When you live in, manage or own a strata property, you'll have to deal with plumbing issues just like any other home, apartment or business facility. However, strata plumbing responsibility is a bit of a grey area. Determining whether the homeowner or strata property owner is responsible for plumbing repairs depends on several factors.
In general, anything inside the unit is the unit owner's responsibility, while any common areas are the strata property owner's purview. However, things can get a bit complicated when a plumbing problem in one unit causes issues in other units or in common areas.
There are some exceptions to this general rule.
Read on for distinctions to help you decide who is responsible to cover the costs of the repairs.
1. Blocked Drains
Blocked drains are among the most common plumbing problems experienced in all properties, so you are likely to encounter this issue at some point. To determine responsibility, you must first identify the location of the blocked drain. Typically, drains in sinks and bathtubs will be the unit owner's responsibility, as the blockage will likely be located within the unit.
Shower drains and other floor drains are the exception and typically fall under the jurisdiction of the body corporate of the strata property. This is because the pipes running from these drains go underneath the floors and often serve multiple units. In cases like this, it can be difficult to determine whether a unit owner caused the blockage.
In addition, this type of blocked drain will often affect multiple units, so the strata property owner will likely be responsible for repairing the damage.
The same goes for blocked sewer drains. Sewage pipes generally serve the entire building, not individual units, so they will be the strata property's responsibility.
2. Burst Pipes
Responsibility for repairing burst pipes can vary, depending on the location and function of the pipes. In general, any pipes that are underneath the floor are the responsibility of the strata management company, while pipes in the walls are the unit owner's responsibility.
However, there are some scenarios that don't follow this general rule.
For example, you might have a pipe that runs through your walls, which you would think would be your responsibility. If that pipe serves both your unit and the unit above you, though, it will be up to the strata property owner to fix. Pipes that run inside the wall between two units typically fall to the strata property owner as well.
When a pipe bursts, you'll have water damage to contend with as well. If the strata plumbing responsibility falls to the unit owner, that owner will typically have to cover the costs to repair the water damage as well. If the property itself is responsible for fixing the burst pipe, they will generally cover the water damage too.
In cases of water damage, mould and mildew can begin to form if the problem is not addressed quickly or if the repair technician doesn't do a thorough job of drying out the area.
If the mould or mildew is on the internal walls of your unit, it will likely be up to you to fix. However, if it forms on the ceiling, floor, external walls or shared walls, the body corporate should take care of it.
3. Leaking Fixtures
Fixtures like taps and shower heads are typically sealed tightly so that they don't leak. Over time, though, those seals can wear out and deteriorate, resulting in drips from the taps or shower head, or leaks around the base of the tap. Because these are all internal unit components, they will nearly always fall to the individual lot owner to resolve.
Fortunately, these tend to be relatively easy fixes, so you don't need to worry about too much impact on your budget.
Depending on the extent of the damage, you may be able to simply repair or replace the seal to get everything working properly again. In cases of major damage, you might have to replace the entire fixture.
4. Balcony Leaks
If the units in your strata property have balconies, you know how frustrating it can be when water pours from the balcony above you down onto your own. In this case, strata plumbing responsibility depends on the reason behind the leak. If the water is running down from the roof or from a burst pipe in the area, it will typically be up to the body corporate of the building to address the plumbing issue.
However, it is often that your upstairs neighbour has plants on their balcony.
When they water those plants, any excess water can spill over the sides and onto your balcony below. Your owner's corporation may have specific rules regarding instances like this, though that is not always the case. You may be left to your own devices to deal with this problem. Often, all you'll need to do is have a brief chat with your neighbour to get them to be more mindful of where the water is going.
5. Major vs Minor Repairs
If a repair will be relatively easy and inexpensive, you may wish to simply take care of it on your own rather than dealing with the bureaucracy of the owner's corporation. This is perfectly fine, unless your strata community has specific rules forbidding it.
For major repairs, though, it is always a good idea to check with your strata managers first. If you believe the problem to be their responsibility, make every effort to get the property owner to cover the costs. You don't want to be left footing the bill if you don't have to.
Still Unsure? Speak to Tunnel Vision Plumbers
No matter who takes strata plumbing responsibility, you'll need a plumber who is experienced in working on strata properties, like our technicians here at Tunnel Vision. We'll be happy to help you identify the source of the issue, repair the damage and get everything back to normal. Reach out to us today on 1800 631 799 for more info.