5 Simple Tips For Stress Free Unit Ownership

stress free unit ownership

I’m a strata searcher. Most people look at me blankly when I say that so now days I tell them it’s a fancy phrase that means I investigate body corporates. “Oh!” they reply and then proceed to tell me horror stories about their body corporate.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind. In fact, keep them coming. I like to hear how people have fared in the world of unit ownership and the processes and events that created problems for them.

The more I hear these stories though the more I realise that the most common issue is really more about misunderstandings and communication rather than actual issues with the strata scheme.

Lot owners don’t know what to expect and they don’t understand the process and consequently when situations arise they turn into these dramatic, stressful situations that could have been avoided by following a few simple rules.

Surprise! It’s a body corporate

If you buy one unit in a group, even if that’s only half a duplex, that means the land has been strata titled and consequently there is a body corporate.

A body corporate is an entity that holds ownership of common property for the combined lot owners. It’s also a vehicle to manage that joint asset.

There are a number of rules and regulations that come along with body corporates, all designed to protect your interests and those of your fellow owners.

Strata legislation can be incredibly complex and sometimes seems bigger than Ben-Hur, but, with a little bit of knowledge, it can actually be an easy and convenient lifestyle.

Follow these five simple tips for stress free unit ownership.

1. Take care of your lot

One of the core differences between houses and units is that almost everything that gets done around a unit block or complex is done by a professional. It’s also done (or should be anyway) under a programmed maintenance schedule.

The end result is cleaner, tidier grounds and well maintained facilities.

But that relates to the common property only. Your lot is your responsibility.

And the expectation is that each lot owner will keep their lot as well presented and repaired as the common property.

Part of the overall value of the scheme comes from its uniform appearance. In most schemes anything that interrupts that uniformity will be frowned upon. Consequently there will be restrictions on how the outside of your lot may look. To avoid conflict stay within those guidelines.

Part of any strata scheme is shared infrastructure. That means if you have a repair issue in your lot then that issue may quickly spill over into another lot or the common property. You will still be responsible for fixing the issue in your lot, and if it causes damage in other areas, you’ll be responsible for fixing that too.

Address issues quickly.

Which doesn’t mean you should pay for something that is not your responsibility. If you’re not sure of the source of a problem discuss the matter with your body corporate.

2. Pay your levies

There’s a common myth that a body corporate is like a company or business.

From the tallest high-rise to the smallest duplex a body corporate is just a group of people who’ve invested in property together.

It’s true a body corporate may appear very professional but that is simply because the combined lot owners hired professionals to make it look that way.

The costs of those professionals, along with all the other costs and a little for future works, are then shared among the lot owners and recovered as body corporate levies.

That’s it. There’s no profit, no marketing, no expensive business lunches. A levy notice is your share of how much it costs to run the body corporate.

And when lot owners don’t pay … well, it’s like going to dinner with a group of friends. Everyone eats and enjoys the meal, but when it comes time to pay one person goes, “huh, I don’t have money, cover me will you?”

Pay your levies, on time every time. Your neighbours will thank you for it, and the body corporate is actually relying on those funds being paid.

3. Obey the bylaws

Body corporates are essentially about people: people’s investments, people’s homes and people’s livelihoods. With all these groups of people conflict is going to arise sooner or later.

Harmony (or something approaching it) is achieved by setting and enforcing a set of rules and regulations to govern behaviours. Legislation accomplishes some of that and each schemes individual bylaws achieve the rest.

Bylaws will cover all sorts of things like keeping pets, using shared facilities, parking and so on. All the issues that relate to living in a shared space.

The bylaws will also set out what the body corporate or its representative may or may not do, such as entering a lot in the case of an emergency, or charging interest on overdue levies.

A bylaw breach is one of the most stressful things that can happen to a lot owner or resident. It can feel like your whole community has suddenly turned against you and be difficult to get past. Of course for others it’s a call to war which is equally stressful.

Communal living works best if everyone is respectful and mindful of the bylaws.

And if you don’t like a bylaw, maybe you should campaign to change it.

4. Keep informed5 tips for stress free unit ownership

The business of the body corporate, or rather the combined lot owners, is going to forge ahead whether you take any notice of what’s happening or not.

That’s both one of the coolest things about communal investing and one of the most frustrating. Cool because if life runs away from you, no worries, you have co-investors to pick up the slack and frustrating because they may not, and, if they do, you may not like what they do, particularly if it involves paying more.

Any action taken in the name of the body corporate is transparent to all the lot owners. You will be helpfully sent minutes of all the meetings which clearly show the decisions made.

The rest is up to you though. You must take in interest in what’s being done.

Read the minutes, and if you’re concerned, discuss the matters with co-owners and Committee.

If you don’t understand something, and matters are complex so it is likely, then it’s up to you to educate yourself on what’s going on. There are plenty of resources like this website on the internet.

You certainly don’t have to accept everything that happens within the scheme without a murmur.

