A Body Corporate (also known as ‘Owners Corporation’) is a legally required management body within a strata scheme. A Body Corporate looks after all common property and building structures within the strata scheme. If you own an apartment or unit (a ‘lot’) within a strata scheme, you automatically become part of the Body Corporate (or ‘Owners Corporation’).
Body Corporate meetings and strata fees
Body Corporates must have at least one meeting per year (the Annual General Meeting) to determine, among other things, the strata fees for the following year. Strata fees are paid by lot owners and go towards paying for the expenses associated with all the common property in the strata scheme. This includes common driveways, gardens, hallways, external walls and roofs.
Body Corporate by-laws and legislation
By-laws are rules that Body Corporates can create at meetings to regulate procedures and acceptable conduct within the strata scheme. Examples of by-laws include the rules around:
- lot owners having pets,
- acceptable uses of common property,
- repair procedures for common property, and
- acceptable conduct of residents and their visitors.
In addition to by-laws, there is legislation that regulates the conduct of strata scheme residents and Bodies Corporate. In NSW, there is the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996, which among other things, prohibits strata scheme residents from using their lot or common property in a way that interferes with the right of other residents to enjoy their lot and/or the common property. For example, residents can’t be excessively noisy.
Body Corporate insurance
The Body Corporate is required to have an insurance policy that covers all common property, building structures and internal fixtures, including sinks and showers. This insurance policy does not cover the contents of your lot, such as your furniture, curtains and carpet.
Property maintenance and bins
You are responsible for the maintenance of your own lot area. This includes your internal walls, floors and ceiling. It also includes any private courtyard or backyard area that is part of your lot. The Body Corporate generally owns your allocated bins. However, you are responsible for looking after them and keeping them in working order.
The Body Corporate is responsible for maintaining all common areas, including exterior walls, roofs, common driveways, hallways and courtyards. If you’d like to repair or change any aspect of the common area, you need to get approval from the Body Corporate first.
Many strata schemes appoint a licensed Managing Agent (also known as a Strata Manager). The Agent then becomes responsible for many of the duties ordinarily undertaken by the Body Corporate. The advantage of appointing an Agent is that they are professionals who are able to effectively manage strata schemes because of their experience in the field and knowledge of the relevant laws.
As a lot owner within a strata scheme, you have the right to vote at meetings, suggest by-laws, raise issues and generally participate in the running of the Body Corporate and strata scheme. Tenants are not members of the Body Corporate and cannot vote at meetings.
Whilst lot owners are not required to attend meetings, they are encouraged to participate as much as they can. The effectiveness of a Body Corporate depends on the commitment of its members to the strata community.
Questions, suggestions and Body Corporate dispute resolution
If you are a lot owner and would like to request a change to a by-law, raise a question, discuss an issue or make a suggestion, you can submit an item to be discussed at the next Body Corporate meeting.
If you have a dispute with a neighbour, you are encouraged to try to resolve it with them if possible. However, if the issue is serious or you are unable to resolve it with them, you can raise it with your Managing Agent or Body Corporate.
If the neighbour has breached a by-law, they may then be issued with a ‘Notice to Comply with the By-law’. Depending on the issue and the progress of the dispute resolution, you may also be offered a structured mediation with an independent mediator.
If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation or the disputed issue is excluded from mediation, then you can make an application to an Adjudicator or the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). The issues excluded from mediation are appointing a compulsory managing agent, compensation, allocation of unit entitlements and penalty disputes.
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