The Problem With Body Corporate Maintenance

body corporate maintenanceOne of the most attractive things about living in a body corporate is the ability to have the body corporate maintenance undertaken by someone who isn’t you.

Of course there’s always a trade-off and in this case it’s that you pay quite handsomely for the privilege.

And that’s the fundamental problem with body corporate maintenance; as a lot owner you can find yourself in a position where you’re paying and paying and paying but necessary repairs are not happening.

But before you start grumbling about your Committee there are some things you should consider.

Problems with body corporate maintenance arise because of two simple assumptions that regularly turn out to be untrue:

  1. that the building was fit for purpose in the first place, and
  2. that everyone involved knows what they’re doing

The Building Was Fit For Purpose

All buildings start out as ideas that eventually end up as a plan. Usually they’re complex, well thought out ideas but it still remains a challenge for a builder to take those plans and convert them into reality.

It doesn’t always happen successfully.

New building defects are common and rife. Resolving these issues is a long and involved process but in the majority of cases they do eventually get sorted.

Some body corporates though end up with significant design flaws that quite simply don’t work and likely never will.

That can be things like hallways or stairs that go nowhere, decorative or design features that are already obsolete before the building is complete or the ever popular water leaks. Honestly, I’m astounded with how many new buildings are not water tight!

Resolving these issues is not maintenance.

Maintenance is caretaking and a significant number of body corporates are finding themselves in a position where they have to first finish a building to acceptable standard before they can get on with the business of taking care of it.

Design and construction defects are not the result of anything management has done.

Everyone Knows What They’re Doing

One of the things I love about body corporates is here are these amazing buildings which operate within a heavily legislated environment and the decision makers, the Committees, are predominantly laypeople.

They may have some knowledge but it’s unlikely they have a grounding in everything a body corporate might need.

Body corporate Committees are therefore reliant on hired professionals to help them both conduct the business of the body corporate and if necessary resolve issues.

Unfortunately that can mean an already long process (Committees are volunteers who meet irregularly) is further hampered by the necessity to actually find someone who knows what they’re doing before the symptoms can even be assessed and potential solutions considered.

And just finding the professional help a scheme needs can sometimes seem bigger than Ben Hur.

Larger building’s fare better here as they have deeper pockets and more complex (ie profitable) issues attracting more professionals. Smaller schemes sometimes have difficulty dredging up two quotes for comparison let alone actually getting the work done.

Consistent Maintenance is Vital

There’s been a lot of talk recently of South East Queensland rotting away from concrete cancer.

There are a lot of body corporates that have, or previously had, concrete cancer. How that works out will depend on whether or not action is taken to rectify the issues.

Concrete cancer can be dealt with relatively easily, though the repairs can be costly and time consuming.

Failure to take action though, either to repair identified instances or to paint and protect the concrete’s porous surface, and the cancer will spread eventually weakening the structure of the building if it gets bad enough.

Poor body corporate management and apathy amongst lot owners are common, as is the consistent drive to keep levies low often at the expense of undertaking works. It’s common to see issues discussed and shelved as “too expensive” often without addressing again until the problem has reached worrisome proportions.

It all leads to this frustrating situation where lot owners are continually paying levies for works that never seem to eventuate only to find themselves having to dip into their pockets again when repairs become urgent.

One of the things I dislike about the media coverage of building defect issues is the focus on finding someone to blame. The body corporate always seems to bear the majority of the finger pointing.

What this article is attempting to convey is it’s not that simple.

Regular maintenance is important, and in a situation where all advice and services are bought and paid for, it’s also expensive. That is the reality of running a building by Committee.

Body corporate maintenance is more complex that maintaining other forms of property largely due to the complexity of the buildings and the processes of management.

Luckily those same processes, with collection of sinking fund levies, actually immunise unit owners to some extent from the inevitable shocks associated with any property ownership.



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. Veronica Baker says:

    We are owners of a unit in mascot which needs a complete retailing of lounge, hallway and kitchen. We have to move out for up to eight weeks at our own expense. How is this legal? Thank you. Veronica.

    • Hi Veronica

      I confess I’m confused by this question. If you’re referring to works on your own lot then you will always be responsible.

      If the damage has been caused by a failure of common property, or even the lot itself, you will still be responsible however you might be eligible to make an insurance claim.

      That’s like being pranged on the highway. It’s not nice and definitely unfair and the other person may be responsible for reimbursing your costs but you will still be inconvenienced.

  2. We are new owners of a unit in a very old block of 6 on the Gold Coast. We are the only owners living in the complex (the rest being tenants) and most of the owners haven’t seen the complex for years. There has been no significant maintenance done and as a result we have just had to fork out for a very advanced concrete dancer to be fixed.
    We would like to get a building maintenance schedule quoted to take to the next body corporate meeting in November so we can put it forward as an essential item as we have received the levy schedule and budget for the next 12 months (somehow done before the annual meeting), and the maintenance items listed have figures that seemed to have been plucked out of thin air and are in no way going to even remotely come close to fever if the long overdue work that is required. We figure if we can get the body corp to agree to getting a building maintenance schedule done, we may be able to get the budget (and subsequent levies) amended to reflect the actual costs that will be incurred.
    Does this sound like a reasonable way to tackle the apathy that has been taking place and if so, what sort of company should I be looking forward to give us a quote on doing the schedule?

    • Hi Sally

      First let me commend you on wanting to take action to get some stuff done. In a lot of these smaller buildings that is the hardest hurdle.

      I’m going to assume the next meeting you’re talking of is the AGM. If you’ve received a Notice of Meeting its too late to amend the budget for this financial year. And yes the budgets are estimates done in advance, usually by the body corporate manager with input from the Committee. You can read about budgets here.

      You can amend the budget at the AGM by 10%, either up or down. When the motion to pass Administrative and Sinking levies comes up you could raise the issue then and see how your fellow lot owners feel about things.

      I think the best way forward is to attend the meeting and nominate for committee. Once you’re on the committee you can find out what, if anything has been done, what needs doing and what are the priorities. You’ll also then be instrumental in maybe getting some works done or at least obtaining quotes and then setting the budget for next year. You are one of the lot owners so if you become a committee member you’ve taken a step to reverse the apathy.

      As to what sort of contractor you need: That will be dependant on what sort of works you need doing and when. Companies like Programmed Maintenance Services focus predominantly on repairing and painting the exterior of a scheme. There will be others who can be hired to do internal stuff. As I say it depends on what you need.

      • I wouldn’t recommend Programned Maibtenance for any works, or painting projects. Our building has engaged them and the standard of works in all respects were defective or very poor, unprofessional and certainly not reflective of the investment made in engaging them. Certainly do not engage them for any waterproofing jobs – ours are all defective, and we are going to have to redo everything.

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