Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Settlement cracks in Strata Apartments

Allan’s, from NSW, question relates to Settlement cracks in Strata Apartments

Our Strata home unit has settlement cracks in some internal walls & some ceilings & also some settlement cracks in floor tiles adjacent to the wall cracks plus a granite bench in the kitchen has a settlement crack.

Can you please advise me what is covered by Strata & what is not?

Hi Allan,

Settlement cracks in strata should be assessed by a qualified person as being of minor (cosmetic) nature first. A structural engineer could do those investigations and issue a report with recommendations.  If it is a defect in the common property, such as drainage issue, then the owners corporation should investigate and take any steps necessary to rectify.

Minor settlement cracks in strata apartments are common, mostly aesthetic, and are usually treated and repaired prior to carrying out any internal painting (as part of the normal preparation for painting).

Cosmetic common property repair

The owner of a lot in a strata scheme may carry out cosmetic work to common property in connection with the owner’s lot without the approval of the owners corporation. This includes filing minor holes and cracks in internal walls. (Section 109)

Determining what is common property

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. The basic rule is that everything inside a lot is the owner’s property which includes all internal walls, fixtures, carpet and paint on the walls.

Internal Walls: Internal walls are defined as walls within your lot space and exclude boundary walls. It is the responsibility of the owner to repair and maintain internal walls.

Ceiling: The ceiling common property boundary is generally formed by the under surface of the ceiling. The paint is the responsibility of the owner.

Floor Tiles: The first question to be asked here is whether the tiles are the original installation?

  • Any tiles that were originally affixed to a common property surface (ie wall, floor or ceiling) at the time of registration of the plan are common property, unless the plan specifically states otherwise.
  • Any tiles affixed to non-common property walls belong to the lot.

Kitchen Bench: This would be the responsibility of the owner to repair

Duty of the owners corporation to maintain and repair common property

Under the Act, the owners corporation has the responsibility to properly maintain the common property and keep it in a state of good and serviceable repair. Note that there is a two-year time limit to bring action against the owners corporation.

What will the owners corporation repair?

The question of whether and what maintenance and repair the owners corporation is required to do under Section 106 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 in a particular case will always depend heavily on the circumstances.

  • Are the cracks in the tiles hairline cracks or worse?
  • Do the cracks pose a safety risk?
  • Can the wall and ceiling cracks be repaired in the normal pre-preparation of internal painting?

If you are referring to large cracks, which are common property, this could well become an owners corporation issue.

Repair Who is responsible?
Burst pipe in the bathroom If it is in a boundary wall, the owners corporation is responsible. If it is in an internal wall it is the lot owner’s, unless the pipe services more than your lot, in which case it is owners corporation responsibility
The water from the shower is not draining away Plumbing under the floor is the responsibility of owners corporation.
The shower head is not working properly It is the lot owner’s responsibility.
The kitchen sink was broken and has caused water damage in both my unit and my neighbour’s unit Problems with everything in the airspace of a bathroom or kitchen including baths, toilets, sinks and dishwashers are the owner’s responsibility. However the owners corporation’s building insurance may cover some of these fixtures for damage.
There is damp and mould in my unit The owners corporation is responsible for water penetration problems coming in through external walls or the floor. The owner is responsible for the mould on their walls.
Electricity inside my unit has been cut off or not working The supply of electricity is the owners corporation’s responsibility. However, any cabling within the unit’s internal walls that only services the individual lot, is the owner’s responsibility.
Water leaks onto my balcony from the unit above every time they water their plants If the water is running off common property, the owners corporation is responsible. If it is caused by over watering by another owner or resident, that person is responsible.
Our balcony door is damaged and won’t close properly This depends on when the scheme was registered. In older schemes, registered before 1 July 1974, the owner is responsible. In newer schemes, registered after that date, the owners corporation is responsible.
Window safety devices The owners corporation is responsible for the installation and maintenance of window safety devices. However, the owners corporation can adopt a common property rights by-law which confers the right and obligation to install and maintain any locking or safety device to individual lot owners.
Strataville Editorial
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