA LIVING - UNIT OWNER

As the owner of a Strata Title unit you acquire separate legal title to your unit and, depending on the way the strata scheme has been structured, the car space, balcony, garden, terrace or storage area attaching to your unit. Your "property" is generally limited by the inner skins of the outer walls and the ceiling and floor of your unit. In effect if the building was destroyed you own the airspace where your unit had been located.

When you become entitled to own a strata title unit you also acquire a share in and right to use the common property. The common property is the shared areas of the building and the land surrounding the building, which areas that are not part of any other lot in the strata scheme.

Your rights to the common property are shared by all of the unit owners. Your interest in the ownership of the common areas is in direct proportion to your unit entitlement, which also determines the amount of levies you will need to pay to the owners' corporation for the regular running, and maintenance and upkeep costs of the strata scheme. The unit entitlement also represents your voting rights at meetings of the owners' corporation.

The very nature of a strata scheme means that you will be living closely with a group of people, many of whom you have never met before, in a sort of vertically-planned village. What you do with your unit and the common property may impact on the other unit owners in the same way any other owner's use may impact on you.

Therefore, a significant body of laws, rules and regulations have been made under strata titles legislation to govern the conduct of unit owners in the strata scheme, so any one owner's use does not impact in a harmful or undesirable way on the other owners. These laws, rules and regulations also attempt to resolve any disputes between the various owners. 

LOT OWNER - DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Where can you check to see if you are a registered owner of a lot in a strata scheme?

The fact that you are a registered owner of a lot in a strata scheme is shown:

  • at the Land and Property Information NSW (LPI) where your name is recorded on the certificate of title for the lot as the registered owner of the lot; and
  • on the strata roll where your name appears as the owner of the lot following entry in the roll by the owners' corporation.

At the LPI you can obtain copies of registered strata plans, certificates of title for common property and individual lots and by-laws that have been made and registered by owners' corporations. The strata plan will show the exact size of each unit and the common property.

You can also obtain information about the strata scheme or your lot from the owners' corporation or the strata manager upon request by written application.

Do you know your duties and responsibilities as a lot owner?

As a lot owner you have numerous duties and responsibilities imposed on you by certain Acts, regulations and by-laws. It is important that you are aware of these duties and that you abide by them. 

SOME OF THE DUTIES IMPOSED BY THE MANAGEMENT ACT INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:

Maintenance and Repair

You have the responsibility for the maintenance and repair of the property contained within your lot.

Exclusive Use or Special Privilege By-law

You must comply with the conditions imposed on you by any exclusive use or special privilege by-law affecting your lot. Also you must pay the owners' corporation any moneys due under an exclusive use or special privilege by-law granted to you.

Further, you must maintain and keep in a state of good and serviceable repair any common property over which the owners' corporation has granted to you an exclusive use or special privilege by-law.

For example, an owner on the ground floor may be granted a large area of common property lawn surrounding their ground floor lot, or an owner on the top floor may be granted the right to install a skylight in the roof.

Leased Premises

You must give to the owners' corporation a notice advising particulars of any lease of your lot within 14 days of the commencement of the lease.

You must provide tenants of your lot with a copy of the by-laws (and strata management statement if part of a community scheme) in force in relation to the strata scheme.

Financial Contributions

You must pay financial contributions as determined and levied by the owners' corporation for the purposes of the control, management and administration of the common property.

You make these payments by way of the compulsory administrative and sinking fund levies. The amounts of these levies are determined on the basis of a budget and by your unit entitlement. Special levies may be raised by the owners' corporation for special purposes not covered by the administrative or sinking funds.

The budgets for the administrative levy takes into account the building and other insurances, the costs of maintaining the common property and keeping it clean. The sinking fund is for the long term maintenance costs such as repainting and recarpetting the common areas from time to time.

You are liable for the contents insurance for your unit and you should include the cost of replacing any floor coverings in that insurance, as the building insurance usually include the replacement of these.

Compliance with Notices Served

You must comply with any valid notices served on you by a public authority, local council or owners' corporation requiring you to carry out any work concerning your lot.

You must also pay the owners' corporation for work it has carried out if you fail to comply with any valid notices served on you by a public authority, local council or owners' corporation in relation to work concerning your lot.

