Water isolation valve: who responsible for payment for repair – OC or lot owner?

  1. Forums
  2. Common property
  3. Water isolation valve: who responsible for payment for repair – OC or lot owner?

Forums Common property Water isolation valve: who responsible for payment for repair – OC or lot owner?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 26 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #22581
    stratify
    Member

    Hi YSP community,

    I have a question regarding who is responsible for payment for a repair – the owners corporation or a lot owner.

    It relates to the repair of an isolation value (water stop cock) to a lot’s bathroom, which is currently not able to be turned off, as it has seized up.

    The isolation value is in a “common” service duct that runs in the corner of the bathroom. A panel had to be removed for the plumber to visual this.

    However, this isolation value only turns off the water for this one unit, not other units.

    We are not sure if the cost of this repair falls on the lot owner or the owners corporation.

    The strata manager and other committee members are suggesting that it’s the lot owner’s responsibility, as this isolation value is a part of the common property that is for that lot’s exclusive use.

    But on this document, it lists this as being the responsibility of the owners corporation – see “Bathroom / Main stop cock to unit / OC” in the table on page 2 of:

    https://www.strataplus.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Whos-Responsible-SCA.pdf

    NB – I found the above document by just doing some googling, and I can see that this refers to the old Act. Is there an updated version of such a document that others can point me to?

    Full disclosure – I’m the lot owner that this affects. And I’m also the chair of the committee. So I’m asking this from the short-term perspective of understanding who needs to pay, but also so I understand this going forward for other similar repairs.

    I’m happy to pay to repair this if it’s clear that that’s what is required, but the document above makes me wonder if the “it’s part of the common property that is for your lot’s exclusive use” provision is valid?

    In the past, the repair of common property such as a garage lock (that is obviously only for one lot’s use) have been paid for by the owners corporation. But, I’ve been told that we have also had instances in the past where the committee has said no to repairs on the basis of it being part of the common property that is for the exclusive use of the lot owner (in that instance, it related to windows, which we know are common property. But when a lot requested to fix a broken roller mechanism of a sliding balcony door, it was rejected by the committee saying this door is a part of the common property that is for that lot’s exclusive use, so they had to fix it themselves).

    As I said, I’m happy to pay for it to be fixed (it’s important it’s fixed soon), and I worry that the “it’s part of the common property that is for your lot’s exclusive use” provision will encourage lot owners to not proactively fix parts of the common property that could cause issues for others down the track if not addressed.

    Thanks in advance for any information or clarification regarding this.

    #22722
    Amanda Farmer
    Expert

    Hi stratify,

    A great question I was actually asking myself only recently.

    Here is, word for word, some advice I recently received from a barrister on the topic:

    “The owners corporation’s responsibility is, relevantly, to maintain “common property”: section 106(1), SSMA 2015. Having regard to the combined definitions of “common property” and “lot”, the common property includes “common infrastructure”: section 4(1), SSDA 2015. Common infrastructure is only that infrastructure that is “not for the exclusive benefit of one lot”. Accordingly, if a pipe, wire, cable or duct is for the exclusive benefit of Mr ###’s lot, it is not common infrastructure and therefore not common property and therefore not the subject of the owner’s corporation’s duty to maintain”

    This advice was directly in relation to a ‘stop valve’ of the type you’re now referring to.

    Garage doors and locks are going to be different (similar to front doors and locks, and most balcony doors in newer buildings). The doors themselves are common property, as are their ancillary equipment. That’s because they form part of a lot boundary (assuming that boundary is so marked on the strata plan).

    This is different to ‘common infrastructure’ which is not otherwise marked on the strata plan, so we must turn to the legislative definitions. Tracking these definitions through to their end leads to the above conclusion. Namely: stop valves servicing only one lot are lot property and therefore lot owner’s responsibility.

    On that basis, the pdf you have linked to is not correct (and never has been), though I appreciate it’s a very common approach to the issue.

    Let me know your thoughts.

    A good topic for the podcast, perhaps.

    Amanda.

    #22879
    KBH
    Member

    I can understand why most do not acknowledge that – a stop cock is not strictly exclusive use, because the service it supplies is common – The water which circulates throughout a building.

    In our building several dozens of units are without water if someone needs to change a washer.

    The relatively few stop valves we have are prized and maintained by us, whether they are in a common hall or in a unit, because of the value they are to all others by maintaining water supply to them. Some of these cocks are just inside risers internally which are definitely common property.

    The logistics alone of not having ownership of these would be enormous to us.

    If for instance a washing machine in one unit can affect the temperature in the shower of a unit on another floor because of pressure changes in yet another unit’s pipes as happens in our building, then how can management say that any part of what is a connected system is exclusive?

    If part of the wiring to an apartment is faulty hundreds of metres away, then who pays for the cutting through common property to fix it? Has the construction or maintenance of the risers and hall ceiling cavities contributed to the the cable’s deterioration? Does any cowboy employed by the owner do that cutting and repair for rightful access to maintain “their” wires?

    Keeping it simple makes it easy and in the long run more cost effective.

    Admittedly, we had all fittings connected to common property included as common at the time the building’s strata plan was registered, so it is clear cut. Toilets, cisterns and even cupboards included.

