What Is Strata Title?

What Is Strata Title?

What Is Strata Title

Property ownership is something towards which most people aspire. There are many options that would-be owners can consider, from a unit to an expansive property. There are also numerous terms of which it is advisable to gain knowledge and understanding, and one of those terms is strata or strata title. In Australia, a strata title refers to a model or type of property ownership. The word strata indicate apartments being on different levels. A strata title provides individual ownership of identified parts of a property or a parcel of land where there is shared ownership of other areas. In 1961, strata title was first introduced in New South Wales. It was introduced as a way to manage legal ownership of apartment blocks better. A strata title is a legal document that shows apartment ownership or ownership of a building or office. A strata title can also be called a strata lot.

Strata Title

A strata title comprises possession of strata lots as well as common property. Common property refers to things like driveways, gardens and lawn areas as well as staircases and lifts.

 

In a strata title, all the rights and responsibilities of lot owners are clearly set out. Identifying rights and responsibilities allows schemes to run smoothly and ensures all who own lots are protected under the law.

 

A strata title is significant as it gives legal proof of a person’s ownership of an apartment or building. The title provides the homeowner with some control over their property.

Strata History

In 1961 the New South Wales parliament passed the Conveyancing Strata Title Act. At this time, the first use was recorded off the term strata title and before this point in time, people were referring to ownership of a single unit in a larger complex using the term ‘cumbersome structure.’ After 1961 the concept of strata title was progressively adopted by other states of Australia. Later the idea was adopted in other countries. 

 

Over time there has been growth in schemes sizes and an increase in complexity and the nature of developments. There has also been the addition of professions concerning strata schemes, including strata managers, lawyers and other industry professionals. 

What Is The Difference Between Strata Scheme And Strata Plan?

A strata scheme needs a strata plan. The plan shows the lots along with the common areas or joint property. The plan will indicate the boundaries of each strata lot providing evidence of the subdivision of the property. In contrast, a scheme is a property made up of multiple units with multiple owners. The owner becomes joint owners of the property with collective responsibility for the management. So, the term strata scheme composes the totality of all the strata lots plus the common areas. It also refers to the rules and regulations.

Buying A Strata Scheme Property

You can find strata title scheme properties in numerous and varied residential settings. They are in many residential complexes, retirement villages, serviced apartments and even caravan parks, and you will find them in city centres and country towns. You can also find strata titles in commercial areas as they can be commercial and retail buildings.

Doing your research and being aware is imperative when buying any property. Find out if the apartment you are looking at is a strata lot and thus part of a strata scheme. If purchasing an apartment that is part of a strata scheme, you as the owner automatically become a part of the legal entity that shoulders the task of looking after the property’s upkeep and managing the finances. So, when you buy into a strata scheme, you own an individual lot and have accountability for the shared areas.

Before purchasing, find out:

  1.  What fees you will be required to pay, and when you are expected to pay them.
  2. What rules are in place for common areas and upkeep etc., of your lot.
  3. If there are any major works on the horizon.
  4. Rules related to pets.
  5. Restrictions around renovating, car parking, smoking, where owners can hang washing etc.

If you buy a house, you are the owner of the whole property. In contrast, if you buy into a strata scheme, you become a lot owner. You do not own the exterior areas as you do when you buy a house. This means that you don’t own the external walls, roof or floor. It also means that the maintenance of these areas, exterior walls etc. are not your responsibility but rather the responsibility of the owner’s corporation. You are part of the owner’s corporation, which may also be called the body corporate.

The Way Strata Title Properties Work

Before buying a unit in a strata scheme, it is good to determine how they are run and the differences in owning your own home. This style of living is quite different to individual homeownership. Some things you need to know are:

  1. That each scheme has its own ruleset, and these are known as by-laws. All lot owners and occupants have to abide by the rules set whether they agree with the rules or do not agree with them.
  2. There will be some restrictions regarding improvements you can make to your lot and how the lot is presented.
  3. There are behavioural restrictions also about:
    • Noise levels.
    • The pets you keep
    • How bulky items such as caravans or boats are stored.

Each strata scheme will have its own set of by-laws; however, each state and territory also has its comprehensive legislation concerning how strata schemes are run. The State Legislation will cover many issues, including fire safety, safety glass, pest inspections, etc. As legislation for strata titles is state-specific, it is worth employing an expert to determine how the legislation will impact you.

What You Need To Know As A Lot Owner

There are several things to be aware of when buying into a strata scheme. They include:

A. Levies – All lot owners have to pay levies, usually quarterly. These levies are used for administration costs, upkeep, emergency work and capital works.

B. Insurance – All strata title schemes are required by law to insure themselves against any unexpected events. The building insurance they get covers loss or damage to any of the buildings within the scheme, including common property and all individual lots. They also, as a requirement, obtain liability insurance. The provision of insurance means that a lot owner is only required to get their contents insured. Ask to see what insurance provisions are made for the scheme you are looking at.

C. Body Corporate – all lot owners, through their lot ownership, become members of the body corporate. If a lot is leased out, the owner, not the tenant, retains membership of the body corporate. As members, the lot owners share legal responsibility for managing and maintaining the properties shared areas. The name of the body corporate will vary from state to state and be dependent on the type of scheme. The legal entity or governing body can be known as a body corporate, owners corporation, strata company or a community corporation.

D. Legislation – Be aware that legislation regarding strata titles varies from state to state around Australia. Do some research to ascertain the rules regarding legislation for your state.

Lot Owners Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a lot owner can vary from one strata scheme to another and one state to another; therefore, before purchasing, look into this. Responsibilities include things like:

a. Following the rules and regulations put in place by the corporate body.

b. Lot owners are required to participate in the corporate body meetings.

c. Payment of fees and levies.

d. Ensuring the corporation of any changes in ownership.

Benefits and Possible Shortcomings

There are numerous things to think about when buying a strata-titled property. These may appear to you as benefits or negatives, but they are things you should take into account either way. They include:

a. The responsibilities you will have as a lot owner.

b. Do you enjoy communal living and sharing areas with others?

c. An apartment or townhouse in a strata-complex will most likely be cheaper than buying a house. Does this make it more affordable for you, and is this a consideration?

d. Maintenance of common areas will most likely be taken care of by the owner’s corporation. Are you happy with this?

e. It is possible you will have access to a pool, gym, tennis court or other shared facilities. Would you make use of these?

f. Would you feel more secure living in a community like this where there is greater security?

g. Will you be able to manage the strata levies?

h. How will the noise from close living neighbours impact you?

i. Will you mind the restrictions put in place regarding the pets you can own and the types of renovations you can do?

j. You need to be aware that the value of your property will be linked to the value of the other lots in the complex.

Summary

There are over 270 thousand strata title property schemes across Australia, and these schemes comprise more than 2 million lots. When looking at purchasing or renting an apartment, unit or townhouse, you need to consider the strata title. Living under a strata scheme is not the same as buying a block of land or property with a house. When you buy into a strata scheme, you not only own your unit, you also have a share in the ownership of all common property that is part of the complex. Strata complexes are made up of residential properties and caravan parks, retirement villages, commercial, retail and mixed-use premises.

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