Commissioner’s Office: Building Format Plan Maintenance

Owners and committees are often confused about who is responsible for maintenance within their body corporate. This is not surprising as it is not always a simple issue, especially in a scheme registered under a building format plan (BFP), where the body corporate might be responsible for parts of a lot.

This article explains who is responsible for maintenance within a scheme registered under a BFP.

Many community titles schemes built after 1997 are registered under a BFP.  A quick check of the registered survey plan is recommended to confirm that a BFP applies in the circumstances.

This article provides general advice only and lot owners or bodies corporate need to take their own advice, as each case depends on its facts.

The general principles

Responsibility for maintenance usually depends on whether the parts of the building are common property or not. Parts of the building outside the boundaries on the survey plan are usually common property and the body corporate’s responsibility to maintain under Section 180 of the Standard Module.

There are exceptions to this general principle in the case of a BFP. Some utility infrastructure and structural elements of the building located within the lot boundaries, for example, remain a body corporate maintenance responsibility.

This means an owner or committee wishing to confirm the body corporate is responsible for carrying out maintenance work where a BFP is involved, needs to ask three questions:

  1. Does the maintenance relate to scheme common property?
  2. Does the maintenance fall within one of the additional maintenance responsibilities of the body corporate under the Act and regulations?
  3. If the answer to either of these questions is “yes”, do any exceptions apply to prevent the work being a body corporate responsibility?

Boundaries of lots and common property in a building format plan

The first step in understanding who is responsible for maintaining a building within a scheme registered under a BFP involves identifying what parts of the building are an individual owner’s lot and what parts are common property, by identifying where boundaries are located.

The Land Title Act 1994 defines the boundaries in a BFP, earlier known as a building unit plan (BUP). The Act states that where one lot is separated from another lot or common property by a floor, wall or ceiling, the boundary of the lot is the centre of that floor, wall or ceiling.

Here is an example of a BFP/BUP type of survey plan:

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To fully interpret a survey plan, you may need to consult a qualified surveyor.

A general guide is that the darker/thicker lines are the boundaries of the lot. The boundaries are usually the walls or some other structural part of the building. Some lines may be paler, thinner, grey, dotted or dashed. These lines may define walls or parts of a building that are not a boundary structure.

Some plans show square meterage for the inside and the balcony areas or garages, plus the total of the lot’s square meterage. This might also be handy to determine what parts of the building are part of the owner’s lot if the lines are not clear, particularly on older plans.

As you would expect, property inside the boundaries of an owner’s lot is not usually part of common property. There are exceptions to this rule in the case of utility infrastructure. Under Section 20 of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act, utility infrastructure that services more than one lot (apart from certain water meters), is included in the scheme’s common property, even if it is located within the boundaries of a lot.

Additional body corporate maintenance responsibilities

In addition to being responsible for maintaining common property, Section 180 of the Standard Module requires a body corporate for a scheme registered under a BFP to maintain:

  • Railings, parapets and balustrades on the boundary of a lot and common property
  • Doors, windows, and fittings in a wall separating a lot and common property
  • Roofing structures and membranes providing protection
  • Foundation structures
  • Supporting frameworks such as load-bearing walls

The obligation applies, regardless of whether these elements are part of the common property of the scheme.

Exceptions

The final step to confirm whether the body corporate is responsible for particular maintenance work is to check the regulations to ensure there are no exceptions to the usual principles.

Section 180 of the Standard Module contains a limited number of exceptions to clarify that, despite the body corporate’s usual maintenance obligations, it is not responsible for maintaining:

  • Fixtures or fittings installed by an occupier of a lot for their own benefit, or
  • A hot-water system, washing machine, clothes dryer, solar panels, air conditioning system, television antenna or other device or supplying utility services – if they only relate to supply of services to one owner’s lot.

Common questions around responsibility for maintenance

These are some examples of particular elements of a building and the responsibilities for maintenance.

Exterior walls

As stated above, boundaries are the centre of the walls. When there is common property on the other side of the wall, with no exclusive use area, the outside half of the wall is common property. The body corporate is generally responsible for painting, maintaining rendering, cladding or otherwise maintaining the exterior surface of the walls.

An owner is usually responsible for painting (or other non-structural maintenance) of walls inside a balcony located within the boundaries of their lot.

Roof

A roof is a structural part of the building. Adjudicators have found that a roofing structure is not utility infrastructure. Usually a roofing structure and the associated roofing membrane is located above the ceiling boundary and is part of common property.

Occasionally, a roofing structure is located within the boundaries of the lot and therefore not part of common property. The body corporate must still maintain roofing structures in a structurally sound condition, even if they are not common property.

Roofing membranes providing protection for lots and common property that are located inside the lot boundaries are in most cases the body corporate’s responsibility to maintain. A typical example of this is a roofing membrane on a balcony or patio floor, that forms the roof of a lot or common property below.

