Who's the body corporate?
Last year’s Census highlighted the growing appeal of apartments in Brisbane’s inner city suburbs. Some 69% of our housing is now attached, but despite this there’s still plenty of confusion over how apartment buildings operate and who the body corporate actually is. As inner city agents we’ve made it our business to know – so here’s a quick overview:
A body corporate simply consists of each owner of a lot (eg. townhouse, duplex, apartment, villa or unit) in a community titles scheme. When you buy you automatically become a member of that body corporate, which is a separate legal entity and a bit like a company with you as its shareholders. In Queensland there’s an Act that regulates exactly how this works and it’s overseen by the Office of Fair Trading. The annual meeting of owners (the 3 of them that turn up plus the gardener’s dog!) elect a committee of owners to oversee regular decision making, and usually also appoint a manager to do all the admin work. A body corp is generally responsible for maintenance of all of its common property and that’s usually everything outside the 4 walls of each apartment including walkways, lifts, pools, stairs and infrastructure such as pipes and wiring.
Of course the committee can’t make major decisions or incur big dollar expenses without a general meeting of owners. If you’d like to have more say in your building put your hand up for the committee, but be aware it doesn’t pay and can be a thankless job. Interestingly there can be a marked difference in the ongoing appeal between similar buildings simply due to one having an active committee, and another being left to an external manager.
So there’s no outside company or person deciding the fate of your building. The annual costs are set by the owners – hopefully with recommendations by the managers as experts in this – but the idea that someone is hiking costs for their own benefit is just not true. Put a bunch of people in the one building, add some emotional issues like money, keeping of pets, noisy parties and bikes stored on balconies and it’s no surprise there’s ingredients for disagreement! But the real surprise is how well most bodies corporate actually operate. Remember that a dominant committee or chairperson can make life interesting but at all times all owners collectively have the final say.