Firstly I advise you to both read and observe the layout of your plan of subdivision or (PS for short). If your OC is a multiple OC it is important to observe which areas affect you or may affect you, both in your movements within the development and for such reasons as the allocation of budgets to those various OC’s, amongst other considerations.This document is the most important part of the jigsaw in helping you understand your development. You read this in conjunction with the Owners Corporation Act 2006 and accompanying regulations. Your PS (are you getting used to the shorthand now) and Act are the keys to understanding life in the ‘OC’. If your OC or multiple OC is subject to licences this is also an important area to understand. See, ‘Who owns what?’ – below re licences.
Your owners corporation number:
Check your plan of subdivision. If you don’t have one, get one. A subdivision with common property will be registered with Land Victoria and can be obtained by calling (03) 8636 2456 or by visiting www.land.vic.gov.au. The plan of subdivision number from Land Victoria is your owners corporation number.
Who owns what?
The answer to this question should be answered prior to you purchasing a lot in an Owners Corporation. But perhaps you or your representative inadvertently missed asking this question whilst completing the purchase. You would be surprised at the number of purchasers that later discover the implications. Many Owners Corporations are complex enough in their layout (large multiple OC’s come to mind) let alone the implications of such things as your Owners Corporation not owning the airspace in your building services shaft. I kid you not, but this is only one example, and yes there are Owners Corporations around leasing airspace for cabling in their own building.Often the Developer of your complex will negotiate Licences for use of areas within, on top of, or attached to your complex. The norm is a 99 year lease for a nominal amount and this is effectively negotiated inhouse. This can be a way for the developer to maximise their return from the project. Another example would be that you or your OC Committee wish to place solar cells on the roof in a drive to be more energy efficient, only to find that the developer effectively ‘owns the roof top’ and may even be happy to lease it to you for a price.
Interpreting your subdivision plans:
Victorian subdivision has operated under several different forms of legislation over the years, with the most recent being the Subdivision Act of 1988. This act superseded the earlier forms of subdivision under the Strata Titles, Local Government and Cluster Titles Acts. Since 1988, Building subdivision plans have followed a particular style of presentation, typically broken into 3 sections. A “Face” sheet , floor “Plan” sheets and cross sectional “Diagram” sheets. An additional section containing Owners Corporation detail is extracted from the plan at registration and represented in Owners Corporation searches. The face sheet contains many items of text, describing attributes of the land being divided, notations about boundaries, additional purposes of the plan, easement details, Council, Land Registry and Licensed Surveyor’s signatures. With the advent of electronic plan lodgement since 2007, hand written signatures are being replaced by a “digital signature” which looks just like printed text on the plan borders. Despite their appearance, these are in fact underpinned by a highly secure digital authentication process.
Of particular interest to OC members, are the notations about boundary definitions for lots and common property. These will vary from plan to plan, depending upon developers’ instructions when the plan was prepared. Typical definitions for defining boundaries by structures include; internal face of walls, external face of walls, medians of wall, upper or lower surfaces of finished or unfinished surfaces. For further understanding of these definitions, refer to the Subdivision (Registrars Requirements) Regulations of 2011. These definitions are particularly important to understand the limits of lot ownership. It also becomes relevant when maintenance or changes to structures are proposed. For example, if your ownership stops at an interior surface, you may need permission of your neighbour or the Owners Corporation (or both) to do works or alter an external surface. If in doubt, consult your OC manager for further advice.
Other key information on the face sheet includes easement rights and notations to explain if a lot is comprised of more than one part. A residence, car space and storage cage could be 3 separate lots, or a single lot in 3 parts. It’s important to understand the difference.
Plan Sheets contain a “birds eye” view looking down on the subdivided building(s). For multilevel buildings there may be one “typical” plan for identical floors, or a separate plan for each floor. These plans are drawn to scale but typically only show structures which define the boundaries. Architectural features such as room partitions, service shafts, ducts, stairs , foyers, lifts, dividing walls are not generally identified in the plan. This plan is purely focussed on ownership extents.
Diagram sheets show a “side view” of the building(s) either as a “typical” elevation or a cross section slicing through part of the building. These are not drawn to scale, but show the relationship between upper and lower boundaries, with lines that represent the structural elements of the building that define those boundaries. These diagrams can be particularly useful for understanding matters like: Do you own your balcony or just the air space above it?. The Owners Corporation may take responsibility for some structures, depending upon boundary locations. For further advice consult your OC manager. Due to the complexities of some developments, interpretation of a subdivision plan may require professional advice. Also, if you intend to alter a lot boundary you will need to engage a Licensed Surveyor to certify the plans and guide you through the certification process.
The interpretation commentary above is provided by the Licensed Surveyors at KLM Spatial a professional consultancy, with decades of experience in OC matters for Melbourne subdivision projects.
Ph: (03) 9794 1633