It is pointless to complain about things after the fact though.

5. Vote at general meetings

Majority rules in body corporates.

Some things are more important than others, like changing the bylaws or altering common property, so they require more of a majority. But the basic every year stuff is passed by a simple majority.

And that is not a majority of lot owners. It is the majority of the lot owners who vote. It is quite possible for a scheme with 100 lots to be ruled by ten people, even one person, if that one lot owner is the only one who bothers to vote.

Apathy is rampant in body corporates and it does everyone a disservice.

Communal investing is about sharing the load, sharing the vision to create an investment that grows in value and a supportive community.

The decision making needs to be as communal as everything else and that’s the way legislation is set up.

Every lot owner has the right to submit motions for a general meeting.

Every lot owner has the right to vote on those motions. Contribute to your scheme by making your views heard by the simple process of casting a vote.

Conclusion

When you buy a unit you’re investing in more than just a lot. Part of your investment is the common property of the building and that comes with rights and responsibilities.

By following the first three tips in this article you’ll fulfil your duties as a good citizen of the body corporate.

By following the last two you’ll become a valuable member of the collective team and have a real say in steering the destiny of your investment.

Or at least enjoy stress free unit ownership.

THE BASICS OF BODY CORPORATES

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

Comments

  1. Barbara Latham says:

    NOISE! It is utterly wrong and totally unnecessary for other residents to permit and encourage their screaming, yelling, howling children to ‘play’ under the windows of my small unit when they have their own front yard to shriek in (which we hear day & night), when we have Brighton’s great beach with wide paths, grassed areas and playgrounds just around the corner.
    WHEN will people get the message that the Common property is NOT a playground for their kids – to ride bicycles, skateboards, draw in chalk on our paths, hit balls against our walls and fight & tantrum when ever they feel like it.

    • Oh Barbara, how inconsiderate. That sounds really frustrating for you. Communal living can be difficult at the best of times without adding kids to the mix. They often don’t understand that the areas are shared and not their exclusive domain. Plus, as you say, loud!

    • Justitia says:

      Barbara,
      I feel your pain. In a secular world we appear to have forgotten that democracy and the rule of law were originally underpinned by Christian values and morals. Having been knocked off their pedestal, these values have been replaced by the rights of the individual. Virtue signalling their broad application to any and every situation in human interactions is now de rigueur. Unfortunately in this environment, the rights of the children to play in a space where their parents either allow or encourage them to annoy others (but not them) trumps your right to the enjoyment of a pleasant and peaceful environment that you understood you had paid good money for. My experience is that you will most likely never win in an endeavour to curtail this annoying (and potentially dangerous) behaviour. Most body corporate by-laws allow for: no unreasonable inconvenience to or interference with use or enjoyment of lots or common property by other persons lawfully upon the complex. Unfortunately, your enjoyment ultimately depends on the parents of these children acknowledging and enforcing your rights. Another missing element in a rights based world is an understanding that human rights come with duty, obligations, and responsibilities

  2. I own a unit which has its own carport and small yard, who is responsible for the maintenance of this. The buildings title only shows the actual units and not yard space or carport. One of my neighbours wants the bodycorp to pay to maintain their tree but i wouldnt have thought that would come under common area.

    • Hi Janet
      Thanks for your comment.
      There’s a couple of things that you need to check. One is whether the scheme is a building format plan or standard format plan.

      With a building format plan the yard will likely be exclusive use which the lot owner will be responsible for maintaining but body corporate for repair. Whether the tree would be covered is something you’d need to check with the commissioners office or your body corporate manager.

      If the building is a standard format plan then the yard will be part of the lot and lot owner responsibility.

  3. Julie Lloyd says:

    I have a lovely quiet Unit on the ground floor, with cement walls and ceilings – thus the quiet. Only thing is that a nice man across the hall from me has a dog which, though it doesn’t bother me, goes mad barking at anyone he doesn’t know. I don’t want to complain about this as it doesn’t affect me personally, just the tradespeople who come and go. What would your advice be?

    • Hi Julie

      It really depends on what outcome you’re seeking. Perhaps a friendly conversation with the neighbour might be the place to start. Something along the lines of “hey did you know …” and see how things develop from there.

  4. Hi Lisa
    love your site very useful,
    After 8 months of no reply from my body corp committee,over my foundations collapsing, I finally, after a lot of hard work, won a conciliation order against them. I am lucky after working as a site manager on large building projects, to have had a lot of experience with various legislation, so was able to put my case, it is not impossible to win so people should be aware you can do this for yourself.
    Total cost of works will in the order of $30,000

    Regards Alan

    • Congratulations Alan

      What a hassle, but I’m so glad you got things won. Now lets hope they get on and do the works as ordered.

      I agree you can win. Remember in most cases committees are laypeople, not strata professionals. If you educate yourself (with sites like mine) you stand a good shot of succeeding with disputes.

      Congrats again and well done you!

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