Plumbing responsibilities of the body corporate

Plumbing can be a confusing issue in a strata situation, and in the event of a problem occurring, it’s not always clear who is responsible for fixing it. While it’s common to think that plumbing problems should be the jurisdiction of the body corporate, this is not always the case. However, the body corporate is certainly responsible for certain aspects of the scheme’s plumbing. Here’s what you need to know.

Body corporate Plumbing

Why plumbing in strata causes problems

Units and apartments in a body corporate scheme usually don’t come with separate plumbing systems; a fact which can often cause problems. In most cases, one large plumbing system services all the units in a building. While this makes good practical sense, where it can get complicated is when it comes to understanding who is responsible for repairs. This is because some parts of the plumbing systems are the sole responsibility of individual owners, while other parts are shared by everyone in the scheme.

What this means is that a plumbing problem might be the responsibility of the body corporate as a whole or the individual owner as a single entity, depending on the nature and location of the issue that occurs. Determining who is responsible for plumbing repairs is not always obvious, as it depends on a number of different factors. To make matters even more complicated, most of the plumbing system is not visible, so finding the source of the problem can sometimes be hard. And water spreads easily, which often makes it difficult to determine exactly who is responsible for the damage if the damage occurs a long way from where the problem originated.

Determining responsibility for plumbing repairs

In theory it’s quite simple — the body corporate is responsible for maintaining and repairing any facilities on common property, while individual owners are responsible for maintaining and repairing the interior of their own lot. So, the body corporate will be responsible for repairing those parts of the plumbing system that run through common property, while individual owners will be responsible for those parts of the plumbing system located on private property or which service a single unit.

While this is usually the case, exceptions will sometimes apply in special circumstances.

What’s common property and what isn’t will depend on the plan of subdivision that your building is registered under. There are two types of plans:

· Standard format plan, where the boundaries are defined by an invisible line running through the walls, floor and ceiling of each lot; and

· Building format plan, where the boundaries are defined by survey pegs around the building.

The general rule that the body corporate is responsible for common property always remains the same under each plan; the only thing that changes is what constitutes common property.

Plumbing responsibilities of the body corporate

Please keep in mind that the following general scenarios are a guide only, and each individual situation should be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Assigning responsibility for plumbing repairs is not always clear-cut, as there are many unique situations in strata when it comes to issues with water.

Talk to your building manager as the first port of call when dealing with a plumbing issue, as they can help you identify where responsibility for repairs lies.

Generally speaking, however, the body corporate is usually responsible for:

Water leaks where the problem originated on common property are usually the responsibility of the body corporate to repair. This may include:

· Leaky pipes underneath a unit (unless the problem in the pipes was caused by an individual owner)

· Leaks between units if the pipe is located in a boundary structure

· Leaks from balconies (apart from ones that are caused by the negligence of an individual owner, for example, someone on an upper balcony watering plants excessively and causing water to leak down into another person’s balcony)

· Leaking gutters, as the body corporate is always responsible for repairs to gutters, no matter where the guttering is located on a building

Burst pipes which run underneath the floor are generally the responsibility of the body corporate to repair, although this does depend on the location and function of the pipes, and there are always exceptions to this rule.

Responsibility for blocked drains that either serve multiple units or are located on common property (such as those that run underneath floors) is usually the jurisdiction of the body corporate.

No matter where in the sewer the blockage occurs, it is always the responsibility of the body corporate to repair.

The body corporate is usually only responsible for repairing hot water systems that service more than one lot, regardless of where they are located.

Storm damage repairs not covered by insurance will sometimes be covered by the body corporate.

If your building falls under a building format plan of subdivision, any storm damage that occurs to the exterior of the building and doors and windows in those external walls is likely to be the responsibility of the body corporate. Under a standard format plan, the body corporate is responsible for any damage that occurs outside the boundaries of the individual lot.

The body corporate is generally responsible for dealing with mould and mildew that develops inside your unit as a result of a water incident if it is located on the:

· Ceiling

· Floor

· External walls

· Any shared walls