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Maintenance of the Complex

Saturday, December 24th 2011

Committee members and owners who want to work out just who is responsible for what maintenance items in a complex are encouraged to obtain a copy of two handouts from the Commissioners Office “Maintenance of Common property and lots” and “Maintenance Issues” which has a useful question and answer format.

The answer to specific questions of who is responsible for maintenance can be quite different according to which plan the complex belongs to.

Most complexes that have common walls with units above and below are Building Format Plan and many townhouse-type developments are Standard Format Plan.

The body corporate secretary can determine which type of plan your complex has by referring to the Community Management Statement (CMS). If your complex does not have a CMS a lot owner can go to a Titles Office and request one for a small fee. See the earlier section on CMS.

Complexes that are Building Format Plan have more comprehensive maintenance responsibilities. The body corporate maintains the entire exterior of the building (with the exception of balconies that are on individual title. The lot owners are responsible for maintaining the exterior sections that are within their lot; the body corporate has responsibility for the outside face of the balcony). The maintenance extends to front doors (and often therefore door locks) that open out onto common property under BFP.

Under the BCCM Act, the body corporate is responsible for utility infrastructure that services more than one lot and is not confined within the boundaries of that one lot. Examples of utility infrastructure include cables, wires, pipes, sewers, drains, ducts, plant and equipment by which lots or the common property are supplied with utility services.

There are excellent colour diagrams in the Commissioners Office handout “Maintenance of common property and lots” that will allow people to determine in most cases whether the body corporate or the individual lot owners should be responsible for the cost of fixing a particular problem.        

Previous adjudicators’ decisions can help people decide sometimes difficult decisions about just who is responsible for what items.

Often older buildings have pipes running through boundary walls right in the middle of floors/ceilings and it can be tricky to resolve whether the lot owner or the body corporate should pay if there is a leak in the pipe within the body corporate area.

The main criteria would seem to be fairness – is the decision fair and reasonable and likely to stand the scrutiny of a court or an adjudicator.   Readers can access summaries of previous adjudicators’ decisions through www.justice.qld.gov.au/bccmThe Information section of the Commissioners Office is helpful on these matters Phone 1800 060 119.

Practical Building Maintenance Tips

The source for this practical section is “Handy Tips, Tips for extending the life of many high maintenance items” a booklet available free from SolutionsIE Pty Ltd, written by James Freestun, the company’s director www.solutionsie.com.au

In many complexes thoughtful attention to maintenance can extend the useful life of items around the building.

If people clearly identify the cause of deterioration instead of just focusing on the fixing of items once they have finished being useful they can save considerably on maintenance costs. Deterioration occurs because of the elements (principally sun, water and soil) or critters (often termites and/or people)

Fencing  All fences built with untreated materials should be painted.

To stop bottoms of palings rotting out, keep all dirt and bark away from the bottom of palings allowing good clearance to the ground. If you need the fence to be animal proof, then put a separate piece of timber along the bottom of the fence that is CCA treated or replaceable. Also make sure the irrigation system is not spraying the fence.

Rotting or rusting posts The concrete around posts should not finish below ground level. It should finish at least 5cm above the ground level in a dome shape with all surfaces sloping away from the centrally placed post.

All dirt and bark should be kept away from the bottom of the posts

All metal posts should be capped to prevent water from filling posts, stagnating and causing rust.

All timber posts should be cut on an angle to allow the water to flow off easily.

Lattice work Spans of more than 1.5 metres should be supported mid-span with a fully galvanised metal post or a piece of CCA treated timber.

Lattice panels should never sit on a surface. There should always be enough space for water and air to flow freely underneath.

If lattice work is collecting water in the bottom frame, then drill holes in the bottom to allow water to escape. Check regularly to ensure holes remain open.

Avoid painting lattice. It is a maintenance nightmare.

Landscaping If plants are dying from dry soil, an irrigation system is a good idea or so is putting on top of the garden bed some form of moisture retention barrier such as Hessian (available cheaply from carpet retailers). Different types of plants (plants that require less water) are another solution as is replacing part or all of the soil with more suitable plant soil.

If soil is being eroded, plant grass or ground covers or terrace the ground with a series of small rock or sleeper walls.

If the garden contains marshy areas that retain water, it may need reshaping (eg filling the holes ) or installing drains directing the water into the stormwater, or planting different types of plants (plants that enjoy the wet conditions)

Floor Coverings   If carpets are wearing too quickly in common areas, see if you can use signs to redirect some traffic from high traffic areas, or purchase bigger mats for people to walk on and wipe their fee or install runners.

If carpet is to be replaced in high wear areas, ensure that the carpet layer uses the best quality, thick underlay and choose an industrial quality carpet. Consider installing different carpet designs one for the borders and one for the high traffic areas.

Locks  If the lock action is tight and needs to be freed up, do not use an oil-based lubricant. Dust and dirt mix with the oil to make a thick sludge. Use graphite powder instead. It is dry and does a better job.

Another solution is to undo the screws and see whether this frees up the action.

Paintwork and Exterior Finishes

TimberSurface condition is important on painted timber areas. Bodies corporate can save large sums of money repainting before the existing surface has deteriorated to the extent that all the old paint has to be removed and surfaces primed and re-undercoated.

Thorough preparation of the area to be painted is very important. The surface area should be washed thoroughly just before painting, preferably with a product like sugar soap. To prevent mould in tropical and humid areas, wash with a sterilising solution and use mould-resistant paints or additives.

Masonry     Surface preparation is also critical if paint is to last on concrete and coated areas. In coastal areas wash away all salt deposits just before painting. Use sandpaper to rough the surface so the new coating sticks properly.

As with repainting timber surfaces, repainting masonry before the existing surfaces have deteriorated (particularly before the existing surfaces have suffered damage) will save money by reducing the need for expensive surface preparation.

A common problem with masonry can be moisture seeping in (often through capillary action) causing damage to both the surface and the underlying structure.

There are now many different additives that can be mixed with paint to improve its ability to stick to difficult surfaces, including salt-assaulted aluminium or mould-prone areas such as walls without sun.

Gutters and Roofing     Keep gutters and down-pipes free of leaves to prevent them from wearing out prematurely. Consider a leaf-barrier system and have someone check the gutters after heavy rain periods.

Remind people who have to walk on the roof that they should stick to walking where there are a line of roofing screws. This indicates where batten supports are.

Advise tradespeople such as television antenna repairers that you expect the roof to be free of dents and the water resistance of the roof to be unaffected by their work.

Hot Water Systems are not meant to sit directly on the ground. They are meant to sit on timber slats on a concrete slab. The slats are meant to stop water collecting underneath and allow air flow. This prevents the bottom rusting out.

Watch that the overflow valve does not leak. This can be costly and is easily remedied by a plumber. Many hot water systems have “anodes” which can be replaced every 5 years or so, depending on water quality.

Tree Roots are a common cause of foundation movement in complexes. Solutions can include constructing a roof barrier (generally a 2metre deep trench, lined with heavy duty plastic and filled in with concrete) or removing the trees. If the offending trees are on neighbouring land, naturally tree removal needs to be negotiated with the neighbours first.

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