10 Simple Steps To Avoid Body Corporate Disputes

body corporate disputesBody corporate disputes are the worst. It’s bad enough fighting with your neighbours but when they live across the hall it adds and extra little dimension of hell that makes life really uncomfortable.

It’s impossible to avoid disputes entirely but there are some simple things each lot owner can do that will go a long way toward smooth communal living.

1. Pay your levies

Body corporates do not trade, they do not make money and in most cases they do not collect more than they have estimated they will require. It’s a common myth.

Instead, they estimate how much it’s going to cost to maintain the body corporate for a year and collect that much.

If you, as a lot owner, don’t pay your levies, what you’re in fact doing is putting the onus on your neighbours to cover your portion of the costs.

2. Read and observe the by-laws

All body corporates have by-laws of one sort or another and in most cases they will have been carefully crafted and honed over time to reflect the wishes of the majority.

Definitely read them because you will be expected to observe them.

They are enforceable, firstly through the Office of Commissioner Body Corporates, and then, if adjudication is made, through the Magistrates Court.

 3. Find out what you’re responsible for

Body corporates can be very complex and come with all sorts of different facilities that you may or may not be responsible for. You need to get clear about what is and isn’t part of your lot and what is or isn’t your responsibility.

Find out whether the plan is a Building Format Plan or a Standard Format Plan to determine where the boundaries of the lot end and don’t forget exclusive use.

Disputes over who did what to common property are, well, common. Be clear and avoid them.

4.  Ask permission before you make any changes to your lot

Um … so why does the body corporate have a say what I do in my lot? Well they don’t really, unless the change you’re proposing to make is going to have an impact on other lot owners.

For instance hard flooring in apartment buildings need to meet certain noise requirements so that it doesn’t disturb those people below you, and major renovations will need to be managed for minimum disruption to other residents.

Renovations are a major source of disputes, and you can be asked to revert any changes you’ve made so get permission first to avoid a lot of heartbreak later.

5. Respect the common property

Common property sometimes ends up being treated like it’s part of a hotel, rather than shared amenities. This tends to really annoy anyone who has to a) share the use with you, b) use it after you’ve made a mess or c) clean it up.

Treat the common property as if you personally own it, because, well, you do. A portion anyway, and you certainly pay a portion of the maintenance costs. Make sure you, your residents and your visitors take adequate care of your property.

6. Read the body corporate documentation sent to you

New owners will likely be surprised when large swathes of information start showing up in the mail box. There are two things that are sent regularly: notice of meetings and minutes of meetings.

Read them.

Reading the minutes wont’ take you very long and it will keep you up-to-date with how money is being spent and what works are being done. Notice of meetings are important as they will let you know when it’s time to vote.

7. Vote at general meetings

This is your home and/or major investment, and you should have a say in the way the common property that forms part of that investment is managed. You should and in fact you do, by way of voting at general meetings.

You don’t actually have to attend the meeting to vote, although you certainly can if that is your preferred method. Your notice of meeting will include a voting paper and usually a paid envelope for you to return you vote (they really want you to vote!).

Make sure you have your say and vote at general meetings.

8. Get involved in the committee

Some body corporates struggle to form a committee whilst others have hotly contested ballots each Annual General Meeting.

Whatever the situation is for your body corporate consider nominating for committee. You are an owner and consequently your input is valuable, whatever your skill base.

The key benefit: you get much more of an input toward where the body corporate is heading.

9. Learn what to do when you have an issue

Communal living can be tough. Putting a group of people together, people who share nothing more in common than an ability purchase or rent a lot in a particular location can lead to disputes.

They happen, but they don’t need to spiral out of control, and it rarely benefits anyone when they do.

Learn who your committee is, your building manager and your body corporate manager. These are the people who you will need to communicate with first and foremost if you have a dispute.

10. Treat everyone with courtesy and respect

The last is by far the most important point for communal living and covers everything from don’t have loud parties to the early hours of the morning to controlling how you interact with others.

Courtesy and respect for your neighbours will go a long way towards avoiding disputes.

That doesn’t mean you should agree with everything someone says, or go along without objecting to something that makes you uncomfortable. It does mean that you should try and remain calm whilst expressing yourself and allow others the opportunity to express their opinions.

You can agree to disagree and work together to find resolution without things erupting into a dispute.

So there you have it, 10 simple rules for smooth communal living.

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc


A little knowledge can go a long way

I see so many stressful and frustrating issues in body corporate records that result from simple misunderstandings it hurts my head. If I could do one thing to help it would be to teach everyone the basic rules, so they can avoid all these dramas.

With that in mind I've put together a short eBook that sets out the basics everyone owning in a body corporate really should know. It won't make those big issues go away, but it will give you a firm grounding from which to communicate.

It's completely free, so please, download it now!

Download Now


  1. These are great tips to follow. I didn’t think to get involved in the committee. I will be sure to keep these in mind. Thank you.

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