There are many misconceptions and outright myths when it comes to living in strata and being a member of a body corporate.
The following details just a few of the most common body corporate myths and why they are incorrect.
Myth 1: By-laws cannot be changed
By-laws are a set of rules for a strata scheme. They may regulate a variety of matters such as parking, noise, use of common property and the keeping of pets.
But by-laws are not set in stone.
Bodies corporate can create, alter or remove by-laws at a general meeting. To do this requires:
- For an ordinary by-law – a special resolution
- For an exclusive use by-law – a resolution without dissent
By-laws made by the body corporate cannot contravene existing legislation. For example, a body corporate cannot introduce a by-law stating that there is no need for an Annual General Meeting (AGM) as this is required by law. Furthermore, by-laws cannot discriminate between types of occupiers (such as families with children).
Myth 2: You are not allowed pets in an apartment
Whether you are allowed to have a pet live in your apartment is determined by your community’s by-laws and approval from the body corporate. If you are a tenant, you will also need permission from your landlord.
In Queensland, the banning of all pets, as well as banning dogs of a certain size or weight by bodies corporate has been ruled invalid. A body corporate committee is required to consider the circumstances of each case and be reasonable in the decision it takes.
Not all bodies corporate welcome pets with open arms. Sometimes other owners in the complex have concerns about the impact that pets may have on them and their lifestyle.
The primary issue for a body corporate considering a pet application is the likelihood of an adverse impact on common property or any person.
Decisions about suitability of animals for unit/apartment living should not be based on the animal’s size or weight, but on their activity levels, personality and training, as well as the owner’s demonstrated capacity to provide for the animals’ needs and not impinge on the well-being of others in the complex.
By-laws might have guidelines about pets to make life comfortable for all residents. Some of those conditions have included, but are not limited to:
- The animal must be adequately restrained on common property
- The animal must be kept within the boundaries of the lot
- The animal must not create unreasonable noise disturbance
- Any droppings from the animal within the lot or on common property must be cleaned up immediately
As a pet owner, you are accountable for your pet’s actions and noise. You should also take care to have your pets fully vaccinated and trained so that they don’t pose a threat to other residents in the strata property.
Myth 3: By-laws are more like guidelines than actual rules
There are some strata residents that mistakenly believe that by-laws are rules are not meant to be taken quite so literally. Whether that relates to behaviour of residents and guests or issues such as pets, smoking, parking and the use of common property.
By-laws are policies that define the rules within a strata scheme, and are vital for a harmonious community. More importantly they are legally enforceable rules.
If a person is in breach of a by-law that person/s may be issued with a contravention notice, ordering them to remedy the breach in a certain period of time.
If this still does not remedy the situation, the body corporate has further options through the Commissioner for Body Corporate Management, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or through the Magistrates Court.
Myth 4: The Body Corporate Manager is responsible for carrying out repairs and maintenance
A Body Corporate Manager is not directly responsible for carrying out repairs and maintenance, but, for an additional fee, will arrange for qualified tradesman to carry out the work.
A Body Corporate Manager will only do so with the authority and approval of the strata committee.
Myth 5: Levies are unnecessarily high
All owners in a strata scheme must pay contributions (levies) with the schedule and payment amount determined at the annual general meeting of the body corporate for that year (and any special contributions determined during the year).
Incoming money from levy payments are allocated into three different types of body corporate funds managed by the body corporate: administrative fund, sinking fund, and special levies.
- Administrative fund levies cover the day-to-day expenses and include costs such as insurance premiums, cleaning, gardening, electricity, plumbing, fire inspections.
- The sinking fund is for capital expenses (major works) such as repainting common property, renewing or replacing fixtures and fittings that are part of the common property such as repairs to balconies, or pathways.
- Special levies are raised by the body corporate when there is not enough money in the capital works fund to cover emergency, unexpected or planned upgrade expenses.
Simply put, the levies are the costs of running the body corporate based on estimated projections. If the estimate is off, levies should be adjusted for the next period.
Additionally, some believe that their levies are paid to the schemes body corporate manager. This is completely incorrect. While your body corporate manager is responsible for sending out levy notices, levy payments are put in funds that are controlled by the executive committee.
Myth 6: The Body Corporate Manager is in charge
There is often a mistaken belief that the Body Corporate Manager is in charge of the body corporate. Because they are the ones handling queries and requests it may seem this way, but this is a myth.
The collective lot owners run the body corporate. They decide major decisions at general meetings. One decision they make is to appoint a committee to handle day to day running of the body corporate.
The Body Corporate Manager is an entity engaged to undertake certain functions of the committee but do not make decisions themselves. Instead, they will refer correspondence and decision making to the committee who will instruct the body corporate manager to act on their behalf.
Their role is to advise and take minutes, and from there implement the decisions of the committee.
Think of your manager as a secretary or personal assistant who acts on behalf of the committee and under the committee’s direction.
Myth 7: The Chairperson is in charge of the Body Corporate
Even though they may have a fancy title, the Committee Chairman is NOT in charge of the body corporate.
The Body Corporate must elect a committee at each annual general meeting. The committee is made up of lot owners or people who act for them and will usually include a chairperson, secretary and treasurer (known as the executive positions).
The chairperson’s role is to chair all general meetings and committee meetings they attend. If the chairperson is not at a meeting, the voters who are there can choose another person to chair that meeting.
The chair leads preparation of meeting agendas, opens meetings, and works to keep the conversation focused, engaging, and balanced.
Although the chairperson is an important role, they do NOT have more authority than anyone else on the committee.
Myth 8: I own a lot in the complex but I’m not part of the Body Corporate
If you own a lot in a strata titled building you are automatically a member of the Body Corporate. This gives you voting rights when issues come up that require a vote.
While you can choose not involve yourself it is in your best interests to do so. Being an active member of your body corporate is an opportunity to influence how your complex is run and how levies are spent.
By getting involved, you will have a more direct influence over how your complex is maintained, which can impact the value of your property over time.