Version 1 - 02/01/2019
1 Accountability and Accuracy (formerly section 8.1 of the Practice Manual)
The nature of the definition of boundaries on strata schemes is different from all other types of subdivision. This may be the reason why there was less statutory regulation of surveys of those schemes than for other subdivisions. However, Strata Schemes lodged for registration after 24th January 2006 are required to be certified by a Licensed Surveyor in the form of regulation 54 of the Licensed Surveyors (General Surveying Practice) Regulations 1961 provided the Surveyor has signed his certificate on or after that date. This Certificate must be shown on all Strata/Survey-Strata Plans; Plans of Re-subdivision; Plans of Merger and Conversion and Plans of Consolidation (see STP-09 Scheme Plans sections 2.4, 6.12, 6.16 and 6.17, STP-13 Merger of Common Property and Lots in Certain Strata Schemes section 6 and STP-14 Conversion of Strata Schemes to Survey-Strata Schemes sections 1 and 4).
Individual strata lots are usually very small and the unit value of the land (and buildings) is high. So although the nature of the boundary definition is different, the need for accuracy of definition can be among the greatest of any type of subdivision and the consequences of errors or mistakes can be serious.
Adverse consequences to a proprietor can be compounded by the nature of strata titles tenure, because the proprietor does not have a simple relationship with proprietors of adjoining parcels, but must act through the strata company, with all of its limitations.
Although the Surveyor faced little statutory obligation prior to 24 January 2006, it is important that the surveyor does not treat strata surveys lightly but uses professional ethics and puts in place an individual quality control process to ensure a high standard of survey. Surveyors must now follow the regulations of a TLA survey.
Unlike TLA plans and diagrams, strata and Survey-Strata Plans are part of the title Register Book and once registered cannot be varied, amended or terminated without due registration procedures. It is therefore important that accurate information be incorporated into both the survey and the drafting components of any Strata/Survey-Strata Plan.
2 Surveying Requirements for Strata and Survey-Strata Plans (formerly section 8.2 of the Practice Manual)
The survey requirements for each plan type are different because of the variation in the type of development. Consequently, many of the decisions in regard to referencing, pegging and marking rely on the surveyor’s professional judgement. There are, however, regulations in place for the responsibility, accountability and consequences of certification under the Licensed Surveyors Act.
Surveyors should note that each plan type has a different certification because a Strata Plan relates mainly to “monuments” and a Survey-Strata Plan relates mainly to survey measurements.
Certification on a Strata Plan is to ensure strata lots are within the parcel and, if a building or attachment encroaches beyond the parcel, then the appropriate easement or consent has been granted. The plan must show at least one building on the parcel (see Plan Example 11).
The certification of a Survey-Strata Plan is to certify the accuracy of the plan and compliance with the survey regulations.
3 Types of Plans (formerly section 3.1 of the Practice Manual)
There are two types of plans under the STA, each using different lot boundary definitions:
- Strata lots are cubic space or spaces (i.e. three dimensional) referenced to a building which is shown on the Strata Plan.
- Survey-strata lots are defined by dimensions and survey information similarly to a TLA subdivision. They may be restricted vertically or may be unlimited in height and depth.
A title is issued for each lot created on these plans. This title provides the basis for recording transactions affecting the ownership and interests in relation to the lot. The Strata/Survey-Strata Plan is used to record information about the lots and their boundary definition and to record actions affecting the common property and in some cases the lots. This type of information can vary from rights and encumbrances to by-laws of the strata company. There is no title for common property.
There are four other types of plan which affect previously registered Strata Plans (i.e. amending that plan). They are plans of re-subdivision and consolidation, merger sketch plans and conversions to Survey-Strata Plans. They are detailed in STP-13 Merger of Common Property and Lots in Certain Strata Schemes, STP-14 Conversion of Strata Schemes to Survey-Strata Schemes and STP-09 Scheme Plans sections 6.9 to 6.17.
4 Strata Plans (formerly section 3.2 of the Practice Manual)
“Strata Plan” is a term used in reference to all strata schemes where buildings are used to define all or some lot boundaries. Every strata scheme created before 14 April 1996 is referred to as a Strata Plan unless it has subsequently been converted to a Survey-Strata Plan.
