Strata title properties

We take you through the basics of what you need to know before purchasing an apartment, unit or townhouse on a strata title.

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If you're buying a property that's part of a larger complex, such as an apartment or townhouse, then you'll soon hear the word strata. A property on a strata title means that you're purchasing a "lot" or unit that is part of a bigger, shared structure. Other units in the strata title are owned by other people, and there are shared or communal areas that belong to the whole strata complex, such as car parks or recreational facilities.

If you're thinking about buying a property on a strata title you need to know about strata fees and how the owners corporation manages the property.

What is a strata title property?

A strata title property is where you, the owner, own a "lot" and have joint ownership of communal shared property such as foyers and carparks. The shared property is then managed by a group such as an owners corporation, body corporate or strata company.

Typically a strata title property would be an apartment, unit or townhouse.

What is covered by strata or body corporate fees?

Body corporate fees for strata titled properties cover everything from insurance to maintenance, building works and day-to-day running costs of the building.

They can cost an individual owner two thousand dollars a year or more, depending on the strata complex. It varies widely. Before purchasing a strata title property, ask the real estate agent for a copy of the prior year's body corporate fees to give you an idea of what you would be paying for.

What is strata insurance?

Strata insurance refers to the insurance policy that an owners corporation (or body corporate) must take out to cover all common areas, including the building, at a strata title property. This insurance functions like home insurance and as an owner of a strata property you will pay a share of the insurance premium (this is included in your strata fees).

Owners of a strata title property still need to organise their own contents insurance and need to take note of what is and isn't covered by their strata insurance.

As strata insurance covers the whole complex, an individual owner won't be able to shop around and switch insurers. However, the owners corporation, comprised of the owners of the various properties, can choose to change insurers at the annual general meeting.

Owners corporations and strata managers

An owners corporation is made up of all property owners, each with voting rights. The owners corporation is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the property. Each year the owners corporation votes at an AGM for representatives to sit on an owners corporation committee.

Owners corporations may delegate the day-to-day running of the building to a strata manager or strata management company.

Some of the responsibilities held by an owners corporation (and potentially delegated to a strata manager) include:

  • Maintaining and repairing common spaces.
  • Upholding all by-laws and rules for the building as well as managing disputes related to these rules.
  • Managing and allocating the common funds paid for by the owners.
  • Record keeping of a financial ledger, meeting minutes and a register of all lot owners and owners corporation committee members.

Renters are not represented in an owners corporation, despite being residents of the complex. The landlord, as the owner of the property, is a member of the owners corporation.

What are the pros and cons of owning a property with a strata title?

Before deciding if a strata title property is right for you, it's important to consider whether communal-style living would suit your personal circumstances. Here are some of the reasons a strata might, or might not, work for you.

Pros

  • Properties are typically cheaper to purchase than a house, particularly if they are off-the-plan.
  • Access to additional common area facilities such as a pool or gym, which could save you splashing out on external memberships.
  • You are only responsible for maintenance of your own lot. All common areas are maintained by the owners corporation.

Cons

  • Those extra facilities don't come for free, as you'll be paying owners corporation or body corporate fees. Generally speaking, the better the facilities the more expensive these fees can be.
  • You will be potentially restricted from the by-laws which can determine things like whether or not pets are allowed, or how you can renovate your unit or apartment.
  • All decisions must be voted on by the owners corporation, which can take some time to get a decision both agreed upon and implemented.

Who can help me understand my property's strata title?

A conveyancer can be a great help here. Conveyancers are essentially solicitors or government accredited companies who can advise and act on your behalf throughout the buying or selling process of a property.

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