These windows in Manly, NSW, are an important part of the appearance of this beautiful apartment building.

Many beautiful old apartment buildings, especially those built before the 1970s, have original windows that are now due for repair and refurbishment.

People who live in these 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?

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. 

Sealasash restored and draught sealed the original windows in this strata development

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.

Watch the video below to see what Simon, a strata committee chair, had to say about his experience with a window refurbishment program.

Get some personal advice on your strata windows

One of our specialists can help you and your neighbours understand your options for repairing, draught sealing and reglazing your old wooden windows.

The top 6 reasons for disagreement between neighbours

The reasons why people disagree about window repairs have much more to do with misunderstandings and politics rather than a technical understanding of the windows. Here are the top reasons why people disagree on these kinds of projects. 

  1. A neighbour has already paid for repairs to their windows themselves. They don’t see why they should now have to contribute money to more repairs.
  2. A neighbour has recently painted the inside of their windows, and doesn’t want repairs to damage their internal paint.
  3. One or more investor owners does not want to pay for any maintenance if they can avoid it, and they don’t care what the building looks like, or what it’s like for the people who live there.
  4. Meanwhile, one or more owner occupiers wants the windows properly maintained, and might even want them upgraded with better glass and draught seals.
  5. The windows have not weathered evenly. One side of the building is much worse than another. Some apartments are much worse than others. People in the apartments without the problems don’t want to pay for work in other people’s apartments.
  6. Some people don’t understand what repairs are possible, and so assume that replacement is necessary when it isn’t.
  7. Some people assume that new windows will perform better and be cheaper than the old windows would be if they were restored. This is usually not true.

Sealasash restored the windows for all these apartments in Surry Hills, NSW

Talk to a window expert that knows strata

One of our specialists can help you and your neighbours understand your options for repairing, draught sealing and reglazing your old wooden windows.

Our top tips for managing strata title window repair projects

  1. Avoid going it alone with your windows, and push back against attempts by neighbours to divest themselves of shared responsibility. Once people start going it alone, there is a big risk to the aesthetic and capital value of the property.
  2. Point out to investor owners that tenant retention is better when an apartment is comfortable and quiet year-round. A prospective tenant won’t notice whether the windows work, but once someone is in the property, they are more likely to stay if the windows are comfortable and quiet.
  3. Avoid treating window repairs as an exclusively external issue. You will get a lower quality repair, the operation of your windows will not be repaired (and could be made worse), and you will lose any opportunity to improve performance through better glass and draught seals.
  4. Understand that window repair programs are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do things properly, and to invest in the amenity, appearance, capital value and structural integrity of the building.
  5. Choose a contractor with a flexible offering – a cheaper repair and painting service for everyone, with optional extras for owners who want it. Draught seals should be installed in all windows because it adds almost nothing to the price, and gives a dramatic improvement to comfort and energy efficiency. (see suggestion below)
  6. Be aware that it is usually possible to do window repair and painting works without any scaffolding – even externally.
  7. The cost of scaffolding is often a complete waste of money that could be invested in delivering a much better and more holistic outcome for all owners and residents. 

Sealasash refurbished, draught sealed, reglazed and painted these windows in South Yarra, Victoria. 

Looking for an experienced contractor who understands heritage?

Providing options for different people

Different owners will have different budgets and priorities, so it’s a good idea to have different options for different owners. Here is an example of how these options might look in practise.

Base option (by Owners’ Corporation)

  • Make the windows work top and bottom, adjusting counterweight as necessary
  • Change all cords with long-life cord (when cords break, it can lead to glass damage. When cords are fixed, it can cause external paint damage. Both of these could be expensive repairs for the body corporate or the owner down the track)
  • Do all timber and putty repairs to a high standard
  • Draught seal the window
  • Replace broken glass
  • Full exterior painting
  • Internal touch-up painting (repairs will cause some internal paint chipping)

Options (at individual lot owners’ expense)

  • Replace all glass with higher performance glass to make the home quieter and more comfortable
  • Full internal painting

Let us talk to your neighbours

One of our specialists can help you and your neighbours understand your options for repairing, draught sealing and reglazing your old wooden windows.