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A fresh coat of paint: Maintenance or improvement?

By Frank Higginson02 Jun 2009

We regularly receive enquiries about whether a body corporate project involves maintenance or an improvement to common property. Unfortunately, the distinction between the two can be difficult. However, the position is now much clearer, especially regarding painting.

Whether painting falls within the definition of ‘maintenance’ or an ‘improvement’ of common property basically depends on the type of colour used.

In a recent decision the adjudicator decided that painting the exterior of the common property in a new colour scheme was an ‘improvement’ and required a special resolution of the body corporate. This was because the new colour scheme was not a simple replacement of what previously existed. Further, the reason for the change of colour was not just to make repairs, but also to increase the value of the scheme by using more modern colours.

The adjudicator also determined that if the body corporate were to re-paint the building in the existing colour scheme this would simply be maintenance of the common property and only require an ordinary resolution if the cost of the painting was above the committee’s spending limit.

Painting has been found to be a maintenance issue when it involves ‘repainting’ or ‘touch ups’ to an existing colour scheme.

As a general rule:

  • Maintenance includes a repair that leaves the item largely unchanged, and the replacement of an item that cannot be repaired.
  • An ‘improvement’ is the addition or alteration of a thing so that a new item is created.