The term “Strata Plan” is used for strata schemes where either all of the buildings have been constructed or where one or some buildings are constructed and the remaining lots are vacant cubic space lots (i.e. lots that do not contain any buildings).
Strata plans are described as such in the title block of the plan form and should contain the:
- land description identifying the parcel;
- name of the scheme
- address of the parcel
- location plan and floor plan
- certificate from a licensed surveyor
- certificate of the Western Australian Planning Commission (unless the Strata Plan comes within the exemptions referred to in STP-06 Obtaining Approvals)
- certificate of the local government, Occupancy Permit or Building Approval Certificate
- schedule of unit entitlement certified by a licensed valuer.
Strata plans also reflect certain rights, benefits and encumbrances that may have been on the land before it was strata titled or that may have been created by new documentation, such as a deed creating a right of carriageway. If there is a reservation or right benefiting the scheme it will be shown on the front or main sheet of the Strata Plan. Examples are: benefits of a right of support and rights of access to adjoining land.
Encumbrances such as drainage easements, rights of carriageway and rights of support, etc., which affect the strata lots and common property are recorded in the encumbrance schedule on the Strata Plan and where of a spatial nature are shown in an Interests and Notifications Schedule, and depicted on the Location Plan or appropriate Floor Plan (see Plan Example 1).
4.1 Re-Establishment of Parcel Boundaries on Strata Plans (formerly section 8.3 of the Practice Manual)
Surveys for Strata Plans require re-establishment of the parcel boundaries (based on rigorous pickup as for TLA subdivisions), followed by the positioning of the buildings and part lots that are external to the building or buildings.
On the occasions where significant excess or any deficiency is discovered during a re-establishment survey a field book needs to be lodged. If necessary, the surveyor may lodge a “Redefinition Plan” to show the correct dimensions and area and an application for a new title can be made. A “Redefinition Plan” is necessary when the differences are outside the ‘margin of error’ covered by section 155 of the TLA.
Connections of buildings to the boundary of the parcel should be to cadastral re-establishment standard. Street corners used for pickup should be referenced or protected and it is prudent to place a strategic reference mark near the scheme.
Survey work performed on a Strata Plan can result in a combination of measurements, monuments and height dimensions to define the horizontal and vertical lot boundaries. As a Strata Plan is an authorised survey and per Regulation 8(2C) of the Licensed Surveyors (General Surveying Practice) Regulations 1961, a Field Book must be lodged for
- all new built strata plans
- re-subdivisions and consolidations of built strata plans
- modifications of existing built strata plans as a result of acquisition/taking/disposal action.
Connections to standard survey marks may need to be made in accordance with guidelines under regulation 22A of the Licensed Surveyors (General Surveying Practice) Regulations, 1961.
4.2 Strata Lots must Always be within the Parcel Boundary (formerly section 1.2.1 of the Practice Manual)
Strata lots always remain within the confines of the parcel boundaries. Encroachments that extend beyond the parcel boundary are treated as common property.
4.3 Building Boundaries on Strata Plans (formerly section 8.4 of the Practice Manual)
It is recommended that strata be related to AHD wherever practical, especially in larger schemes, staged schemes and vacant lot schemes. Maintenance of views is an emotive issue, and there is potential for confusion or mistake when building construction extends over several years and involves more than one surveyor – a problem which is overcome if AHD is used as standard practice.
Section 3(2) of the STA specifies the horizontal and vertical boundaries of the cubic space that can form each of the lots. This section also provides for variation of the boundaries of the cubic space to accommodate a specific circumstance. When a variation occurs, the boundaries described must relate to a wall, floor or ceiling. However, section 3AB of the STA accommodates boundary definitions for “single tier strata schemes”, by allowing boundaries in some cases, to extend to the external surfaces of buildings.
Regulation 37AA was introduced as part of the Strata Titles General Amendment Regulations 2006 to provide a manner in describing, under section 3(2)(b), the boundaries of buildings that were not part of a single tier scheme.
Strata Titles General Amendment Regulations (No.2) 2011 made a significant change to regulation 37AA with the removal of the term "single tier scheme" and replacing it with "single tier building". This amendment caters for new schemes consisting of both single tier buildings and multi-tier buildings so that ownership of single tier buildings within multi-tiered schemes can be to the external surfaces of their walls as described under section 3(2)(b) of the STA (see Plan Example 64).
