Table Of Contents
What Is Strata?
A strata scheme is a building or group of buildings split into different parts, including retail or commercial houses, industrial units, offices, individual apartments, townhouses, etc. When you buy part of a strata scheme, what you own is called a ‘lot’.
All the participants in the strata scheme (or group of buildings) have a shared garden, roof, stairwell and driveway, external walls, etc.
Strata scheme members also form an owner’s association whose task is to manage the common property. In addition, an owner’s corporation is also formed immediately after the strata plan is registered.
Living in a strata scheme implies that the owners’ corporation will take over management of the property’s problems. They manage most of the issues that will come up in the day-to-day running of the strata.
While this seems perfect theoretically, many complications can arise from this arrangement, just like in every other association. The majority of these issues are usually about the funding of repairs. It can be challenging to ascertain whether individual owners or the association as a whole is responsible for the repairs.
One of the common repairs that often leads to confusion and sometimes conflict is plumbing. This article will look at what aspect of plumbing is covered in the strata arrangement and other related issues.
What Is Strata Plumbing?
Strata plumbing is a term used to describe a collection of pipes, fittings, and other plumbing accessories that facilitate water flow in and out of a property governed by a strata title.
It is not realistic to have separate plumbing systems for every unit in the building. The best thing to do in such an arrangement is to design and implement a plumbing system that crisscrosses each unit in the building.
The underlying pipe network is distributed across the common property in the strata scheme. Individual units do not have separate plumbing systems because it will be too expensive for each lot, and such a design will result in too many pipes and fittings.
Does Strata Cover Plumbing?
Yes! This is because the plumbing system passes through many common properties. However, not all plumbing issues are covered under strata schemes.
A liability assessment is needed when a plumbing issue happens, such as a broken pipe that causes damage to a private apartment or joint property. First, the insurance company of both the private apartment owner and the owner’s corporation will go through the strata title plan to understand who owns the portion where the pipe was broken.
This is usually a highly complex assessment and may require lawyers, specialists, building and plumbing consultants, and sometimes, loss adjusters. The parties will try to reach a favorable resolution because the strata title binds the common property and the private apartment plans.
Common Strata Plumbing Issues
Shower leaking in private property
If a defect in the internal fitting causes leakage, the apartment owner will bear the cost. However, if the leakage is traced to a plumbing issue caused by common property infrastructure, the repair cost will be funded by the owner’s corporation.
Leak from one property to another
This will also depend on where the leakage started and what caused it. If the leakage was caused by a defect in a private apartment, the owner of that private apartment will bear the cost.
However, if the leak resulted from a plumbing infrastructure installed between the walls that services more than one apartment, then it will be fixed from the pocket of the owner’s corporation.
A pipe bursting under a private property floor
If there is a pipe that bursts under the property of a private apartment, it is the duty of the owner’s corporation. An exception is when the issue is caused by a private apartment owner, such as in their kitchen sink, toilet, laundry trough, dishwasher, etc.
Water dripping from the balcony
If the leakage is due to an established fault of the owner above you, then that owner must fix the problem. It is either fixed by you or the owner’s corporation if it is not the owner’s fault above you. Although, most of the time, it will be your duty to fix it.
Damp and mouldy spots
If there is a wet and mouldy spot anywhere in the common property, the best thing to do is to call a plumber. Most of the time, the problem may not be a plumbing issue. It may be a result of a defect in the construction of the building. A plumber will help to ascertain the root cause of the problem.
Broken kitchen sink causing damage
Everything in the apartment’s kitchen or bathroom (excluding beneath floors or behind walls) is the responsibility of individual owners. The owners also have to deal with issues with their sinks, dishwashers, toilets, and showers.
So, any problem caused by a leaking sink is the owner’s responsibility. However, it is also essential to cross-check with your owner’s corporation; many have fantastic insurance policies that can take care of cases like these, even within an individual apartment.
A burst pipe in the bathroom
The owner’s corporation must fix any burst pipe within boundary walls. However, if the leakage is from internal walls, it is the owner’s responsibility. Note that if the burst pipe serves multiple apartments, the owner corporation will also handle such a situation.
Frequently Asked Questions On Strata Plumbing
Who funds plumbing maintenance and manages strata?
The owners must contribute to the maintenance of the plumbing systems that service common properties. This is achieved through owner’s corporation fees that are collected regularly by the body corporate.
Part of the money pays for water services for the common property, ensuring that the plumbing systems within the common property are adequately taken care of. The owners’ corporation equally has administrative funds dedicated to the daily water bill expenses.
Is it my responsibility to upgrade strata plumbing?
Upgrading plumbing systems can be a serious issue. When an apartment needs plumbing upgrades, the owner will expect the owner’s corporation to foot the bill.
However, if the owner’s corporation does not have sufficient funds, the affected individual will fund such upgrades that affect just one apartment. As the owner of a unit, it is essential to understand the financial implication before agreeing to fund plumbing upgrades collectively.
Again, before you go ahead with the upgrade from your own pocket, consult the owner’s corporation. This is because your upgrade may affect other plumbing lines that service the common property.
Are there ways I can reduce strata plumbing costs?
Yes, there are many ways you can reduce the cost of strata plumbing. First, you have to ensure that the plumbing system is well maintained and managed regularly. You may be incurring short-term costs, but routine maintenance will save you from major repairs that may result from neglecting minor issues.
Also, it is necessary to ensure that the unit has a building manager that maintains the strata plumbing. This person will be in charge of maintaining swimming pools, garden taps, and sprinkler systems. The manager will also ensure that private apartment owners are not misusing or damaging common property plumbing.
Who fixes water damage in a strata setting?
No matter the amount of effort and time you put into preventing water damage, it still happens in one way or the other. Usually, in a strata scheme setting, you may find it hard to know who to talk to if you experience water damage or the person to hold responsible.
The following should guide you on what to do during water damage and other issues that may arise.
If the water damages the common property it is the owner corporation’s responsibility to fix it. This includes repairing what caused the water damage, such as roof failure, leaking pipes, or a clogged gutter.
Apartments and common property
If the water damage affected one or more apartments or common property and the cost of repairs is higher than the owners’ corporation deductibles.
In that case, the owners of the affected properties may submit an insurance claim through the owners’ corporation policy. This will mean that the owners’ corporation will fund the repair of all damaged apartments or community property (enhancements and improvements are not included).
The insurance company will then repay the corporation. If the expected damage is less than the minimum deductible amount or slightly higher, the owners’ corporation may decide not to submit an insurance claim. However, this does not invalidate the insurance benefits of the individual apartment owners.
Apartment to apartment
If the water damage originated from one apartment and entered another, the owners’ corporation could ask the apartment owner to fix the problem and then seek reimbursement of the insurance deductible from the owner.
Most owners’ corporations support a ‘chargeback’ policy that empowers them to claim deductible from the person responsible for the damage without any legal procedure.
If there is an emergency scenario such as a roof leak in the middle of the night. In that case, the owners’ corporation will immediately ask the strata manager to deal with the issue since it is unclear what the cause is.
So, it will be unreasonable to ask the owners to take charge of the problem at such a time. The owners’ corporation must mobilise resources and personnel such as roof plumbers to help stop the leak immediately.
Consult A Plumber For Professional Guidance
It may be difficult to decide whose responsibility it is to fix a plumbing problem in a strata setting. This is because there is always a thin line between the plumbing infrastructure of the individual and that of the strata community.
Whenever you are faced with this dilemma, it is important to consult a professional plumber for expert advice. The plumber will advise you on whether it is your responsibility to fix a problem or leave it for the owners’ corporation.