Brisbane's rental market

Feudal lords, tenants and body corps: Time for some facts

Once upon a time, in a place far away, landlords were just that – Lords who owned land. They alone had rights over that property and, for example, they alone could vote in government elections. Property ownership conferred power in the feudal system and tenants had very few rights.

Fortunately modern Australia has a very different environment and, while we might disagree on proposed changes to tenancy laws, landlords (we wish “lessor” was more commonly used) and tenants alike have plenty of legislated rights. A landlord pays the council rates and state land taxes but, rightly, they don’t get to vote in those elections unless they live locally! Occupancy carries rights.

So it is with bodies corporate and, although 25% of Queenslanders live in community title schemes, very few of us understand a tenant’s rights and obligations to them.

Tenants frustrated the body corp hasn’t fixed the garage door ? They can and should take this up directly with the body corp managers. Neighbours’ dog yapping all day and all night? Guy downstairs parking in your rented car park? Enforcement of by-laws is a responsibility of the body corp and a tenant should go direct with their concerns. In most cases body corp legislation in Queensland doesn’t care if you’re a landlord or tenant or owner resident.

Chris Irons is Queensland’s former Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management and now works for Hynes Legal, a specialist body corporate law firm in Brisbane. Chris says that tenants – technically, called ‘occupiers’ under body corporate law – have essential roles in relation to by-laws and maintenance of common property.

“There are some myths about tenants in strata. The tenant can and should be talking to the body corporate, and vice versa, and there’s no prohibition on it. If a tenant wants a by-law enforced or has issues with common property access or maintenance, it’s a direct issue for them.”

renting in a body corpTenants aren’t able to propose motions or vote in a body corp meeting, but they can ask their landlord to put forward ideas for changes and improvements. The law requires landlords and their property managers to provide every tenant with a copy of the by-laws as these do apply to all residents equally. Tenants often think they only owe an explanation to their landlord/agent but bodies corp can issue tenants a direct breach notice relating to by-laws.

Chris says tenants’ obligations are often misunderstood. “If the landlord has said the tenant can have a pet, that’s only one part of the equation. Bodies corporate will have by-laws about pets including the need to seek approval. They can also impose conditions, although those conditions can’t be unreasonable.”

Speaking of feudal lords, we’ve met some onsite caretakers over the years who seemed to think they’d been granted some kind of emperor status, ordering others around and denying tenants all sorts of rights in their buildings. The legislation is crystal clear on this: a by-law cannot discriminate between types of occupiers.

Chris strongly recommends tenants seeking information about body corporate rights and responsibilities contact Queensland’s Body Corp Commisioner’s Office on 1800 060 119. Hynes Law have some great info on their FAQ page and there’s more about renting in a body corp  at LookUp Strata, written by Chris during his time as Commissioner.

This blog explores plenty of other body corp issues too!

Please share your comments on tenants’ rights and obligations or your experience renting in a body corp!