The Strata Legislation in WA does not really provide Lot owners and their strata company’s or Council of Owner’s (COO) with much guidance on their obligations to maintain strata title common property.
Under the WA Strata Titles Act 1985 strata Lot owners, who collectively make up the strata company and who may be represented by a Council of Owners, have specific obligations. Strata Lot members need to acknowledge these obligations, in particular, Section 35 which in part defines the duties of the strata company and notes that the strata company shall –
(a) enforce the by-laws; and
(b) control and manage the common property for the benefit of all the proprietors; and
(c) keep in good and serviceable repair, properly maintain and, where necessary, renew and replace —
(i) the common property, including the fittings, fixtures and lifts used in connection with the common property;
The problem with the above is that it often does not provide enough guidance on exactly what should be done and when, especially when compared with the Legislative requirements in many Australian Eastern seaboard jurisdictions where the legislative requirements are far more prescriptive.
Acknowledging this issue the WA Government through Landgate is currently considering changes to the WA Strata Titles Act. In December 2016, Landgate issued a summary of the proposed reforms which in relation to strata schemes with more than 10 lots, would require them to:
- Create a maintenance plan to outline what repairs the scheme will need to undertake in the next five years
- The maintenance plan will be required to be discussed at each Annual General Meeting (AGM)
- The maintenance plan discussion during the AGM should enable members to be aware of what maintenance costs are expected to be incurred during the coming year and hence consider how to fund these expenses.
Whilst the above is still simply a proposal it is still far less than the obligations imposed on strata schemes in many other jurisdictions in Australia but it does goes go some distance to introducing effective maintenance planning and budgeting for larger strata schemes, whilst ensuring that strata common property is proactively managed for all proprietors, as per the broader obligations under the existing WA Strata Titles Act.
So what should a 5 Year Building Maintenance Plan Contain?
There are several key attributes that a good 5 year Strata Maintenance Plan should contain:
- Firstly, the plan should consider all of the common property. There is surprisingly much confusion over where the common boundary/Lot boundary is situated. This can be different for every strata plan so an analysis of the strata plan is critical.
Special attention needs to be given to common property which can only be accessed through individual strata Lots i.e. access to roof space via manholes in individual Lots, access to balconies through strata Lots, access to external walls through Part strata Lots and or exclusive use areas.
When considering the development of a maintenance plan and the required inspection of common property it can often be a logistical challenge trying to secure access to the required common property through multiple Lots on a nominated inspection day, which may require the occupant to be on site to provide access. On occasion, strata companies may reduce the scope of the inspection to minimise the impact on the Lot occupants and reduce the cost of the inspection. This can be a pragmatic solution which enables a partial plan to be developed but one which may inadvertently exclude critical components of a maintenance plan.
- Once the common area is clearly defined, a detailed inspection of the common area should then be undertaken with the findings photographed and documented. All key elements within each section of the common area should be examined for defects, repairs and maintenance requirements. This would normally include the roof cover, roof plumbing, roof space, all external walls, balconies, passage ways, stairwells, carports/carparks, basements, stairwells, foyers, common rooms, gyms, etc.
- The goal of undertaking a thorough inspection of the entire common property is to prepare a list of all of the defects, repairs and maintenance items that need to be undertaken immediately and over the following five years. The maintenance plan should include significant defects, repair items and maintenance items. Maintenance items should exclude ongoing common items such as clearing and gardening which should be included in the annual operating budget.
- For most strata properties it will not be difficult to develop an extensive list of items that the strata company will need to attend to. It is important to segment and quantify these items. The first requirement is to segment the list of defects and maintenance items into the year in which the work should ideally be undertaken, noting all work will not need to be undertaken immediately, but on a similar basis not everything can be deferred 5 years.
- Allocating the required work within the required time frame is one requirement however; having a list of 50 to 300 items may not be useful unless there are some indicative costs shown against each item. Indicative costs can be invaluable in assisting the strata company:
- Understand the overall financial commitments required
- Assist with budgeting, funding and levy considerations
- Assist with communicating and resolving funding shortfalls.
- Maintenance plans and inspections in WA are typically undertaken by a specific specialist such as a building inspector who is a WA Registered Builder with many years’ experience in multi-level strata constructions or building surveyors. However, there will be components of the strata maintenance plan which will normally need to be undertaken by specialist individuals or firms. For example:
- Lifts, lifts shafts and lift infrastructure is generally the sole domain of specialist lift organisations. Access to the area is normally restricted. Lifts are generally managed under medium term maintenance contracts. The service provider should be able to provide forward forecast estimates of maintenance requirements.
- The following items can also require specialist knowledge and forward estimates and maintenance plans:
i. Security and access control equipment
ii. Fire and emergency services equipment
iii. Common HVAC and water heating equipment
iv. Pool, pond and water feature equipment and facilities
The goal should be to integrate the general maintenance plan with the specialist component plans, where they exist.
- Having a maintenance plan prepared by an independent building inspector is often a key attribute of a solid maintenance plan. Having the maintenance plan constructed by a building inspector who is not conflicted by the prospect of securing some of the underlying maintenance work can be an important consideration.
- Finally, a maintenance plan is only worth the investment if:
- The plan is acted upon
- The plan is regularly reviewed and
- The plan is updated prior to the conclusion of the 5 year planning period.
Houspect WA has been producing comprehensive strata maintenance plans on common strata properties for over 20 years. The plans:
- Are produced by Building Inspectors who are all WA Registered Builders, all within excess of 20 years construction experience.
- Houspect will not undertake or refer work identified with the plans so as to ensure professional integrity and independence on the conclusions provided
- The plans are prepared once a comprehensive inspection of the common property is undertaken. Defects, maintenance and repair issues are photographed and target work periods are provided.
- Builders indicative cost estimates can generally be provided for the identified repair and maintenance work.
- Houspect provides a detailed quote prior to undertaking a strata building inspection and preparing any maintenance plan.
Need more information? Contact Houspect