Strata Living: Expected Standards for Common Area Maintenance | Strata Data

Expected Standards for Common Area Maintenance

January 7th, 2017

StrataData - Expected Standards for Common Area Maintenance

An apartment complex will require maintenance as it gradually ages. Proper maintenance can help retain the value of the property, and make it more enjoyable to live in. Poor maintenance or neglect could result in serious damage and safety hazards.

The common areas in particular need to be maintained, as these are what people will see first when visiting the property. How well-maintained these areas are can affect the property’s perceived value. The common areas include the lobby, hallways, stairways, parking lot, driveway, roof, elevators and lighting. It can also include a shared laundry room, store rooms, the pool and spa, gyms, gardens and the courtyard.

The common areas are available for use by all tenants and the landlord charges each tenant for their maintenance and upkeep. This is referred to as Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges. To learn more about this and other expected standards for common area maintenance, read on.

Having a maintenance plan and maintenance fund

After creating attractive common areas for tenants, the owners corporation should have a maintenance plan to keep the areas clean and well maintained.

The maintenance plan should include:

  • Maintenance policies, objectives and strategies.
  • Allocation of resources (e.g. who will undertake the maintenance work and when).
  • General routine maintenance tasks (e.g. checking HVAC units, lighting, boilers, fire systems, safety controls, etc.).
  • Major capital items that need to be repaired or replaced over the next decade (e.g. fencing, downpipes, gutters, equipment, paint, etc.) and their present condition.
  • The dates of when the items or their components must be repaired or replaced and the estimated costs.
  • The expected life of the items or their components after they’re repaired or replaced.

The owners corporation should also have a maintenance fund to pay for the costs of maintenance works in the plan.

Maintaining the common areas

Under the Owners Corporation Act 2006, the owners corporation should maintain and repair:

  • The common areas, such as the garden or nature strip.
  • Fixtures, fittings, chattels and services related to the common areas.
  • Equipment and services that benefit some or all of the common areas.
  • Areas that it’s responsible for.

Although this wording is taken from the Victorian Act, all other states have similar requirements.

The owners corporation should exercise due care and diligence when carrying out maintenance and repairs.

It’s important to keep the common areas in good condition by performing regular maintenance, such as cleaning, mowing, planting, fertilising, watering, pruning and tree-trimming. Setting up schedules for maintenance activities is crucial to ensure the common areas are maintained on a regular basis.

Landlords can help tenants maintain clean grounds by providing pet waste clean-up stations and requiring them to clean up after themselves, as well as after their children, guests and pets. The landlord must also respond quickly to maintenance requests from tenants.

Installing low-maintenance landscaping

Installing low-maintenance landscaping will ensure that the common areas maintain their visual appeal. It’ll also help the owners corporation and tenants save on water and maintenance costs.

Here are some low-maintenance landscaping options that’ll save time and money and keep the complex clean and well kept:

  • Xeriscape some or all of the common areas – This type of landscaping uses native plants that thrive in your area. It requires less water, pruning and maintenance.
  • Use low-maintenance groundcovers – This is good for covering bare patches of earth, helping the soil retain water around plants, and restricting the growth of weed. Try using bark, mulch and gravel.
  • Install artificial grass – It considerably reduces water usage and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance.
  • Have plants that repel pests naturally – These include petunias, marigolds and pennyroyals. They help minimise the need to apply pesticides to the common areas.
  • Include plenty of hardscape features – Especially those that offer low-maintenance outdoor sitting and entertaining areas. Some examples are sitting walls, paving stone patios and meandering pathways that lead to rock gardens or decks.

Carrying out maintenance inspections and reviews

The owners corporation must inspect the common areas and review the maintenance plan each year. The results should help determine the next maintenance work program and budget, which must be presented at the annual general meeting for approval.

Under specific circumstances, the owners corporation might also need to carry out an occupational health and safety (OH&S) audit on the common areas.

The owners corporation should survey tenants about maintenance issues prior to the inspection. The maintenance survey is useful for:

  • Identifying problems that affect tenants
  • Providing additional information about the building
  • Showing that the owners corporation is exercising due diligence when carrying out maintenance and repairs
  • Encouraging communication between the owners corporation, its committee, tenants and managers
  • Building awareness of issues and legal responsibilities.

Use standard criteria or forms for the surveys and inspections so it’s easy to compare with results from previous years.

It’s also important to keep records of the surveys, inspections and maintenance work. These can help track problems and can be referred to when setting out the maintenance plan.

Moreover, the owners corporation must review and report on the effectiveness of maintenance at its annual general meeting. Reviewing maintenance carefully can help them plan for future maintenance.

Here are a few things to consider when reviewing maintenance:

  • Whether the work was required or suitable
  • The cost, timing and standard of the work
  • The time required for planned maintenance work.

Understanding and paying CAM charges

Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges are billed to tenants and paid by them to the landlord of the apartment complex. A CAM charge is an additional rent, which is charged on top of base rent, and covers maintenance costs for work performed on the common areas, as well as operating costs incurred by the landlord and use of the common areas.

Every tenant must pay their pro-rata share of a building’s total CAM charges. The pro-rata share is the percentage of a tenant’s rented square footage of the building’s total rentable square footage.

The cost of cleaning the hallways will be charged to tenants, as it’s assumed that every tenant benefits from a clean environment. Parking lot lighting, landscaping, security and utilities are also billed to tenants as CAM charges. However, adding another storey or replacing the roof shouldn’t be charged to tenants as CAM and must be paid by the landlord.

It’s important that both the tenant and landlord understand CAM. CAM charges, collections and reconciliation should be defined clearly in the Lease Agreement. The landlord and tenant should also be able to negotiate CAM charges before signing the lease.

Why you should know the standards for common area maintenance

It’s important that you know what the standards are for maintaining the common areas of an apartment complex, as this will help you keep tenants happy and avoid legal problems. You’ll also be able to ensure everyone’s safety and prevent considerable damage or loss. With these standards in mind, common area maintenance should be a cinch.