Who’s Responsible to Fix Unauthorised Works in a Strata Property?

6 August 2020

Your owners corporation is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all common property within your strata scheme; this can include everything from plumbing within the walls, to exterior paint and roofing surfaces.

But the lines can be blurred when it comes to fixing renovations, alterations or additions that an owner has made to common property without prior authorisation from the owners corporation. If problems occur, then who is then responsible to fix or maintain these works?

Firstly, let’s consider when and why unauthorised works can occur 
Unauthorised works arise fairly often. Sometimes an owner might have tried to fix a plumbing problem within the walls of their strata building, either because they figure it’s a quick repair or they didn’t realise that the owners corporation is responsible for the repair. Sometimes a new owner will discover that the previous owner of their lot has made an addition that wasn’t approved beforehand. 

Who’s responsible?  
The owners corporation is required to keep all common property in good repair, but as a 2013 case showed they might not be responsible for actively fixing the unauthorised issue. 

The Strata Plan 21702 vs Kirmbogiannis case involved a lot owner replacing a glass sliding panel with a glass sliding door without obtaining permission from the owners corporation. Although the glass door was kept in good condition by the owner, the owners corporation wanted it reverted back to its original condition.  

Ultimately, the NSW Court of Appeal concluded that the owners corporation’s duty centred on the preservation of the original fabric of the building as built, and therefore the owners corporation was entitled to an order to give access to the lot to restore the pane to its original condition. As such the ruling did not require the owners corporation to repair the common property that had been added without its consent.

What does this mean? 
Generally speaking, the owners corporation would not be responsible for repairing defects of unauthorised works to common property, but they may be responsible for reinstating the property to its original state – and have a right to access the lot in order to do so. 

In some cases (but certainly not all), the owners corporation could choose to pass a by-law that allows the unauthorised works to remain as long as the relevant owner is responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. This would only be an applicable resolution if the relevant owner consented to the arrangement. Depending on your strata scheme’s individual by-laws, the other option could be to require the owner to reinstate the property to its original condition themselves.

Unauthorised works are not always cut and dry 
At the end of the day, each situation will be unique. What’s most important is that you adhere to your strata renovation rules and understand where your lot ends and common property begins. Your strata’s by-laws on renovations and repairs may be unique to your strata scheme, so it’s worth speaking with your strata manager before renovating on a strata property. The last thing you want to do is risk lengthy court cases or extra costs by repairing or renovating without permission! 

Your strata manager can be your go-to contact for all matters and services relating to your strata scheme. If they’re not a reliable source of information on strata rules and legislation, then consider making a change