Maintenance in a body corporate can be a confusing issue. Many owners and committees assume the body corporate, for example, is responsible for all the exterior building maintenance. Maintenance responsibilities, however, vary considerably depending on the nature of a scheme’s registered survey plan.
This article discusses and provides clarification on maintenance issues in a standard format plan (SFP), formerly known as a group title plan.
Boundaries in a standard format plan
Working out whether the land, and any building on the land, is part of an owner’s lot or the common property depends on where boundaries are located.
A SFP defines land horizontally, using marks on the ground, or a structural element of a building (e.g. survey pegs in the ground or the corner of a building). The boundaries are unlimited under the ground and into the air.
How to identify the boundaries
This is an example of a survey plan for a SFP:
To fully interpret a survey plan, or accurately measure where boundaries lie, you may need to consult a qualified surveyor.
Common property is usually marked as such. Darker lines inside the main outer boundary of the scheme land show the boundaries of the lots.
Responsibility for maintenance
Generally, maintenance for both structural and non-structural elements of most parts of the buildings located within the boundaries marked on the survey plan are the owner’s responsibility under Section 211 of the Standard Module. As boundaries are unlimited under the ground and into the air, an owner is responsible for not just the walls, but elements beneath the ground within the boundaries, foundations, and roofing structures.
The body corporate must maintain common property in good condition under Section 180 of the Standard Module. If the common property is structural in nature, it must be maintained in structurally sound condition. Examples may include gyms, pool changing areas, saunas and storage sheds.
Exceptions inside the lot boundaries
In many cases there may be utility infrastructure (gutters, storm drains, sewers, cables, wiring etc.) located within an owner’s lot that services more than just that lot. Any shared utility infrastructure will remain common property, meaning it is usually the body corporate’s responsibility, even if it is located inside the boundaries of the owner’s lot.
An owner is responsible for any part of utility infrastructure that meets three criteria:
- it services only their lot
- and is also located within the owner’s lot boundaries
- and is not located within a boundary structure.
You can read more about utility infrastructure maintenance on our website.
Common questions around responsibility for maintenance
These are some examples of particular elements of a building and the responsibilities for maintenance.
There is a common misconception that the body corporate should pay for maintenance of the exterior of the building from the sinking fund. As the walls are within the boundaries of the lot, an owner is responsible for painting, or maintaining rendering or cladding, or otherwise maintaining the exterior surface of the walls under Section 211 of the Standard Module.
Adjudicators have made it clear the body corporate cannot use sinking fund money or vote to raise a special levy to pay for maintenance of owners’ lots in a SFP.
In Bayshore Central  QBCCMCmr 550 (8 November 2017), the adjudicator held:
 Owners are responsible for all aspects of the maintenance of all parts of their lots, including the exterior surfaces of buildings constructed on their lots. Adjudicators have consistently confirmed that a body corporate cannot take responsibility for painting and other maintenance of lots in a SFP.  If an owner fails to comply with their obligation to maintain their own lot in good condition, a body corporate can carry out the work itself and recover the reasonable cost of that work from the owner. The body corporate, as always, would need to act reasonably in doing so, including in determining whether a lot was not in good condition and whether the owner was on notice of the alleged need to undertake maintenance.
Bodies corporate are not permitted to accumulate money in the sinking fund for painting the owners’ buildings. An adjudicator ordered that the monies were to be refunded in Somerset Park  QBCCMCmr 412 (24 August 2017), finding:
 Motion 13 of the AGM of 26 October 2016 proposed that the body corporate agree to repaint the buildings … with the costs incurred to be met from the existing funds in the sinking fund. The motion was lost with 48 votes against and 23 in favour. In my view, Motion 13 should have been ruled out of order by the chairperson. It proposed to authorise work financed from the sinking fund that is the responsibility of lot owners under section 168(2) of the Accommodation Module (now Section 201 of the Accommodation Module).  It is apparent that owners have been contributing toward the cost of repainting the buildings in the scheme via contributions to the sinking fund. This is contrary to law and the question now arises as what should be done with the contributions that have been accumulated for that purpose.
Shared common walls
Often there are shared walls between two lots. The boundary measurements on the survey plan show the exact boundary, but it is likely to be the centre of the wall structure. Owners are still responsible for the non-structural and structural maintenance of that wall. As it is shared between two lots, it may be that some maintenance will have to be shared between the two owners.
A roof is a structural part of the building. Adjudicators have stated that a roofing structure is not utility infrastructure.
When there is a single shared roof that covers more than one lot, an owner will still be responsible for the portion of the roof located within the boundaries of their lot. It may be that a group of owners will need to jointly repair or replace a roof that covers more than one lot. The body corporate may offer to supply the maintenance services to owners, at their cost. Supply of services is discussed below in more detail.
Foundations in a SFP are most likely within the boundaries of the lot and therefore the responsibility of the owner to maintain. Remember that boundaries are unlimited under the ground.
Subsidence under the ground within the lot boundaries is usually the owner’s responsibility to maintain.
Windows and doors
The owner is responsible for maintaining doors, windows and their associated fittings, as these elements are usually part of the building and within boundaries of a lot.
Balconies located within the boundaries of a lot are an owner’s responsibility. This includes both structural maintenance of wooden joists, framework or cement slabs, and non-structural maintenance of balustrades, tiles or painting, for example.
Supply of maintenance services
The body corporate might co-ordinate supplying maintenance services for owners under Section 210 of the Standard Module, but it cannot force an owner to use their services.
A typical example of this is painting the buildings or replacement of the roofs. The body corporate can obtain each owner’s agreement to have the body corporate carry out the maintenance service(s). Each owner who wishes to participate agrees to reimburse the body corporate for their share of the maintenance costs. The body corporate might offer a service agreement for the owners’ benefit, with costs and terms clearly stated.
Services organised in this way remain the financial responsibility of the owners and should not form part of the budgets or general contributions levied on owners.
This article clarifies the main issues arising around maintenance in a SFP. As shown by the adjudicators’ orders, most of the building maintenance in this type of plan is the individual owner’s responsibility. Communication with owners and co-ordination of any agreed maintenance services by the body corporate will potentially help owners understand their responsibilities.
Author: Michelle Scott, Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management
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