    As people modernised with new taps etc, they became lot responsibility. Our bathrooms didn’t even have simple under sink cocks to the taps. Most of course install stops of their own at the time they renovate thankfully, but that doesn’t help showers, toilets etc.

    However where we can, we use the opportunity of access during reno’s to install main valves to restrict all flow to as few units at a time as possible.

    To us, the ‘use’ of the valve isn’t for the lot it stops, the greatest value is the use to the lots it doesn’t.

    Anyone who doesn’t have one, is absolutely entitled use our time and energy arranging to have the water shut off, and causing great inconvenience to many others. So who is actually benefiting from that ‘exclusive’ use?.

     

     

    #22968
    Amanda Farmer
    Expert

    Hi KBH,

    I agree with you – the common sense approach is for the OC to take responsibility for these types of items, but it’s not what our legislation says.

    The ‘common sense approach’ is why my own building recently paid for all these valves to be replaced within units. A by-law which transfers and confirms such responsibility to the OC may be a good idea.

    In relation to your query about wiring, I don’t think you’d find any wiring “hundreds of metres away” that is for the exclusive benefit of one lot. There will be cables to the building’s comms room/MDF, then cables from there to the boundary of each lot, then cables from the boundary to each lot’s various outlets. The part of the wiring that runs from the boundary of the lot to the lot’s outlet is lot property and the responsibility of the owner, because it is servicing only that lot.

    So, in the case of faulty wiring or a service problem, the important task is going to be identifying at what part of the line the fault lies, exactly. I appreciate in some circumstances this can be difficult.

    In relation to your building having “all fittings connected to common property included as common at the time the strata plan was registered…” thats interesting, and in my experience, unusual. Was that done by notation on the strata plan, or via a by-law?

    Amanda.

     

    #22976
    KBH
    Member

    YES Amanda, exactly – supply valves. Great move by your building.

    I have been harping on for years about that. Unfortunately, now I have some authority to insist, our building is not in a great financial position, and that will have to wait until other pressing maintenance issues are resolved – particularly plumbing. We are a very large older block which has been reconfigured over the years leaving a complex system of water delivery, which sometimes makes no obvious sense.

    How did you do it – all at once or as required?

    I thought we could incrementally install as people called in their own plumbers. Timing and access often cause the most obstruction to getting work done.

    Hundreds of metres away? Ah, alright, got me. Fair call Amanda. Where’s my artistic licence for emphasis?

    It is not an extreme exaggeration though. Our property spans a street block – very large footprint with utilities rooms on the outer perimeters. Like the plumbing, cabling wasn’t always installed in the most direct route, just took the path of least resistance at the time, up and round and doubling back on itself to the tune of a hundred metres, in length not distance. Not always coming from the nearest most obvious source or substation so to speak either.

    You might remember that I have issue with a by-law which insists that the building owns the wiring, and it was used to try to deliberately exclude a certain provider, to the detriment of residents’ freedom of choice.

    At that time the provider’s lawyers explained the law regarding the difference between physical delivery systems, (like water pipes and cabling) and the service transmitted through them, and the ownership of those services, in a bid to stop the by-law. They said strictly it was true that wiring is common property and they could not fight it on that level. It’s very complex but their area of expertise obviously, the company having fought it many times before even up up to high court level.

    And as for all the fittings being part of common property, yup, highly unusual and in strata planning from the outset. It was partially to market the sale of so many units at the time, and also that some major utility systems – normally individual, were shared in our situation. Easier to just blanket the whole thing perhaps.

    In the end, it’s what works and delivers the best outcomes for owners, at minimal cost and maximum efficiency.

    For each building it’s different, and should be. By-laws can always be used to strike that balance if it’s not working as well as it could be. Your oft solution to many different issues, and so correct.

     

     

     

     

     

    #23089
    stratify
    Member

    Hi Amanda and KBH and all,

    Thanks for your replies and suggestions Amanda and KBH.

    And thanks for clarifying the current legislation and how this affects the ownership/responsibility of repair of stop values Amanda. On that basis, I’ve arranged for a plumber to fix this for us so we have it fixed quickly (as it worries me that this stop value in our bathroom is not able to be switched off).

    But thanks too for the questions from KBH and for your reply Amanda re the common sense approach and the suggestion re the possibility of a by-law to switch the responsibility of these over to the owners corporation. A by-law which transfers and confirms such responsibility to the OC sounds very sensible to me, and also very wise in terms of the committee and OC averting the very possible risks associated with an owner who doesn’t bother to fix such important things as the stop values within their apartments, the failure of which could lead to huge issues for other owners and substantial damage to the common property.

    What was required in terms of the by-law for this Amanda? Would you be able to share more of the details of the process and wording of the by-law?

    I agree Amanda that this would be a great topic for the YSP podcast.

    Thanks again!

    #23125
    Amanda Farmer
    Expert

    Hi stratify,

    It’s on the list – including (now) for a new member template 🙂

     

    Amanda.

    #23126
    KBH
    Member

    Thanks Amanda and Stratify, this has been a very useful conversation!

