Who is responsible for strata property water damage?

Water damage

Who is responsible for strata property water damage?

Strata committee or lot owner – here’s how to find out who must fix strata property water damage

Strata committees play an essential role in administering a strata property. They are often the first point of contact for lot owners when a maintenance issue or urgent repair request arises. In the event of strata property water damage, the best way forward may be to address the problem and take swift action to repair the damage. This approach will likely minimise stress for everyone involved.

However, determining the cause of strata property water damage can be complicated. Strata properties have a complex network of water pipes, electrical wiring, air conditioning and ventilation systems hidden from sight in cavity walls, roof spaces or underfloor. While identifying the source of strata property water damage can be difficult, it is particularly challenging if the damage has not been detected for some time or has extended beyond the initial fault site.

Once your strata committee is alerted to a fault, knowing boundaries between common property and individual lots is critical to understanding who is responsible for strata property water damage.

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This three-step approach may help you understand who is responsible for strata property water damage, in order to fix the problem swiftly:

  1. Step 1: Define where the problem originated
  2. Step 2: Identify the source of the problem
  3. Step 3: Know your legal rights for managing repairs to utility services

Step 1: Define where the problem originated

Common strata property encompasses spaces outside the individual lots themselves — roadways, lobby and foyer areas, lifts, staircases, car parks, gardens, fitness centres, swimming pools and so on. It also incorporates joining walls between lots and any other area not listed as part of an individual lot on the building plan. If strata property water damage originates here, it can be argued that the owners corporation is responsible for the issue.

A lot, on the other hand, is a privately-owned space such as an apartment or townhouse. According to the NSW Fair Trading, “the basic rule is that everything inside the airspace of the unit, including all internal walls, fixtures, carpet and paint on the walls is usually the lot and therefore the responsibility of the lot owner.” If the water damage originates within a lot, the lot owners is generally deemed responsible for repairs.


Step 2: Identify the source of the problem

Once you have determined who is responsible for the strata property water damage, then it’s critical to identify the source of the water damage. In most instances, you will need to engage a plumber, engineering or qualified leak detection specialist to distinguish the exact source and cause of the water leak.

Lot owners can formally request strata committees to pay for this investigatory work. Strata committees are statutorily obliged to act on this request immediately. In some instances, lot owners may choose to pay out of their pocket first and seek reimbursement later, rather than wait for a committee to convene and respond to the request.

It pays to remember that reimbursement of out-of-pocket specialist fees may only apply if the water damage was caused by common property infrastructure failure or damage.

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All owners corporations should have a comprehensive capital works plan or maintenance plan to help your strata committee stay on top of the current condition of major plant and capital equipment, when the regular servicing checks are due and when anything needs immediate repair.

The plan also specifies how much budget your committee needs to reserve for ongoing maintenance and repairs to extend the assets’ life.


Step 3: Know your legal rights for managing repairs to utility services

State government legislation and related regulations state that utility infrastructure (such as cables, wires, pipes, sewers, drains, ducts, plant and equipment that supply utility services to common property) is considered common property when it comes to strata property water damage. Therefore it is the strata committee or owners corporation’s responsibility to maintain and repair.
If the utility infrastructure supplies a single lot with a service and is contained within the boundary of the lot (without sharing a common boundary with another area of the building), the utility structure becomes the lot owner’s responsibility to repair.

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Water defect Who is responsible for repair
A leaking cold-water pipe in a wall between two lots Owners corporation
A leaking cold-water pipe within a lot and supplies a utility service only to that individual lot Lot owner
A malfunctioning hot water system situated on the ground floor of a strata building but piped and wired directly into a lot on the third floor Lot owner
A leaking cold-water pipe within a lot and supplies a utility service only to that individual lot Lot owner
Repairs to burst pipes in a boundary wall Owners corporation
Pipe damage occurring within internal walls Lot owner
Pipe damage from a pipe that services multiple units Owners corporation
Mould caused by a burst or leaking pipe in a common area that seeps through a joint wall and causes mould to surface in one or more adjoining lots Owners corporation

If you would like a more in-depth understanding of who is responsible for strata property water damage, these are the specific pieces of legislation that govern such matters:

Related question from our StrataFAQ community

StrataFAQ - Water leak

Q: The owner of the unit below ours has notified me of water from my unit coming into his bathroom. What should I do? Is it the body corporate’s responsibility or mine

A: It’s recommended that you try and find the source of the water. If the water is leaking from a tap or pipe that is in your unit, it will be your responsibility to repair it and cover any costs for damages as a result… Read more at StrataFAQ.

When it comes to managing a strata property, there are various compliance or legislative requirements that are needed to protect owners and residents.  When the situation allows, you don’t want to miss out on the chance of an insurance claim.  Click here to learn more about Community Health & Safety and related services to ensure your protection. You can also click here to download our FREE Community Living guide series on defects. If you would like to learn more about the services we offer, click here for a free assessment.

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