The existing rules for multi-tier buildings remain unchanged. Multi-tier buildings may be described by section 3(2)(a) of the STA and regulation 5A(a) of the Strata Titles General Regulations 1996, or under section 3(2)(b) of the STA in the case where there is a combination of building walls and dimensions shown on the plan (see Chapter 8.5 and Plan Example 50).
4.4 Standard Wording to be used on Strata Plans (formerly section 8.5 of the Practice Manual)
The Regulations now provide a standard wording to be placed on the floor plan to clarify the building lot boundary. All new Strata Plans must bear a statement as to the building lot boundary. The wordings for these definitions are stated in regulation 5A (a) and (b) of the STGR.
This applies to new Strata Plans and merger plans (see section 5(1) (aa) of the STA).
4.5 Standard Wording for all Strata Plans (formerly section 8.5.1 of the Practice Manual)
This compulsory requirement for all modern plans will leave older Strata Plans with no cubic space boundary definition stated on the floor plan. In these cases, the boundaries are defined by section 3(2) (a) of the STA.
Strata plans can no longer dispense with written statements for defining the boundaries that are specified in the STA. Previously it was implied that if no wording was stated the boundary definition was as per the Act. There are now 2 standard wordings that can be used for the common types of building boundary definitions.
Certain schemes will need obvious variations to wordings to fit specific circumstances. It is important that retaining walls, garden brick or stone walls and walls that extend from a building are defined so there is no confusion on ownership. Section 3(2) (b) of the STA allows for the wordings to meet specific needs.
Surveyors preparing new Strata Plans should be aware that plans lodged for registration should, where possible, comply with the standard wording as specified in sections 3AB and 5 of the STA and in regulation 5A(a) and (b) of the STGR.
For a single tier scheme the following wording should be used if the building and attachments are to be included as part of the lot (all merger plans must have the following wording, and this cannot be varied):
“The boundaries of the lots or parts of the lots which are buildings shown on the Strata Plan are the external surfaces of those buildings, as provided by section 3AB of the Strata Titles Act 1985”.
and if applicable,
“Where 2 lots have a common or party wall or have buildings on them which are joined, the centre plane of that wall, or the plane at which they are joined, is the boundary”.
In the case where part lots are created outside the building a wording similar to the example below should be used:
“The stratum of the part lots external to the buildings extends between 5 metres below and 10 metres above the upper surface level of the lowest ground floor of the main building located on each respective lot, except where covered”.
This will ensure the cubic space above the buildings remains as “common property” (see Plan Example 16).
Surveyors and developers may however endeavour to include the “common property” above the buildings as part of the Strata Lot. The following wording or similar may be used on the floor plan of the Strata Plan:
“The stratum of the part lots, including the cubic space above and below the part lots comprising buildings, is limited between 5 metres below and 10 metres above the upper surface level of the lowest ground floor of the main building appurtenant to their corresponding Lot number, including where covered” (see Plan Example 17).
Surveyors may wish to seek legal advice as to the use of the above wording.
“5 metres below and 10 metres above” is only used as a sample. Surveyors must look at each scheme and select the appropriate dimensions.
If it is intended to keep the structure as common property or if it is a high rise building the following wording must be used:
“The boundaries of the lots or parts of the lots which are buildings shown on the Strata Plan are the inner surfaces of the walls, the upper surface of the floor and the under surface of the ceiling, as provided by section 3 (2) (a) of the Strata Titles Act 1985” (see Plan Example 18).
and for part lots that are external to the building a wording similar to the following should be used:
“the stratum of the part lots external to the buildings extends between 5 metres below and 10 metres above the upper surface level of the lowest ground floor of the building located on each respective lot except where covered”.
The above wording is a guide only and may not be appropriate for Part Lots labelled Courtyard; Carbay; Terrace; Balcony etc. Every cubic space outside the building that forms a Part Lot must be clearly defined with reference to stated surfaces (see Plan Example 1 and Plan Example 6).
Because of the many variations in strata schemes a surveyor may find it necessary to vary the stratum wordings to accommodate the client’s requirements.
