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Common areas in strata schemes – who maintains them?

Date published: 26th October 2021, updated 11th June 2024 

Understanding common property in strata schemes and who maintains them?

What is a common area in strata settings?

Common areas, also known as common properties are public spaces within a strata title. Almost all strata properties can be divided into two parts: the private areas within individual owners' lots, and the common areas, being everything that's outside the private domain of lot owners. Obvious common areas include shared lobbies, gardens, stairwells etc., but they also include roofs and guttering, utility hubs, the building fabric itself and much more.

Across the wide variety of strata properties, almost all have similar basic common areas including:

  • The building itself
  • External walls, windows and doors
  • Stairs, stairwells and balustrades
  • Shared balconies
  • Driveways
  • On-site car parking
  • Shared gardens
  • Letterbox structures
  • Roof, guttering and downpipes
  • Sewer connections
  • Water and gas meter hubs
  • Utility connections to the building
  • Boundary fences

Naturally, the size and amenities of a strata property will determine the types of common areas. In addition to the above list, common areas in large apartment complexes can also include:

  • Lobbies, entrances and concierge desks
  • Resident lounges and libraries
  • Corridors
  • Residents’ and service lifts
  • Barbecue areas, shared tv rooms and entertainment spaces
  • Building manager’s office
  • Storerooms
  • Pools, gyms, saunas, spas and change rooms
  • Visitor and employee washrooms and toilets
  • Employee staff rooms and kitchens
  • Residents’ shared laundries, washing machines and dryers
  • Electrical switchboards and sub-stations
  • Fire-fighting pumps and hoses
  • Fire exits
  • Rubbish chutes, bins and bin rooms
  • Shared garages and basement car parks
  • Storage cages and units in shared areas
  • Water pumps, rainwater tanks and stormwater connections

Who is responsible for the maintenance of common property

Except in specific circumstances the body corporate is responsible for various maintenance tasks to ensure the upkeep and functionality of common property within a strata scheme. 

Some of the maintenance tasks typically undertaken by the body corporate:

  • Routine cleaning of common areas such as hallways, lobbies, and stairwells.
  • Repair of common utilities and infrastructure, including elevators, heating and cooling systems, and communal lighting.
  • Landscaping and garden maintenance, including lawn mowing, pruning, weeding, and irrigation system upkeep.
  • Regular inspection of shared amenities such as gyms, BBQ areas, playgrounds, and communal meeting spaces.
  • Pest control and management to address infestations or pest-related issues affecting common areas.
  • Routine maintenance and servicing of fire safety equipment, including fire alarms, extinguishers, and emergency exits.
  • Regular inspection of the building's exterior, including roofs, gutters, and external cladding.

The body corporate is also in control of budgeting and allocating funds for ongoing maintenance and repairs, ensuring that common areas are well-maintained and safe for all residents.

Apart from that, the body corporate is accountable for taking out adequate residential strata insurance to cover damage to common areas, as well as insurance against claims for personal injury or damage to personal property while on or using a property’s common areas.

What about ‘exclusive use’ of common property?

Exclusive use areas are parts of a strata property that seem to be common areas, but are actually reserved for exclusive use by one or a small set of residents, and they're more common than you might think. Often, they're courtyards or gardens accessible from one residence, designated parking spots, and of course…storage cages.

These areas can be defined when the property is set up or established through a by-law of the body corporate.

But who is responsible for the maintenance of exclusive use common areas? In most jurisdictions, unless the by-laws specifically state otherwise, the owner who has received the exclusive right is responsible for maintaining the exclusive use area. This can extend to the insurance covering the particular piece of property.

In some cases, such as designated car parking spaces the overall responsibility still remains with the body corporate or is shared between the resident and the body corporate.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are balconies considered a common area?

It depends on the balcony. If it’s an access balcony shared by a number of units, then it’s common property. If it’s a private balcony, accessed from only one apartment, then it is technically common property, but also regarded as an exclusive use zone, and so responsibility can be shared.

For example, if there's damage to the tiles or someone injures themselves while on the balcony, this can be the responsibility of the owner, and the body corporate insurance may not cover this. However, if the balcony is unstable, the balustrades are defective, there are leaks in the waterproof membrane, or any other structural issues; these are usually the responsibility of the body corporate.

Whenever a problem arises, or there is confusion about where responsibilities start and finish, it's always wise to first chat with the strata committee, building or strata manager.

  • Is a garage common property in strata?

Whether a garage is considered common property in a strata scheme depends on the specific arrangements outlined in the strata scheme's governing documents, such as the by-laws or strata plan. In some cases, garages may be designated as common property and managed by the body corporate, especially if they are located within shared parking areas or form part of communal facilities. However, more often, garages are designated as individual lots and owned exclusively by individual owners, with maintenance responsibilities falling to the respective lot owner rather than the body corporate

  • What does strata insurance protect against in common areas ?

Strata insurance in common areas offers essential protection against a range of potential incidents to safeguard shared spaces within residential communities. This cover includes risks such as fire, theft, vandalism, water damage from burst pipes, and natural disasters like storms or earthquakes.