Strata Title: Issues & Innovations

Selected Issues


1)     How to better distinguish ownership and maintenance responsibilities in Strata Schemes?


2)     The use of Chainages and Offsets to define open space lots on the Strata Plan, in situations where these lots cannot be easily re-defined.


3)     Adding to the Spatial Database: Reference to the Australian Height Datum on Strata Plans?









 Issue 1: How to better distinguish ownership and maintenance responsibilities in Strata Schemes?


Extract: ISSUE 1: Conclusion:–


There are currently issues surrounding the ownership and maintenance responsibilities for specific items in Strata Schemes of NSW. As such the implications of these issues have been topical within the Strata industry and more specifically the Strata Industry Working Group in recent times. This section has considered several of the remedial strategies which have been either employed or discussed in recent times and has attempted to present both the benefits and concerns of these strategies.


It has become common practice in recent years for Surveyors to make statements on their Strata Plans which attempt to address the ownership of specific items. While these statements can be shown to add clarity to the ownership situation, there are also concerns with the use of these statements as they seem to contradict the legislation and lack the ability to be easily adjusted as the scheme evolves during its lifetime.


A possible restructure of the current by-laws with the establishment of a new group of ‘Maintenance By-laws’ has been suggested as another means of addressing the maintenance responsibility for certain items in Strata Schemes. It does appear that there is a potential scope under the legislation for by-laws to be used in this way. These by-laws could be adapted to site specific situations and quite easily adjusted to suit a scheme over time. While it can be seen that there are certainly advantages to introducing ‘Maintenance By-laws’, the writing of such by-laws and analysis of how they would be inserted into the legislation would take substantial consideration and time from a variety of experts.


The recent Strata ‘Grey Areas’ Meeting in September 2008 discussed certain legislative changes such as the concept of ‘Implied Exclusive Use’ which may provide a solution to the uncertainty of ownership in many cases. As this would require changes to the legislation, it is possible that considerable time could pass before any change would be formally instated.


From the summary presented above it can be seen that the remedial strategies discussed all have beneficial characteristics, though no one strategy without limitation. For this reason it is likely that a combination of these strategies will produce the most effective result. As asserted by Vandergraaf (2008, pers. comm. 01 September) the most important outcome from any implemented strategy is that the default ownership and maintenance responsibility of items within Strata Schemes is ‘formalised and rationalised’.



Issue 2: The use of Chainages and Offsets to define open space lots on the Strata Plan, in situations where these lots cannot be easily re-defined.

Extract: Issue 2: Conclusion:-


Vandergraaf (pers. comm. 2008 01 Sep) suggested that a Strata Plan should be prepared in a manner that renders it understandable to the end user. After considering the Registrar Generals Directions for Strata Plan preparation it appears that this notion is also reflected through these guidelines. However this section of the thesis has presented several examples where the re-definition of lots (defined on the floor plan by lines only) would pose a challenging task for a person with little knowledge of surveying or without the instrumentation available to a Surveyor. The resulting challenge was to consider a method which could provide increased ease in defining open space lot boundaries.


The concept of placing Lot Marks to indicate the position of lot boundaries was proposed as one potential method for achieving this. Consequently, it was beneficial to reflect on similar innovations ascertained from previous investigation into 3D Property Systems (see section 5.0) such as the Sectional Title System of South Africa. Strata Lot Marks have the capacity to be a permanent boundary mark and could be placed by a Surveyor in a position that allows for the easy re-establishment of a Strata lot boundary. As illustrated by Figure 12, Lot Marks may even provide an opportunity to simplify the information on the Strata Plan. In this way the concept of Strata Lot Marks has potential to be beneficial in a variety of Strata Scheme situations. While Lot Marks may introduce a slight increase to the cost of preparing a Strata Plan, the use of these marks could potentially save the occupants of Strata Schemes along with the LPI/Department of Fair Trading future costs of resolving boundary disputes. It has also been acknowledged Strata Lot Marks do have limitations and examples have shown that there will be instances where the use of these marks may be impractical.


The combination of using both Lot Marks combined with current techniques would offer a solution to a significant proportion of the ambiguities presented herein. This is particularly relevant where a permanent surface exists within a close proximity of a boundary. From these investigations, it would be recommended that the legislative requirements of introducing Lot Marks as an additional legal reference for defining Strata lots where no physical feature exists be a subject of ongoing investigation to minimise the potential for boundary disputes in the future.



 Issue 3: Adding to the Spatial Database: Reference to the Australian

 Height Datum on Strata Plans?


Extract: Issue 3: Conclusion:-


According to Effenburg & Williamson (1997), ‘the future challenge for the custodians of state DCDBs is to upgrade the DCDB to a level consistent with current technology and practises’. This section of the thesis has argued that the addition of a third vertical dimension is one such necessary upgrade to the DCDB of NSW. Strata Schemes are one component of the cadastral fabric where 3D representation is important.


A Paper by Capstick & Heathcote (2006) identified several ‘real world objects’ of which 3D representation would be useful; one such object was a ‘building storey’. The Paper reported that after consultation with a number of spatial information users, 3D data and representation of a building storey would be beneficial for functions including:


· Local authority planning

· Planning application consultancy

· Flood risk modelling

· Telecommunications

· Urban design

· Risk and emergency management

· Landscape and architectural investigation


Currently the horizontal boundaries of lots within Strata Schemes are not related to any form of recognised height datum. This in turn does not allow for the tiers of a Strata Scheme to be related in the vertical dimension. Consequently this section of the thesis has presented a discussion of, and given consideration to, several key concepts required for the integration of Strata lot boundaries into a 3D DCDB; namely the addition of AHD level information for the upper and lower limits of Strata lots. Several alternative methods for presenting AHD level information on the Strata Plan were discussed and the anticipated accuracy requirements for obtaining such information have also been considered. Additionally, the concurrent issue of incorporating topology as a layer within the DCDB has also been highlighted. Without topology, vertical comparison between Strata lots and surrounding features is not possible and hence the benefits of including Strata lot AHD information are limited.


The ‘National Elevation Data Framework’ is a developing initiative being overseen by ANZLIC. The initiative intends to provide a nationwide framework for the acquisition of quality elevation data and in turn provide access to a wide range of digital elevation data and derived products. The development of such an initiative is a encouraging and may accelerate the inclusion of accurate topology information in the DCDB. It has also been acknowledged that the production of a national elevation database will be an expensive task and takes place over significant time period. To mitigate the inevitable delays with the construction of such a database, it has been suggested that the advice of Masser (2005) should be heeded and that those involved with the development of DCDBs must exploit both modern and traditional information sources in addition to utilising existing data.


In conclusion, while many of the issues presented through this section of the thesis are only foreseeable at this moment in time, the realisation of the concepts discussed have the potential to provide exciting opportunities to a wide range of spatial information users. As espoused by Wallace & Williamson (2005), ‘consider what is possible if Australia had spatially enabled … parcels related to bodies corporate, multi story building parcels, parcels related to properties and properties related to parcels, parcels with another parcel above or below, and so on? Think of being able to show these on a map based display system that permitted other attributes to be added … Once the information is computerised and spatially enabled and available, remarkable opportunities for enhancement of its use and for management of land assets follow, limited only by our imagination and available technology’.

Thesis By:  Ryan Fifield


Faculty of Engineering


School of Surveying & SIS