    A by-law would certainly help set us up for success when we go about instigating some of our plans for better plumbing maintenance procedures.

     

    #29091
    Sandy
    Member

    Hi Amanda

    I’ve come late to this discussion (following your referral in response to a different query of mine).

    Given the definition of ‘common infrastructure’ does that mean that plumbing pipes that service only one lot but run within a common property wall are also lot property not common property?

    Elsewhere I have read that services that run within a common property wall are themselves common property without the limitation that this is not true if they serve only one lot.

    For example guidelines on what is common property on the Land Registry website say:

    >  Any service line within common property is common property.

    Also the Common Property Memorandum (which I know is questionable anyway) says that the owners corporation is responsible for:

    >  pipes within common property wall, floor, or ceiling.

    This common property definition is getting even more complicated!

    I would be grateful for your comments.

    Sandy

     

     

    #29193
    Amanda Farmer
    Expert

    Hi Sandy,

    Short answer: in my view, those Land Registry definitions are wrong. It’s about what the pipes do, not where they are located. Eventually, every pipe that services only a single lot is (in almost all cases ) going to connect to a ‘larger’ (perhaps) common pipe that services other areas, but the lot owner is responsible for that part of the pipe that services only their lot, regardless its location.

    Amanda.

    #29261
    Sandy
    Member

    Hi Amanda

    Thank you for your responses in this thread.

    I understand the reason (from the definition of common infrastructure) for your view on stopcocks and pipes in common walls serving only one lot. Many strata sources ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ take a different view.

    I used to think I had a pretty good understanding of what comprises common property but now I am a bit bewildered!

    Is there any relevant case law to which you can direct me? Has the litigation in which you have been involved gone to court, or will it in the future? It might be very helpful in convincing others who have differing views.

    many thanks

    Sandy

    #38970
    Amanda Farmer
    Expert

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m not aware of any cases on exactly this point. The case in which I obtained barrister’s advice on this point has not yet gone to hearing and at the moment it’s looking like this particular issue may not be in dispute so it’s very likely my case won’t result in any binding authority, but I will keep the Forum posted.

    Amanda.

    #393039
    stratify
    Member

    Hi Amanda and YSP community,

    I’m just circling back around re this topic, as today we have had a tenant in our building get a plumber in who has indicated that the 2x stopcocks in her apartment need repair/replacement…

    …and interestingly, my strata manager has informed me just now that things have changed recently regarding stopcocks – they are now considered to be the responsibility of the owners corporation. My strata manager mentioned that this change came into effect in November 2019. She sent me this useful looking guide from the Strata Community Association (NSW) – it’s entitled ‘Who’s responsible? A guide to common property’ – see:

    Who’s Responsible Guide

    (I have this as a PDF but I can’t seem to find a link to the PDF and am not sure how to upload this to you here)…

    My question is when exactly did this change come in? I’m wondering if the repairs of the two stopcocks in our apartment in late October 2019 actually were the OC’s responsibility (sounds like we were just a little bit early)…

    Also, is this all correct? Has this change actually taken place? Are we proceeding in the correct way on the basis that the resident’s property manager has said that “They [the stopcocks] are both in service stack ducts, so within Strata air space”?

    If it is indeed the OC’s responsibility to repair stopcocks now, is it usual that the strata manager would decide on the plumber to do the work? At present the property manager is going to do the work but this plumber has not necessarily been vetted by our property manager (in terms of quality etc).

    Assuming that repair and maintenance of stopcocks is now an OC responsibility, I wonder also what that means in terms of us being preemptive. I suggested to my strata manager that maybe we should get all of the stopcocks in the building checked all in one go, but she was wary of us doing that (concerned that we are looking for work to be done… but we are only a block of 8 units). My thought is that prevention is better than cure, and we will save on separate call out fees and prevent dramas if someone gets flooded, plus are we as an OC now liable if a stopcock fails and we haven’t checked that they work OK?

    Thanks!

     

    #393104
    Flotsam
    Member

    I’m following along and reading Amanda’s post:

    This is different to ‘common infrastructure’ which is not otherwise marked on the strata plan, so we must turn to the legislative definitions. Tracking these definitions through to their end leads to the above conclusion. Namely: stop valves servicing only one lot are lot property and therefore lot owner’s responsibility.

    How is a stop valve in this scenario any different to bathroom waterproofing? The bathroom waterproofing exclusively services one lot and would not be marked on the strata plan. Yet we say the waterproofing is the responsibility of the OC.

    I confess confusion as well as great interest.

     

    #393192
    Amanda Farmer
    Expert

    Hi Stratify,

    No change in Nov 2019. I have no idea what your strata manager is talking about. Perhaps ask them to point you to the specific legislative change?

    Flotsam : bathroom waterproofing is outside the boundary of the lot (below the surface of the tiles) – per our statutory boundary definitions. Hence common property.

    The missing piece in this discussion is that the ‘common infrastructure’ definition is relevant to ‘common infrastructure inside the lot’ . I did not have this level of clarity when first speaking/writing on the subject but have since accrued it!

    It does not change my view on stop cocks. These are within the lot and they service only the lot. They are lot property.

    Amanda.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 26 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Menu