The above descriptions may not be appropriate so section 3(2) (b) of the STA may need to be used. Surveyors should use their professional judgment and where appropriate obtain legal advice to select the appropriate wording so there is no confusion as to the boundaries.
While regulation 37AA describes the manner in which section 3 (2) (b) of the STA will apply to multi-tiered buildings, no specific wording has been prescribed. Surveyors must not use the term “as provided by section 3(2) (b)” in their wording statement on floor plans of this nature.
The statement should commence with “Under section 3 (2) (b) of the STA the boundaries of the Lots or part Lots which are buildings shown on the Strata Plan are ……..” or similar wording.
Where the Strata development is complete and makes no provision for future development or re-subdivision, Surveyors may find it more appropriate to prepare plans using section 3 (2)(a) of the STA.
Where a “vacant lot” Strata Plan is created in a single tier scheme and there is no part lot external to the existing building or buildings (i.e. the whole of the lot is the building) two stratum descriptions are to be used. One description must state one of the standard forms contained in STGR number 5A (a) or (b) and the other must specify the cubic space of the vacant lot by reference to the floor level of a building on another lot.
4.6 Describing Cubic Space (formerly section 11.9 of the Practice Manual)
The use of section 3(2) (b) of the Strata Titles Act 1985 when describing cubic space must refer to a wall, floor or ceiling or structural cubic space within the building to which the plan relates and cannot refer to “external surface of building” or “roof”.
Where the underside of a roof forms part of the ceiling and it is intended that the roof form part of the cubic space, the upper boundary of a lot could be described by specifying a distance above the ceiling, so that the roof fits within that measurement. However this definition will not enable inclusion of any part of the roof that extends beyond the line of the inner surface of the walls (see section 4.3 and Plan Example 26).
4.7 Vacant Lot Strata Plans (formerly section 3.3 of the Practice Manual)
“Vacant Lot” Strata Plans are Strata Plans that create lots which need not have buildings constructed on each of the lots. However, there must be at least one building on the parcel. Buildings may be contained within a lot or lots or may be situated on common property. Developments of this type are usually in older urban areas and are used to subdivide parcels which have an existing building on the land. Their other main use is for staged developments where the parcel is re- subdivided in stages, leaving one lot vacant until re- subdivided further at a later stage.
These types of plans must proceed through the full referral process. See Sections 142, 143, 144 and 151 of the P & D Act (formerly section 24 of the T P & D Act). See Plan Example 2. When the vacant lots are built on, there is no requirement under the STA to upgrade the Strata Plan to show the new buildings.
However, as purchasers and lending institutions are uneasy about a Strata Plan not depicting what is actually built on the property, and, as the unit entitlement of each lot should be revised, it would be prudent to upgrade a vacant lot Strata Plan to show the building once it is constructed. This can be achieved by using either the merger option available under section 21Q of the STA provided the Strata Plan relates to a single tier strata scheme and was registered prior to 1 January 1998, or a re-subdivision to include the building on the Strata Plan. Part of each of these processes involves an amendment to the unit entitlement of each lot.
Revision of the unit entitlement protects each proprietor’s share in the whole of the property, should the scheme be terminated, or buildings destroyed and ensure that the proportion of levies and other contributions is fair and equitable.
A type of strata scheme, known as “vacant airspace strata”, has been attempted by some developers. Titles are sought for lots on a Strata Plan either for:
- lots above the ground unsupported by the ground or any structure
- airspace lots where the only structure around those lots consists of concrete slabs forming or being part of the upper and/or lower limits of the lots.
Following advice from the Crown Solicitor’s Office that such Strata Plans are not authorised under the STA, the Department of Planning has recommended to the WAPC that the approval of “vacant airspace strata” schemes be withheld.
4.8 Additional Wording – “vacant” lots only (formerly section 8.5.2 of the Practice Manual)
As a guide, the wording may read:
“The stratum of Lot 2 extends between 5 metres below and 10 metres above the upper surface level of the lowest ground floor of the building erected on Lot 1”
or similar wording that clearly and unambiguously defines the Lot (see Plan Example 2).
There are no Regulations for defining height by Australian Height Datum (AHD) but in certain strata schemes a more precise datum for horizontal height definition may be critical. If possible surveyors should:
- use heights above AHD to define all of the strata lots (if practical this is the preferred method)
- reference floor levels between buildings within the scheme.
