Queensland body corps: a beginner’s guide
More than 1 million Queenslanders live in a body corporate, yet for many of us these mythical beasts can be hard to understand. “Who’s the body corp?”; “Why am I paying for that?”; “How come I can’t just park my car there?” They’re questions our team hear regularly and there’s still plenty of confusion over the law for apartments/townhouses, and what a body corporate actually is.
As inner city agents a vast majority of our sales and property management work is in these buildings, so we’ve made it our business to know. 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 the Body Corp Commissioner’s Office has a website that’s actually really helpful.
The annual meeting of owners (those who take the time to turn up or email their voting paper!) elect a committee of owners to oversee regular decision making, and usually also appoint an external 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 four 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 expenses without a general meeting of all owners. If you’d like to have more say in your building please put your hand up for the committee, but be aware it doesn’t pay and can be a thankless job. Interestingly over time there can be a noticeable difference in the presentation and appeal (yes, rents and sale prices!) between similar buildings, where one has an active committee and another is left to decision-making by an external manager.
The body corp may also have a caretaker who lives on site and is paid an annual fee to take care of the common property. In Queensland these caretakers often buy the business (management rights) and there’s been an ongoing debate about their roles and rights. Ultimately their job is to make sure the building looks spick and span – for owner occupiers and investors/tenants alike.
Collectively all owners have by-laws for the common property which outline their agreed approach on things like parking rules and the use of pools and gyms. Some bodies corp try to reach a little too far into residents’ lives and appeals to the adjudicators will usually see them dismiss any by-law that’s unreasonable, commonly a blanket refusal for keeping pets.
Other than complying with the law an important note is this: there is no outside company or person deciding what happens in your building. The annual fees are set by the owners themselves – hopefully with budgeting by managers who know their stuff. But no-one is hiking costs for their own benefit. Yes there can dominant committee members or a grumpy chairperson who can make life interesting, but all owners collectively have the final say.
Put a bunch of strangers in the one building, add some emotional issues like money, keeping of pets and noisy parties and it’s no surprise there’s ingredients for disagreement! It’s like any neighbourhood. So perhaps the real surprise is how well most body corps actually run.