4.10 Maintaining, repairing and upgrading common property? | Owners Corporation Network

4.10 Maintaining, repairing and upgrading common property?

Owners corporations are notoriously tight with money, and with good cause. Firstly, it is limited, secondly, it is not just one person’s money to spend as they wish, and thirdly, figuring out what or who is good value for money is time consuming and sometimes no-one wants to make the effort.

A perennial dilemma for most buildings is how much do we spend on essential versus non-essential renovations or upkeep? The NSW Strata Schemes Management Act (1996) requires that common property be maintained but there is wide scope for flexibility in deciding, for example, when to replace the carpet, when to re-paint the lift lobby walls and when to replace the gym equipment.  Once the ‘when’ is agreed upon then the quality of the upkeep needs to be considered. For example, do you replace the aging 20 year old gym equipment with a new but down market brand or go for the more expensive, best you can find equipment?

When maintaining or and repairing common property the executive committee does not need to take decisions for approval to the owners corporation. It is allowed to make the decision itself, however with certain checks and balances (see section 1.3.2).

A strata building’s chair (who was also being paid as a part-time back office manager) unilaterally decided to remove the shower fittings in both the male and female change facilities on the floor adjacent to the gym, pool and sauna. His logic was that the people showering were either external invitees or occupiers who were in overcrowded apartments. Although his logic was sound he had no authority to have the fixtures removed. Even if he had got the motion approved at an executive committee meeting the power would have been 'ultra vires'. To change common property in this way the motion would have needed to be passed by special resolution of the owners corporation at a general meeting.

For example, if the lobby was just being repainted or recarpeted, then the executive committee could approve the spending. However, it the lobby area’s front desk was being preplaced or its mail boxed re-located then the approval of the owners corporation should be sought (Section 65A of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 requires certain common property changes to be authorised by the owners corporation, not the executive committee).

With any motion that is up for consideration by the owners corporation, you should provide as much succinct information before hand and at the meeting. Invite owners to come to lobby design meetings and presentations. Ask for ideas, but be careful not to make it a free-for-all. If you have 115 lots in your building you will have at least 115 opinions on how something should be designed. It is best to narrow the choices down to just 2 or 3 before going to owners for their opinions or approval.

By deciding on the quality and quantity of maintenance, compliance and appearance of the scheme the executive committee will determine the value of each owners' investment - in other words, the property's value in the market. It can help create a community that is enjoyed by residents and appealing to purchasers.

Money spent on common property improvements benefits all owners and occupiers both directly through living amenity and indirectly by improving rental yield and capital growth. The cost of common property improvements is spread throughout the owners and so if done well provides excellent ‘bang-for-the-buck’ investment.

It is obvious but worth reiterating that a property in a rundown, poorly run scheme will never attract as good a price as an obviously well maintained and beautifully presented property in a similar area.

Relevant NSW Legislation: Strata Schemes Management Act (1996)
Section 62: What are the duties of an owners corporation to maintain and repair property?
Section 65A: Owners corporation may make or authorise changes to common property


What Members Say

"The whole strata community owes a huge debt of gratitude to you and the OCN executive. Much appreciated."

Robert, Darlinghurst

"I am very pleased with my membership of OCN, the discussions through sharing emails is very valuable in increasing my knowledge of strata living, the laws and EC responsibilities. I think I am better armed to tread the minefield of the managing agent responsibilities and the necessary action of the EC to monitor the contradictory interests of the agent."

Jim, Wollstonecraft

"I so appreciate being part of the OCN email forum. It provides a great opportunity for sharing ideas and learning"

Ingrid, Neutral Bay

"I must say that I have enjoyed and found consolation in the discussions that have been part of the email chain (forum). I did attend one general meeting and found that it was informative and the people "running the show" were knowledgeable and dedicated to the tasks that had taken on. In short, well done. You and the committee have and continue to support the Strata Community in a very professional manner."

Greg, Parramatta

"Nothing is easy in Strata World and we have been in building defects “mode” for some years – hopefully almost at an end but that process has been most demanding and difficult but again – greatly helped by the experience and wise counsel of other members of OCN."

Pat, St Leonards

"Keep up the good work, as many (if not most) strata schemes need your help, advice and representation at all levels of government."

Jann and John, St Ives

"I belong to OCN because of its professionalism.  I have found the meetings I have been to extremely well presented, to the point, and of course very topical and informative. Speakers on the whole certainly know their topic.  My role of Secretary last year was certainly assisted with the coverage regarding TPG & other subjects. Member newsletters are also of benefit as the topics are specific to strata matters."

Graham, East Balmain

I have enjoyed attending the quarterly OCN meetings and the exchange of emails between other Executive Committee Members and think OCN is playing an increasingly important role as a voice for strata dwellers and representing us at Government level. I wish the organisation continuing success in the future."

Pauline, Kings Cross

"The [forum] response to my question was amazing and really useful.  The OCN community is wonderful so thanks."

Jenny, Killara

"I would like to thank you all for the important effort that you are all putting in to look after apartment owners and tenants. It is so valuable and you are heroes. I would not have been able to deal with my duties as a strata chairman without your advice and assistance." 

Angela, Mascot

"The OCN is invaluable – many thanks."

Bill, Surry Hills

"OCN is proving invaluable"

Sue, Neutral Bay

"Thanks to all at OCN for your continuing efforts to keep us up to date with current strata information and advice...it has been very helpful to us"

Kate, Coogee

"When my wife & I first encountered a problematic Executive Committee I heard that OCN was a great help (from a Strata manager whom I knew) so we both joined and have gratefully used the on-line information sources. We continued to happily rely on OCN’s assistance when we progressed to Committee status & later as Chair & Secretary of our Committee. I still use OCN in my current role as Treasurer."

Peter, Chiswick

"Thanks to OCN for being such a rich resource of trustworthy information about strata matters."

Peter, Chiswick

"I wanted to extend my personal thanks for the very informative & interesting event today. The OCN team did an outstanding job in the organisation of this event & I enjoyed it thoroughly. The quality of speakers, the flow of conversation & interaction from the attendees - first class …& of course, the amazing Jimmy T - always a delight."

Sue, Epping

"OCN does a great job in providing a really valuable service to Strata owners."

Lois, Wollongong

"I am sure my appreciation of your good works is echoed by many in the Stratasphere. Keep up the good work."

John, Elizabeth Bay

"Once again, being able to discuss such things through this forum, helps clear the mind, puts things into perspective and helps one to understand their rights and to form a strategy if needs be. As a simple EC member trying to do what is in the best interests of lot owners, I truly value OCN and am grateful."

Pamela, Point Lookout

"The OCN is probably one of the best, most informed and most informative groups I have been involved with."

Alan, Maryville