If surveyors wish, they may reference AHD level to the floor of a building so the stratum of the scheme can be linked to AHD. This is advisable where accurate height definition is critical or where a building or part of a building is to be demolished and reconstructed. Surveyors should use their professional judgement on these issues. This type of information should be shown on the floor plan.
4.9 Part Lots Outside Buildings (formerly section 8.6 of the Practice Manual)
- There is provision for the boundaries of parts of lots outside of the buildings to be defined by the surveyor by a combination of dimension and reference to buildings. It is important for a surveyor to maintain professional standards when using monuments for defining boundaries.
- It is recommended that monuments that can easily be shifted or changed should not be used for defining boundaries as this may lead to disputation between lot owners in the future.
- An example is the use of “edge of brick paving”, where most brick paving is held in place by a mortar mix. In cases where the survey costs of measuring intricate curves and tangents becomes unreasonable the notation method could be used in conjunction with other referencing methods.
- Whenever practical, dimensions to external part lots or to vacant lots should not rely on azimuth of a building, but should be based on a surveyed azimuth related to the parcel boundary. If this cannot be shown on the plan, it could be recorded in a field book.
- Part lots outside buildings, and vacant lots, may at the discretion of the surveyor be wholly or partially marked. The same types of marking can be used as for a TLA subdivision. The marks may be shown and described on the plan if this does not clutter the plan.
- Part Lots labelled ‘Balcony’ are to be treated as Part Lots outside the buildings and as such must be defined both vertically and horizontally especially if they are uncovered. A common notation on plans is “edge of concrete slab is boundary”. Surveyors must ensure that cubic space of balconies is clearly defined when adopting section 3 (2) (a) and 3 (2) (b) of the STA (see Plan Example 18).
- Carbays in basements of multi-tiered buildings are to be treated as Part Lots outside the building as quite often their vertical boundaries are defined by walls, pillars, columns and dimensions. Both the horizontal and vertical boundaries of these Part Lots must be clearly set out on a floor plan to prevent disputation by Lot owners as to what is part of the Lot and what is ‘Common Property’ (see Plan Example 19).
5 Survey-Strata Plans (formerly section 3.4 of the Practice Manual)
On Survey-Strata Plans, dimensions provided by a licensed surveyor define the lot boundaries in the scheme. The valuation upon which unit entitlement is based and the survey will relate solely to the value of the land. It will not involve the valuation of any structure or other major improvement. A Survey-Strata Plan may limit the horizontal boundaries of lots by referencing their limits to the Australian Height Datum (AHD). It is not possible to create survey-strata schemes in which one lot is above or below another Lot, unless that Lot is a Common Property Lot (CP) (see Plan Example 3, Plan Example 4 and Plan Example 29).
Plan Examples 3 and 4: Where a CP Lot is intended to restrict the height of another Lot, if there is an existing building on the land, then a notation should show reference to a stated surface of that building.
Survey-Strata Plans are described as such in the heading. They are processed through the full planning approval process under Part 10 of the P & D Act (formerly Part III of the T P & D Act) and must contain the:
- land description identifying the parcel
- name of the scheme
- address of the parcel
- a plan of the scheme
- field book number (necessary since 31 March 2003);
- certificate from a licensed surveyor
- schedule of unit entitlement certified by a licensed valuer.
5.1 Surveying of Survey-Strata Schemes (formerly section 9.1 of the Practice Manual)
The survey for a Survey-Strata Plan is an authorised survey as defined in the Licensed Surveyors Act 1909. It (the survey) must be carried out by a licensed surveyor with a current practising certificate. A Survey-Strata Plan needs to be certified by a surveyor eligible to verify survey documents (see STP-09 Scheme Plans section 3.2).
Surveyors should note that the certification of a Survey-Strata Plan is similar in content and therefore in responsibility, accountability and consequences to that of a certification under the Licensed Surveyors Act (LSA). The surveyor certifies to the correctness and to compliance with the regulations, and the significance of that must not be overlooked. This is very different from the certification of a Strata Plan.
Surveys for survey-strata schemes of more than 10 serviced lots where roads are created, or where common property lots are used as roads, must be lodged in accordance with the Special Survey Area (SSA) guidelines (available from www.lslb.wa.gov.au/) (see Plan Example 44).
