Strata title is also part of the Torrens title system. It permits the horizontal subdivision of land into separate titles for separate 'strata' lots or units, which is something that the former torrens system was not set up to do. Each lot or unit represents a separate apartment.
The title or ownership rights in land continues, in theory, along imaginary lines from the centre of the earth up though the boundary on the surface and then upwards to the sky. However, the owner of a strata title home unit has title to that cube of air bounded by the inner skin of the boundary walls of the unit vertically and by the ceiling height above and the floor level below horizontally.
Strata title law is regulated mainly by the Strata Schemes (Freehold Development) Act, 1973 which was substantially amended in 1996, but which began its life known as the Strata Titles Act in 1973 and the Strata Schemes Management Act, 1996. This legislation allows, among other things, for ownership of common (or shared) property, the management and maintenance of that common property and for regulating the social interaction of all the building occupants.
The legal title to the land and building structure is owned by the 'Owners Corporation' being a corporate body comprising and representing the owners of all the units in the building. There can be several separate stratas in the same building and in major developments there often are.
In your typical flat building, however, the Owner's Corporation owns the land and building and is obligated by law to maintain all necessary records, maintain and repair the building, look after the gardens and keep current insurance policies protecting the owners corporation's interest. The individual unit owner cannot insure the structure but must rely on the owner's share of the common insurance. Of course, the owner can and should insure the contents of the apartment including the carpet on the floor and the paint on the walls.
Example of Common Problems
A common problem is a good example. If the unit on the first floor is water damaged from above it may be the unit owner above who is liable if for instance he leaves his bath taps running and the overflow goes through to the unit below.
However, if the pipe in a common wall breaks and causes the damage it becomes the owners corporation's responsibility.
As the common parts of the property are owned by the owners corporation the individual unit owners may use and enjoy the common property (unless all the owners have agreed in the by laws, or 'house rules' generally regulating things that can and cannot be done by the residents of the units, to restrict those rights by, for example, granting exclusive possession to, say, a particular garden area nearby a unit for that unit owner).
A title deed or 'Certificate of Title' will issue to and in the name of the owners corporation for all of the common property areas and a separate Certificate of Title will issue in the name of each particular unit owner in strata subdivision. For new developments, the Certificate of Title for each unit will initially issue in the name of the Developer. Once the unit is sold and the contract of sale is completed, the Certificate of Title will be changed to record the name of the purchaser of the unit, on registration of the transfer document at the Land Titles Office.
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