The key rights of lot owners are contained in the by-laws of the corporation and in provisions of the Act related to access to information (see Community Corporation: Access to information by unit owners).
Right of entry
In relation to service infrastructure
A lot owner may need to enter a lot in order to set up, maintain or repair service infrastructure. If so, the lot owner wishing to enter must give notice to the other owner [Community Titles Act 1996 (SA) s 146(1)(a)]. Similarly, if a lot owner needs to enter the common property because they have the right to set up, maintain or repair service infrastructure, the lot owner must notify the corporation [s 146(1)(a)], unless they have the right to enter the common property [s 146(2)(c)(i)]. The amount of notice required is whatever is reasonable in the circumstances [s 146(3)].
If the situation is an emergency and there is no time to give notice, then notice need not be given [s 146(2)(a)]. A lot owner may agree that their lot can be entered without notice [s 146(2)(b)], as may the corporation in relation to the common property [s 146(2)(c)(ii)].
If the owner or a person acting on the owner’s behalf cannot enter the lot without using force, such force as is reasonable in the circumstances may be used [s 146(4)]. Any damage caused by the use of force must be made good as soon as practicable by the owner, unless the need for force was the result of an unreasonable act or omission on the part of the owner of the lot that was entered [s 146(5)].
In an emergency
In an emergency, the owner or occupier of a lot may enter another lot or the common property to assist a person on the lot or common property, or to prevent or reduce damage to the lot or another lot or to the common property [s 146(6)].
An owner or occupier who uses force when entering a lot or the common property, or a building on a lot or the common property, to assist in an emergency is not liable for any damage caused if they acted reasonably in the circumstances [s 146(7)].
Maintenance and repairs
Owners of a lot are responsible for the maintenance and repairs of their own property, and must keep the lot and buildings and improvements on the lot in good order and condition [s 134(1)], unless the corporation’s by-laws have transferred this responsibility to the corporation [s 134(2)]. If owners do not fulfil their responsibilities of maintenance and repair, the community corporation may require the work be done within a set time [s 101(1)(a)] (see Powers of the corporation).
An occupier of a lot must keep the external part of the lot and of any buildingor other improvement on the lot in a clean and tidy condition [s 134(4)]. If a tenant is occupying the lot and does not fulfil this requirement, the corporation can require the lot owner to remedy the situation [s 101(1)(b)(i)].
Where support or shelter required by an easement pursuant to this Act is provided by a building situated on a lot, the owner of the lot must insure the building against risks that a normally prudent person would insure against for the full cost of replacing the building with new materials and must insure against incidental costs such as demolition, site clearance and architect's fees [s 106(1)]. Failure to do so is an offence with a maximum penalty of $15 000.
A lot owner who is required to insure a building under section 106(1) must provide a photocopy of the current certificate of the insurance that they have taken out to the community corporation as soon as practicable after taking out the policy and after any subsequent change to the terms and conditions of the policy [s 106(2)(a); Community Titles Regulations 2011 (SA) reg 17]. Failure to do so is an offence with a maximum penalty of $500.
A lot owner must also provide a photocopy of the current certificate of the insurance policy to another owner or prospective owner, or the registered mortgagee or prospective mortgagee, of a community lot or a development lot that benefits from the easement. The copy must be provided within five business days after the making of the request [Community Titles Act 1996 (SA) s 106(2)(b); Community Titles Regulations 2011 (SA) reg 17]. Failure to do so is an offence with a maximum penalty of $500.
Compliance with the articles
Lot owners have certain responsibilities as outlined in the corporation’s by-laws, with which they are required to comply [Community Titles Act 1996 (SA) s 43(1)]. The corporation may require and enforce work on a lot to remedy a breach of the corporation’s by-laws, even if the breach was by a former lot owner, an occupier (tenant) or former occupier [s 101(1)(b)(i)] (see Powers of the corporation).
An owner or occupier of a lot must not use, or permit the use, of the lot or common property in a way that causes a nuisance or interferes unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of another lot or the common property [s 133].
An owner or occupier of a lot must not interfere, or permit interference, with support or shelter provided for another lot or for the common property [s 132(1)], or with the service infrastructure or a service provided by means of the service infrastructure in a way that may prejudice the use or enjoyment of another lot or the common property [s 132(2)].
Lot owners must keep up their contributions to the corporation. If the funds are not paid, they are recoverable as a debt [s 114(8)], which means the corporation can sue the lot owner for the money, possibly with interest added at a rate reasonably decided by the strata corporation [s 114(4)(b)]. If you buy a lot and there is a contribution owing, you as the new owner are legally responsible for that contribution [s 114(7)]. Check carefully before buying any lot, as there may be debts outstanding in relation to it.
Debts of the corporation
Lot owners are guarantors of their community corporation's liabilities, which means the corporation's debts are enforceable against each of the lot holders directly [s 77].
If the corporation does not or cannot pay its debts, the individual lot owners are personally responsible. The corporation's debts are enforceable against each or any of the lot owners directly [s 77(1)]. If the corporation has a debt, the lot owners have, amongst themselves, the right of contribution to the debt based on their respective lot entitlements [s 77(2)].
Lot owners in a community scheme may carry out structural work on their lots, subject to Council approval where necessary, and compliance with the scheme description and by-laws. The scheme description must specify the standard of buildings and other improvements that may be erected on a lot [s 30(1)(d)]. The by-laws may also regulate [s 34(3)(a)]:
- the position, design, dimensions, methods and materials of construction and external appearance of buildings or other improvements on community lots;
- the maintenance and repair of buildings or other improvements on community lots;
- landscaping, including the establishment, care and maintenance of lawns, gardens and other areas on community lots.
In addition, the by-laws may impose requirements or restrictions relating to the appearance of community lots or buildings or other improvements situated on community lots [s 34(3)(b)].
Community strata schemes (residential)
Lot owners in a residential community strata scheme must seek permission from the corporation before carrying out the erection, alteration, demolition or removal of a building, or altering the external appearance of a building [ss 102(1), 102(7)]. The corporation will need to pass a special resolution to authorize the work [s 102(1)(b)]. An exception is if work is required because of a housing improvement order issued pursuant to section 14 of the Housing Improvement Act 2016 (SA), where no permission is needed [see Community Titles Act 1996 (SA) s 102(1a)].
If a lot owner carries out work without permission, the corporation may, by notice in writing to the owner of the lot, require them to carry out, within a reasonable period fixed in the notice, specified work to remedy any structural deficiency caused by the work or to restore the lot to its previous state [s 102(2)].
If the lot owner does not comply with the corporation’s notice within the time allowed in the notice, the corporation may authorise workers to enter the lot to carry out the specified work [s 102(3)], as long as reasonable notice of the proposed entry is given to the lot owner [s 102(4)].
If force is necessary to enter a lot to carry out work in the corporation’s notice, an order authorising the entry must be obtained from the Magistrates Court [s 102(5)].
Any cost reasonably incurred by the corporation in having the work carried out may be recovered as a debt from the owner of the lot [s 102(6)].
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