Surveys for a survey-strata scheme within an existing SSA must be lodged in accordance with the SSA guidelines: i.e. lodge a Fieldbook and not a Survey Sheet (see SSA guideline 10.0).
The following guidelines apply to both new survey-strata schemes and conversions to survey-strata from a traditional strata scheme under Part III, division 3 of the STA.
Lots created on a Survey-Strata Plan may be unlimited in height and depth (i.e. no AHD is necessary) or may be limited in height and depth using AHD levels. If limited in height and depth, the lot must have common property above and below it (see Plan Example 3, Plan Example 4 and Plan Example 29). Section 4(1c) prevents cubic space lots being created on top of each other unless allowed by regulations. No regulations have been made for section 4(1c). It is not appropriate to use a “permitted boundary deviation” on a Survey-Strata Plan as these may only be used in a single tier strata scheme.
It is possible, and encouraged, to include cross sectional drawings to illustrate the boundaries of lots on the plan. Survey-Strata Plans and their field books will be recorded on the survey index plan (plan number, prefixed by “SP” and generally a field book number).
5.2 Survey Standards and Re-Establishment (formerly section 9.2 of the Practice Manual)
The survey for a Survey-Strata Plan should be to a standard equivalent to that for a TLA survey. This enables it to be used for re-establishment of later adjacent or nearby TLA surveys (and it should be considered by any later TLA survey).
A survey for a Survey-Strata Plan should comply with the regulations under the LSA and TLA and specifically those dealing with:
- pegging or other marking of lot corners and boundaries for the public
- referencing of lot corners
- recording of field notes.
The surveyor should be guided by the Survey and Plan Practice Manual, particularly chapters 3 and 4.
Connections to standard survey marks may need to be made in accordance with guidelines under Regulation 22A of the Licensed Surveyors (General Surveying Practice) Regulations, 1961.
Digital data (CSD file) is required with each Survey-Strata Plan for audit purposes. All lots should be captured as freehold lots. Easements and three-dimensional lots are to be captured in two dimensions (plan view) only.
5.3 Marking of Survey-Strata Schemes (formerly section 9.3 of the Practice Manual)
- On large survey-strata schemes, common property used as a road should be referenced as required for roads by the general survey regulations or guidelines.
- General survey regulation 24A and TLA survey regulations 23, 32 and 35, dealing with protection of pickup, apply equally to survey-strata schemes.
- In numbering the pegs of a Survey-Strata Plan, the “CP” prefix should be included on common property lots.
- All new lot corners must be pegged, marked with non-standard marks or noted why they cannot be marked ie “Corner Inaccessible’.
- Existing parcel corners where not marked are considered to be original.
5.4 Stratums, Heights and AHD (formerly section 9.4 of the Practice Manual)
If the Survey-Strata Plan refers to a stratum, this must be related to Australian Height Datum, and a connection should also be made to a physical reference datum on or near the site. This height reference mark should be recorded in the field book (see Plan Example 4 and Plan Example 29).
This (AHD) requirement also applies to “intrusion easements”. The AHD is to be applied to a stated surface, i.e. a floor level of a building or ground level on the scheme or a ssm or Water Corporation Manhole adjacent to the scheme, on a cross sectional drawing to define the area of intrusion (see Plan Example 10).
6 Searching a Lot (formerly section 14.7 of the Practice Manual)
When making a search of the ownership of a lot on a Strata/Survey-Strata Plan it is essential that:
- A search be made of the plan to identify the lot in question.
- Details of the certificate of title to the lot will be endorsed in the second schedule “interests notified on the Strata Plan”.
- The Strata/Survey-Strata Plan will show any Management Statement, Notification of change of by-laws and additional encumbrances and benefits not shown on the title to a lot. Benefits to the land that have a spatial nature are usually endorsed on the location plan.
- If an encumbrance or benefit is recorded on the title or on the plan, a search should be made of the relevant documents as there could be important information contained in the documents that impact on the scheme.
- In addition to searches of the title and other registered documents it is important to search the strata company records. These can be viewed with the consent of a lot proprietor by contacting the secretary of the strata company and paying the appropriate fee. The records may be held by a strata manager employed by the strata company. The strata company secretary can advise you of this.