If you own property in a strata building, it means you are part of the owners corporation. Find out what to expect and what your responsibilities may be.
When you purchase a unit or apartment in a strata block, you become a member of the owners corporation, whether you live in the unit or not.
An owners corporation, also known as the ‘body corporate’, is a legal entity made up of all unit/apartment owners.
Like a mini local council, the owners corporation is responsible for making by-laws/rules to ensure common property is adequately looked after and the community can live in harmony (so long as these laws do not contravene existing legislation).
There are a number of other responsibilities included for the owners corporation, including:
- Insuring the property
- Administering the finances and common funds for the complex
- Regular, professionally conducted meetings
- Support with dispute resolution
- Replying to tenant and stakeholder correspondence
- Record maintenance, including keeping financial records and statements
- Making decisions about upgrades, repairs and maintenance
- Taking care of common areas including stairwells, pools, gardens, carparks and lawn areas
It can feel daunting to suddenly become responsible as part of an owners corporation when you purchase a unit or apartment, however, having an equal voice makes sense over relying on a few individuals to be responsible for maintaining the value and liveability of the homes and grounds.
Owners corporation member vs owners corporation committee member
As part of the owners corporation, you can choose your level of involvement.
Within the corporation, there is usually an owners corporation committee. This is made of a select number of individuals who are usually elected at an annual general meeting.
The committee will meet regularly (usually once per quarter or more) to discuss issues, go over budgets, allocate funds, review ongoing projects and plan improvements to the complex as required. A strata manager is generally present at these meetings and they may also bring someone to take minutes so committee members aren’t distracted by the task.
Details of the committee meeting are available to all members of the owners corporation so they can be kept up to date with expenses, requests and other matters which have been discussed.
If, when you purchase your apartment, you don’t wish to be involved in the owners corporation committee, this is fine. You may be busy with work or children, or you may have bought an investment property far from where you live.
However, you may feel you have skills or experience such as project management, accounting or construction which can benefit the committee. If this is the case and you’re keen to share your knowledge, put your hand up to become a member.
Responsibilities of an owners corporation member
If you’re not part of the owners corporation committee, you will be encouraged to at least attend the annual general meeting. At this event, committee members will be elected, major issues will be reviewed and you’ll have a chance to raise concerns such as noise control or problems around common areas. There may also be an opportunity to vote or fill out a survey relating to the complex and its management.
For investors who don’t live close by, it’s possible to nominate someone to attend on your behalf. This is likely to be the agent managing your property.
The other element of being part of an owners corporation is the fees. When you purchase, you should be notified about ongoing strata fees. These payments will cover maintenance, insurance and other costs such as pool-cleaning and building concierge. You may also be called on by the committee to pay special levies if extra funds are needed for repairs and upgrades, as decided by the committee. Once agreed on, these fees are not optional so if you’re concerned about unnecessary strata expenses it is important to attend the meetings and have your voice heard.
A happy owners corporation is one which has buy-in from its members and a focus on positive outcomes for all. With the help of a good strata management company, the corporation, committee and the tenants will all benefit from living in a community which is well-maintained and conflict-free.