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Flat Chat

Look through any window

The question of where common property starts an finishes is pretty much hypothetical ... until you want to do something with part of your property that doesn't actually belong to you.

QUESTION: I recently acquired a new strata title townhouse and I want to substitute a three bay ground floor fixed window unit for a sliding door unit and replace an external timber flush door with a window. The alterations are really just substituting one type of window or door with another. The dimensions of each substitute component are exactly the same as the element they replace.

My strata manager tells me the alterations will require a new By-law. Is this correct? Others tell me the alteration will not require Council approval and requires only that the Owners Corporation pass a resolution to allow the changes. Your opinion will be greatly appreciated.
TM, Sydney

ANSWER: This is more complicated than it seems and your Strata Manager is thinking along the right lines. Your windows are almost certainly common property and are therefore not yours to deal with as you please. On the other hand, the Owners Corporation has a duty to maintain and repair them if they are faulty.

The reason this complicates things is the question of who maintains the windows after you've replaced them. There is a process whereby you can be given "exclusive use" of common property - in this case the windows and door - with the responsibility for maintenance then falling to you.

So it's not just a question of getting your Executive Committee's approval - although that will certainly be helpful. This may well require a by-law which will have to garner no more than 25 percent of "against" votes at a general meeting (your AGM or an EGM called to discuss the subject). Call the Office of Fair Trading (13 32 20) and they'll fill you in on the details.

You probably don't need council planning approval but it would be worth calling them just to check that they have no objections to you changing the appearance of the building.

On other matters, we've had a huge response to the idea of paying Executive Committee members - both for and against the idea - and we'll be looking at those emails next week.

In the meantime you can write to us at or use the comment facility below to say your piece anonymously.

First published SMH October 2006