Alterations to Premises

You must give the owners' corporation a written description of any structural alterations or renovations you propose to undertake with your lot, 14 days before commencing the alterations or renovations.

Notice to Vote

You must give the owners' corporation a notice of your entitlement to cast a vote at meetings of the owners' corporation.

Permit Entrance

If you have, or are a party to, a dispute with another lot owner or the owners' corporation, you must permit an Adjudicator to enter your lot at any reasonable time, upon being given notice, for the purpose of carrying out any investigations and co-operate with any such investigations. If not, a penalty of $550 may be imposed by a Local Court magistrate on conviction. 

COMPLIANCE WITH BY-LAWS

You must comply with by-laws applying to the strata scheme. If not, either an order may be made by an Adjudicator against you, or a Notice to Comply with a by-law may be served by the owners' corporation on you, requiring compliance. 

Some of the responsibilities imposed by by-laws include the following:

Noise

You must not make any noise at any time within your lot or on common property that is likely to disturb the peaceful enjoyment of another resident or anyone using common property.

Vehicles

You must not park or stand a vehicle on common property without the written permission of the owners' corporation. That permission can be cancelled and does not give you a permanent right over that part of common property.

Obstruction of Common Property

You must not stop lawful use of common property by another person.

Damage to Lawns, etc on Common Property

You must not damage any lawn, garden, tree, shrub, plant or flower on the common property. You must not use any part of common property as your own garden.

Damage to Common Property

You must not damage any structure that is part of the common property unless you have the owners' corporation's written permission. Owners are responsible for maintaining anything they have installed.

This rule does not stop you from installing a locking or safety device or screens for protection against intruders or to prevent entry of animals or harm to children. They must be installed in a professional manner and be in keeping with the appearance of the rest of the building.

Behaviour of Owners and Occupiers

You must be adequately clothed when on the common property. You must not use language or behave in a way which might offend or embarrass others using the common property.

Children Playing on Common Property in Building

You must make sure any child under your control does not play on dangerous common property areas or inside the building, unless an adult supervises and controls them.

Keeping of Animals

You must not keep an animal unless you have the written permission of the owners' corporation. However, the by-laws cannot prevent guide dogs or hearing dogs being in the scheme, nor prevent children (persons under 18 years) occupying the strata scheme.

Behaviour of Invitees

You must make sure your visitors do not behave in a way which might disturb the peaceful enjoyment of another resident. This applies to behaviour in a lot and on common property.

Depositing Rubbish, etc on Common Property

You must not throw rubbish, dirt, dust or other materials on the common property that may interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of another resident.

Drying of Laundry Items

Unless you have the written permission of the owners' corporation, you must not hang washing or other articles on any part of the strata scheme (eg on the balcony of your lot) so that it may be seen from outside the building. Clothing hung on the common property clothesline must only be there for a reasonable time.

Moving Furniture, etc on, or through, Common Property

You must tell the owners' corporation Executive if you are going to move large objects or furniture through the common property areas of the building. This allows an Executive representative to be present during the move.

Floor Covering

You must cover the floor of your lot or treat it to stop noise which may disturb another resident. This does not apply to the kitchen, laundry, lavatory or bathroom of a lot. 

FURTHER INFORMATION

This Information Outline is provided courtesy of Yandell Wright Stell who are experienced in this area of law. They are located at Level 5, 139 Macquarie Street SYDNEY NSW 2000 or call them on (02) 9252-2278 if you would like more information on this legal topic, or you wish to obtain formal advice regarding your situation.

Yandell Wright Stell Lawyers is a result oriented firm as distinct from a procedurally-oriented firm. The result is achieving your goals as quickly and efficiently as possible and to your best advantage. Our firm through its professionals and support team supply legal services in the following areas of law: *Property law including conveyancing, property development and planning matters. *Commercial dispute resolution and litigation. *Immigration law including all visa applications. *Banking and finance law. *Intellectual property law including trade marks, copyright, designs and patents. *Telecommunications and information technology law. *Insolvency and bankruptcy law. *Corporate, commercial and business law matters. *Family law. We are centrally located in Macquarie Street, Sydney from where we are able to deliver first class results and personal service to all our clients.

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