Foundations

Foundations are usually under the ground floor boundary structure. If so, they are most likely common property and the body corporate’s responsibility. However, even if foundations are within the boundaries of a lot, the legislation provides the body corporate is still responsible for maintaining them in a structurally sound condition.

Soffits and eaves

Soffits and eaves are usually outside the boundaries of the lot so in most cases, are the body corporate’s responsibility to maintain.

Windows and doors

The body corporate is responsible for maintaining doors, windows and their associated fittings if they are located in a boundary wall between the lot and common property. This applies to original doors, windows and fittings installed by the builder. An owner’s improvement (e.g. an upgrade or change) to a door or window is normally their responsibility to maintain.

Doors or windows located in a non-boundary wall remain the owner’s responsibility. In the plan example above, you will see the line showing the wall leading to the balcony is thinner, meaning it is not a boundary wall. In most cases, any doors or windows in that part of the wall are the owner’s responsibility.

Balconies and balustrades

Balconies have various elements, some of which are body corporate responsibility and some which are the owner’s responsibility.

A balcony at the floor level of a lot is in most cases the boundary structure between the lot, and the one below. The top half of the balcony’s slab is above the centre of the boundary structure and therefore within the owner’s lot. An owner must maintain their lot in good condition, so tiles and other non-structural components (like painting walls within the balcony), in most cases, are the owner’s responsibility to maintain in good condition.

The balustrades or railings of the balcony that are on the boundary of the lot, are generally the body corporate’s responsibility. The body corporate is also responsible for keeping the slab in a structurally sound condition.

Roofing membranes and tiles

There have been many disputes about who is responsible for tiles laid over a roofing membrane. The following information should assist to clarify the issue.

Section 180 of the Standard Module provides the body corporate is usually responsible for a roofing membrane on a balcony, if it is a roofing structure providing protection for lots and common property. In some circumstances, the body corporate may have to cover all or some of the cost of lifting and replacing tiles to carry out the maintenance of the roofing membrane below the tiles.

For example, in Rutherglen [2008] QBCCMCmr 377 (14 October 2008), the adjudicator said:

The balcony tiles are covered by a different provision. Maintenance of the tiles falls under the general rule that the applicant must maintain her own lot (Standard Module, 170(2)) [now Section 211 of the Standard Module]. If the balcony tiles are in good condition and the body corporate needs to remove those tiles to repair the waterproofing membrane then the body corporate should also repair or replace tiles that need to be removed to rectify the membrane. However, if the tiles are not in good condition then it would be appropriate for the body corporate to seek some apportionment as a result of the body corporate replacing old tiles with new tiles.

In Galileo Tower- [2015] QBCCMCmr 581 (10 December 2015) the adjudicator found:

​[62] Normally an owner is responsible for tiles on their balcony. However, to the extent that it was necessary (as presumably would usually be the case) to remove the tiles to enable the waterproofing work that the Body Corporate is responsible for, the Body Corporate would be responsible for replacing the tiles. If only part of a tiled area needs to be removed to undertake work, replacement of all tiles in the area may be necessary if it is not feasible to match the tiles that have been removed. Any Body Corporate responsibility to replace tiles would arguably only be for tiles that are the same or the modern equivalent of the tiles that are removed, or tiles of an equivalent value to that. If an owner wanted different tiles, they would be responsible for any cost above the tiles that the Body Corporate is responsible for.

Inside the boundaries

In most circumstances, the structural maintenance of original interior load bearing walls and framework remains the body corporate’s responsibility.

The non-structural maintenance of interior walls such as painting, plasterboard/gyprock or skirting boards, is normally the owner’s responsibility. Fixtures and fittings such as floor coverings, cupboards and benches, toilets, shower screens or vanities are commonly the owner’s responsibility.

A common question is about cracks appearing in the ceiling or walls. Maintenance of superficial cracks is typically the owner’s responsibility. However, if the body corporate has failed to maintain the building in a structurally sound condition and that is the cause of the cracking, the body corporate might then be responsible to repair the cracks inside the boundaries of the lot.

Waterproofing membranes located inside the lot boundaries, usually in wet areas like the kitchen, laundry or bathroom, are generally the owner’s responsibility to maintain. This type of membrane is normally not a roofing membrane.

An adjudicator stated in order The Dalgety (Apartments) [2020] QBCCMCmr 118 (6 March 2020):

[45] The waterproofing in the bathroom of a lot will be wholly within the boundaries of that lot and will not be common property. A body corporate is responsible for maintaining roofing membranes that are not common property but that provide protection for lots or common property. However, I do not consider waterproofing within the bathroom of a lot can rationally be categorised as a roofing membrane.

This article clarifies the main issues surrounding maintenance in a BFP. As shown by the adjudicators’ orders, some maintenance issues need to be determined by the body corporate for their scheme’s individual situation. This means making reasonable decisions in the circumstances applying to the specific maintenance issue and its scheme.

Author: Michelle Scott, Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management

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