Mythbusting: 7 things you mightn’t know about your body corp
Apartment living gets a bad wrap! Across Queensland there’s now more than 45,000 bodies corp with over 400,000 apartments and townhouses. That means approx 20% of us live in these but, working with the renting and sale of inner-Brisbane apartments every day, our team hear plenty of confusion. Buyers frustrated with fees they don’t understand. Tenants annoyed with nasty notes on their car for parking in visitor bays. And here’s our theory: Body corp laws are confusing and there’s not enough information. So we were really pleased to see the Body Corp Commissioners office release this new web page with some simple info.
And let’s help clear up some of the common misunderstandings!
1. “I don’t have to get involved with the body corp”: Owner or tenant, you’ve got obligations (and rights) whether you want them or not. You might choose to not attend meetings or vote to have your say on how your building’s run and fees are determined. But you can’t opt out of paying those fees or complying with the by-laws.
2. There’s no set of ‘standard by-laws’. Peter Cassels of Brisbane’s Cassels Strata Management says property managers often admit they’ve not requested a copy of the building’s by-laws, but instead given tenants a copy of the “standard ones”. “Every building adopts its own unique by-laws and by law these must be given to every tenant as part of their lease,” Peter says. “Owners collectively agree on these and if they’re not passed on to each tenant it’s difficult to enforce them. It’s important to a building’s smooth running that all residents have these.”
3. “I’m bringing my dog and they can’t say no!”: There’s been much discussion in recent years and we’ve followed the tribunal rulings about pets in apartments that have stopped bodies corp making “unreasonable” by-laws or rejecting pets out of hand. But a body corp CAN set reasonable rules about the keeping of a pet. If it causes a nuisance a body corp CAN and probably will demand that it be removed.
4. “Visitor parking spots are first in best dressed”: Your body corp usually has designated spots for visitors and it’s typically a requirement of the original council development approval that they be maintained for genuine visitors only. If a resident parks in these spots they are usually breaching the by-law and the body corp can take action.
5. “You’ll be towed!”: Parking in those spots may breach the by-laws, but that doesn’t usually give the onsite manager the right to tow your car. Breaches of by-laws have to be dealt with in a way prescribed by the Act with notices to remedy a breach etc.
6. “I’m putting in timber floors”: It’s unwise to lay hard flooring in your apartment without considering your by-laws and impact on neighbours. Many by-laws have specific rules about sound attenuation and some even require acoustic engineer reports. Ensuring you don’t create a nuisance to your neighbours is central to most by-laws.
7. The body corporate managers and resident managers aren’t the boss: They each work for the body corp and all owners are collectively in charge of every building. We still hear tales of onsite managers throwing their weight around, intimidating tenants and even owners, forgetting they’re paid a salary to maintain common property. Usually an elected committee of owners and chair will do much of the day to day decision-making but they too have legislated limits on their authority.
Despite the common confusion around some by-laws and rules, our experience is that the vast majority of apartment buildings run in fairly good harmony. Complaints about noise for example can happen, but then they’re part of any inner-city street where houses are close together too. Residents living side by side will find ways to get on eachothers’ nerves from time to time, but better awareness of the rules and simple neighbourly consideration go a long way.
Real estate agents are rarely taught body corp law and solicitors don’t take time to explain this stuff during conveyancing. So it’s no surprise many apartment owners are unaware of the rules. Or that tenants don’t get a clear insight into their obligations and rights. If your property’s rented, please ask your property manager to get up to speed on the laws. Or go straight to a team who are informed and contact our property managers!