Instead of roaming far and wide, it’s a year where Australians are going to stay closer to home and enjoy the great indoors a little more than usual.
At Ace, we believe this places great importance on the safety of balconies, outdoor areas and common property in your strata community.
It’s no surprise that balconies and outdoor areas in the strata community are a hive of activity in summer – after all what’s better than fresh air in the Aussie summer.
To get the most out of the summer months ahead, it’s important owners and community members are across the use of balconies and how they can be best utilised for entertaining.
For an area that can see as much use as living and dining rooms in some properties, balconies present some challenges and considerations unique to any other part of the home.
Here’s some topics we’ll dive into to get you prepared for summer on the balcony.
As a rule, each lot owner owns anything within the four walls of their unit, but it’s better to be sure and check your strata plan.
Everything that is not defined as part of a lot within this plan is common property, meaning that if the lines are drawn at the edge of your lot’s interior, your balconies and gardens are also common property.
Be mindful of this before trying to win the neighbourhood Christmas lights contest and nailing light fixtures into the balcony wall or picking up tools to start a summer project out on the balcony. Consult your body corporate or check the strata plan of your property. They will advise you if your balcony belongs to common property or not, and who you will need to contact for repairs and maintenance. In NSW, this depends upon when your strata plan was registered. The balcony doors are usually common property if the strata plan was registered after 1974.
The topic above does a lot of the thinking for us here.
Whether your balcony is private or common property will decide whether you’re personally responsible for maintaining a balcony and this depends on the specific strata plan. For the purpose of this topic, let’s assume the balconies in your strata plan are common property.
If there’s a problem with balcony drainage, glass, railings or tiling, the committee or owners corporation should be your first port of call for maintenance and the lot owner should not undertake any direct DIY work. If there’s a problem or you wish to change the appearance of your balcony in time for that Christmas lights competition, check with the strata committee first to seek permission or to arrange work orders.
If you love having a barbecue, be aware that some apartments have by-laws or rules that ban or restrict their use due to the smell they spread to other apartments & common property, as well as health and safety risks they pose.
Earlier this month, two people on Queensland’s Gold Coast were hospitalised after a BBQ gas bottle burst into flames on their apartment balcony, sparking a blaze and the evacuation of their complex.
In some cases, you may be able to light up a barbecue if you are committed to ensuring it doesn’t cause smoke to drift onto neighbouring or common property. A strata manager can help determine the fairest solution for barbecue use, and enforce the by-laws relating to it.
Not unlike the questions posed by barbecues, smoking on strata balconies also raises a crucial ‘nuisance factor’ regarding the safety of common property. If you’re a smoker, or expecting to host a smoker relative this summer, or you live in a community where you are exposed to smoke drift on your balcony, you should know strata owners have a number of options available to them regarding the banning of smoke penetrating any other lot or common property like balconies.
Different states and territories have in recent years legislated against smoke drift so be sure to check local regulations, in addition to your community by-laws. For example, smoke drift from cigarettes has been one of the biggest issues in strata title schemes, and residents may soon be banned from smoking on balconies in NSW.
If you don’t have a by-law or model rule in place, owners can still apply for mediation/conciliation through the relevant state consumer authority or apply to the Tribunal for assistance. Smoking in strata has emerged as one of the most legislated issues in recent times so be aware of your community by-laws before lighting up on your balcony this summer.
To ensure good times can be had safely, most balconies have some sort of weight restrictions to ensure their structural integrity. This summer, that means being mindful of factors like how many people the structure can take, the type and weight of furniture you use, and even the size and weight of your barbecue. Contact your strata manager to find out your structure’s exact weight restriction.
Meanwhile, if you’re putting your party hat on this summer, check the condition of railings before having guests over, and be a vigilant host. Keep continual tabs on the behaviour happening on your balcony and de-escalate any dangerous issues, especially if those can affect the common property.