Top tips for strata title window repair projects

Many beautiful old apartment buildings, especially those built before the 1970s, have original windows that are now due for repair and refurbishment.
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People who live in these old apartment blocks face special challenges, as they not only need to decide on a scope of work, but to achieve agreement from other owners via their Body Corporate, Owners’ Corporation (OC) or Strata Committee.

Who should be responsible for window repairs in strata buildings?

Different Owners’ Corporations handle this question differently. We have seen situations where the OC takes responsibility for the entire window; where the unit owner takes full responsibility; and where the OC takes responsibility for the outside, and the owner for the inside. 

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Seven reasons why your windows should be 100% a body corporate responsibility

From a technical standpoint, there is only one of these options that actually makes sense. That is, for the OC to take responsibility for the entire window.

Some people might argue that internal painting of the window should be the responsibility of the individual unit owner. But when you look closely, this only sometimes makes sense. Other times, the OC will need to take at least some responsibility for internal painting.

Here are the main reasons why your body corporate should manage all window maintenance and repair issues:

  1. Windows are a structural element of the building envelope. They don’t bear any weight, but they are essential for waterproofing the structure as a whole. Windows are as essential to the waterproofing of a building as roof tiles. Wood rot, loose joints, missing putty and missing paint can lead to water penetration that can affect multiple lot owners.
  2. Windows are an important aesthetic feature of buildings from this period. The appearance and capital value of the block can be adversely affected if individual lot owners take different approaches and get jobs of varying quality. This is especially bad when individual lot owners decide to replace their windows with windows that don’t match properly (and which are usually lower quality).
  3. If there’s wood rot, or if top or bottom sashes are painted shut, it’s only because the OC has failed in its collective responsibility to keep the windows properly painted and waterproofed.
  4. Windows affect neighbours’ amenity because window treatments affect noise transmission between apartments. Also, in very windy locations, windows themselves can make rattling noises which can disturb neighbours.
  5. Owners’ corporations are often undertaking painting projects. In an attempt for the body corporate to do as little as possible, the committee will often agree to allow the windows to be bogged up but will not do more thorough repair unless the individual lot owner pays for it. Taking this approach does not properly remove rot. This results in continuing damage and a shorter paint life. In the short term this appears cheaper. In the medium term, it is more expensive, because the full repairs are still required, and the windows will need to be repainted after proper repair. The building will soon look shabby again, but meanwhile the owners have an even bigger reason not to do the repairs, because they will damage the fresh paint. 
  6. High quality repairs will often affect the inside and the outside of the window simultaneously. For example, rot can extend from the outside of a sill into the inside. Also, most repairs to these windows – even external ones – will require the window to be disassembled from the inside, which will always affect internal beads and paint.
  7. Maintenance issues like cord replacement and making sashes operable (which would often be considered an individual lot owner’s responsibility) have direct impacts on external paint (which is usually considered an OC responsibility). The same is true in reverse – external painting contractors can ‘break’ individual lot owners’ windows by jamming them shut.

When you look at the way a sash window is built, there is no logical place to split responsibility for these windows. 

Nonetheless, it is common for people to argue about responsibility and approach, so it is important to look at the reasons why.

Check out this video to see what Simon, a strata committee chair, had to say about his experience with a window refurbishment program.

If you would like to talk to a timber window expert who understands all your options, and who will listen to your priorities, then please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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