Owners Corporations are not just for huge, multi-purpose buildings with hundreds of apartments and commercial tenancies.
Owners Corporations are an equally big part of smaller unit or townhouse style developments.
An Owners Corporation is formed as soon as a property is subdivided into smaller lots and common property is created.
This means you could have an Owners Corporation governing anything from two lots up. Whether an Owners Corporation governs a two-lot development with a common garden and driveway or a 100-lot apartment building, the Owners Corporation is still beholden to the same laws, model rules and processes.
Of course, the reality of an Owners Corporation’s functions and powers and the types of issues which arise in smaller developments is a bit different to how they apply in larger buildings, but here is our list of top three issues you should be across if you are a property owner within a smaller Owners Corporation.
KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES
Often we see a lot of confusion from lot owners from smaller unit or townhouse style developments with respect to what is their property, what is the neighbour’s property and what is common property.
As a Strata Manager, our bible for all things boundaries is the Plan of Subdivision.
This will tell us where one lot’s property ends and the next lot’s property begins, as well as what is and is not common property.
If your Owners Corporation is managed by Strata Plan, then a copy of your property’s Plan of Subdivision should be on your Customer Portal.
If you can’t find it, just email your manager.
A Plan of Subdivision has a cover page which outlines the property location, council, edition and other tidbits, one of the most important being a definition of boundary types.
Boundaries differ between:
The applicable types of boundaries for your Plan of Subdivision will be found under Notations on the cover page. See below:
So we know that this Plan of Subdivision features two types of boundaries, those being exterior face and median boundaries. On the plan, any median boundaries will be marked with an ‘M’.
Below we see how this is represented on the plan.
Here we see that there are four lots on this Plan of Subdivision, with a common property driveway marked “Common Property No 1”.
Each lot shares boundaries with the common property and the neighbouring lots.
The boundaries with the common property are thick and continuous, which the notations tell us means that these boundaries are exterior face boundaries.
That means that the lot owner of that lot owns everything up to and including the external façade of those walls and/or boundaries.
The boundaries shared between lots are marked with an ‘M’, which means they are median boundaries.
That means that the boundary is the ‘half-way point’ of the boundary. So in this example, the boundary between Lot 1 and Lot 2 is shared on either side of the wall.
This means that if Lot 1 damages the boundary, they are responsible for fixing it.
However, if there is an unforeseen problem with the boundary – for instance, termites or some other infestation – that results in an insurance claim or requires restorative works, the cost for those works or the excess of the insurance claim is split between Lot 1 and Lot 2.
It’s also important to note that Common Property is just that, common property.
Just because some Common Property exists right outside your boundary does not mean you can use it exclusively.
If you are parking your car on common property, then you may be breaching your Owners Corporation’s rules and fellow owners may make complaints.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETINGS (AGMs)
Across the board, Annual General Meetings for smaller properties – say those with 10 lots or less – are by far the least attended AGMs.
AGMs remain an important part of an Owners Corporations functions, even if the property in question is a townhouse development with only small amounts of common property.
As a strata manager, Strata Plan can only act on the instructions of the owners collectively and your AGM is the main forum for issuing those instructions, as well as establishing a chairperson and/or committee to provide us instructions over the course of the year.
When no one attends the meeting, nothing can change.
At this meeting, you will review your Owners Corporation’s financial record for the past financial year and set a budget for the coming financial year. These decisions directly influence the fees you pay and in smaller Owners Corporations, even the smallest adjustments can have a big impact.
This is also the perfect forum to raise any concerns you have with the property’s common areas or services. This might include raising issues such as people parking on common property, addressing the state of common gardens, discussing important repairs to fences and more.
While it is true that the majority of these meetings do happen within business hours, one hour of your whole year to come in and check on the financial well-being of your Owners Corporation is a small price to pay.
If your property has a common garden, it’s important to understand if that garden is being maintained by a contractor and if it is how frequently it is being attended to.
If your Owners Corporation is managed by Strata Plan, then any agreements should be available in your Customer Portal. This will tell you:
Sometimes, Strata Plan or your relevant manager is instructed to cease these services to help keep Owners Corporation fees down.
If you are unhappy with the state of the common gardens you should:
If no agreement is in place, the issue will need to be discussed at your Owners Corporation’s next general meeting.
If an agreement is in place and you believe the contractor responsible for the works is not attending at the agreed frequency or performing their role to the required standard, please contact your strata manager with evidence to discuss potential options.
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