This is a story which reminds us all how important the strata records are. Also, it is important to maintain a strata register that keeps the total history of the organisation in one box.

Leverage is currently dealing with a client who has a number of unapproved buildings built on their roof. The building is one where six apartments are established on the top of the building. They have access to a balcony area. Each of the apartments has made extensions into this area to establish new rooms. To facilitate these buildings, in 2004, an exclusive use by-law was prepared permitting the owner’s to build premises in accordance with the “attached designs”.

Where does the confusion occur?

  • The by-law had no designs attached. We are unable to indicate what designs have been approved for the roof of the building.
  • The registered strata plan indicates that the buildings are built on common property.
  • Nonetheless, drawings, which exist within the council, indicate that the property is lot owner property.

We now have two very difficult questions.

  1. Whose land have these extensions been built on? Is it on lot owner property or is it on common property? This is important in terms of whether the lot owner has built it on common property. What is further confusing is if it wasn’t common property, why was there any need for an exclusive use by-law done in 2004?
  2. What were the designs approved by the by-laws in 2004?

We now have a situation where we don’t know whose property it is, we don’t know what was approved and, most importantly, we don’t know why it would have been approved. It is a total mess. Council records are not accurate and neither is the owner’s corporation’s record any better. In fact, the owner’s corporation’s records have been maintained in a dreadful state and give us no assistance in terms of unraveling this conundrum.

As noted above, it is an absolute timely warning that owner’s corporations must keep good records. Owner’s corporation should maintain all original source documents from when the building was built. Any changes to the building should also be clearly recorded in the minutes and the documentation should be maintained in the strata register.

The Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 requires that records be maintained for only 7 years. This seems to be totally foolish. Records should be maintained for the building from its original status. Although seven years might see you past a litigation date, it leaves no room for any problems, which may occur down the track. Here is a clear example of where no one has kept records and the parties are involved in litigation that seems impossible to resolve.

 

This article was written by Bailey Compton, Principal Solicitor & Director at Leverage Group.

To get in touch with Bailey, please email info@leveragegroup.com.au or call 1300 438 538