Community living in Queensland refers to residents of apartments and townhouses.
If you have only lived in houses, you need to be aware of the significant differences of living in an apartment or a townhouse – which can include numerous restrictions on freedoms you would simply take for granted in a house.
There are also additional responsibilities which require attention and management, when compared with house owners.
As Gold Coast Property Lawyers, we help our clients with the purchase and financing of residential apartments and townhouses, including some asset protection benefits where possible.
1. Community Living Basics
What is a community titles scheme?
An apartment or townhouse complex is known as a “community titles scheme”. Community titles schemes (CTS) own assets which they control & manage, they have rules which govern what owners and tenants can and cannot do, they have a committee to manage the scheme & make decisions on behalf of the owners, they employ people and engage contractors to do work on its behalf, and they can sue and be sued.
The registered plan for the CTS details the size and dimensions of the apartments, and the remaining common property areas.
Common property & exclusive use areas
The common property of a CTS are the areas other than the individual apartments. This area comprises driveways, carparks, lobbies, lifts, stairwells, gardens, pools and other communal facilities.
Whilst these areas are generally intended for the benefit of all owners, some courtyard areas and car parks are allocated to some owners for their exclusive use.
The rules that govern the exclusive use areas set out how they can be created, and who is responsible for maintaining the areas. The exclusive use areas are contained in Schedule E of the Community Management Statement.
What is a Body Corporate
The members of the body corporate are all the owners of lots, who are entitled to vote at body corporate meetings. Lot owners pay body corporate levies, which cover the body corporate expenses such as cleaning, maintenance, administration, electricity, insurance and other longer term expenses such as painting and refurbishment.
The body corporate is a separate legal entity, and when lot owners disagree with their decisions or actions, lot owners have a say in the way the body corporate is run by voting at meetings. The committee is responsible for the day to day running of the body corporate, but certain issues are reserved for voting by all owners.
Where are the rules
The rules of the body corporate are primarily contained in three places.
- Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997
- Regulation Modules
The by-laws are contained in Schedule C to the Community Management Statement for the complex.
2. Who Does What & Who Pays For It?
Each region of Australia has its own laws for body corporate / strata management and property ownership and management.
As different terminology is used for various tasks and responsibilities across the country, a quick overview of some of the key roles in Queensland will assist apartment owners and buyers.
Management of your apartment
An owner who doesn’t live in the apartment may appoint a Property Manager to rent out the apartment. The property manager may be a licensed real estate agent or a licensed building manager.
The manager will provide the owner with a Management Agreement which sets out the terms and conditions, including their fees and charges, the responsibilities delegated to the Manager, and the responsibilities that remain with the owner.
Management of the body corporate
Apart from the smaller apartment complexes, the Body Corporate usually appoints a Body Corporate Management company to look after the administration. The Body Corporate Manager does not make decisions, but carries out its duties as directed by the committee.
Most owners’ dealings with the body corporate manager are limited to receiving levy notices and body corporate meeting notices.
The Annual General Meeting contains a proposed budget for the upcoming year for the administration fund and the sinking fund. Owners should review the budget and familiarise themselves with the expenses of the building.
Management of the building
Many of the larger apartment complexes have a Building Manager.
The Building Manager has 2 roles:
- Caretaker – The Manager does the ‘hands-on’ work for the body corporate in maintaining an office, keeping the complex clean and tidy and well maintained, enforcing by-laws, effecting repairs and keeping the body corporate informed about all aspects of the complex
- Letting Agent – The Manager also offers a property management service within the complex for those owners who wish to use the service.
Where a building does not have a building manager, the body corporate manager and/or the body corporate committee are directly involved with the day to day management of the building.
Costs of ownership
- Local Authority rates
- Water access charges & consumption charges
- Body Corporate levies & insurance
- Contents insurance policy or Landlord’s insurance policy
- Property Management Fees & Costs
- Repairs & maintenance
- Land Tax (where not your home & threshold value reached)