In property law, ownership is referred to as having ‘title’. However, there are different forms of title, mainly torrens and strata title. In this article, we’ll discuss strata title and what the law in this area means.
Strata title means owning part of a larger property. The most common example of this is apartment ownership. Different to torrens title, strata title involves having full ownership of one part of the property, with other areas being shared spaces. For example, if you own a unit, you will own the unit itself, but the foyer, driveway and parking area will be communally owned. This system was first established in Australia in 1961. Similar to torrens title, this system has transformed property law across the world.
Strata title allows you to own a unit or retail space within a building, called a ‘lot’. When you own a ‘lot’, you are automatically a member of the ‘owners corporation’, which manages the communal spaces. This is where strata law stems from.
When you own a strata property
Being a strata title holder means that you have a legal interest in the common property. As a member of the owners corporation, you are required to contribute to the costs and decisions surrounding it.
Strata complexes are larger properties such as residential and commercial buildings, resorts, retirement villages and caravan parks.
The law in relation to strata title affects a number of stakeholders. These include unit owners, associations and developers. Whichever camp you fall into, it’s important to understand the various laws and regulations.
The main issue for unit owners is the limitations on what you can do in your property. This may include prohibitions on pet ownership, alterations to your property or other activities which may disturb your neighbours.
A strata lawyer can provide advice to owners who want to renovate their unit or make repairs in the building.
The owners corporation, consisting of all the unit owners, has the power to remove, change or create new by-laws. These by-laws govern how the complex is run, and may include clauses such as allowing pets in the building. However, disputes can also arise between members of the owners corporation – this is where a strata law can also help clarify any misunderstandings.
A strata lawyer can assist developers in planning and developing approvals for strata-titled properties. They can also assist when registering a strata scheme, or enforce by-laws.
Recent Reforms to State Strata Laws
The number of strata developments are increasing across Australia. New South Wales, for example, has more than 75 000 strata schemes, which are worth $35 billion. In light of these statistics, NSW has recently passed changes to existing strata laws, which will affect millions of strata owners and residents in strata-titled townhouses and units.
These reforms in addition to existing complex by-laws, emphasise the importance of seeking advice from a lawyer with expert knowledge in strata law. They can help to resolve any community disputes, and review legal documents such as leases or contracts.
Strata law is a complex subset of property law. If you’re the holder of strata title or a developer, then you will more than likely need to obtain legal advice at some point. If you have further questions about what strata law entails, it is wise to contact strata lawyer for further advice.