February 23, 2021

Buying A Body Corporate Property

If you’re buying a unit or townhouse in Toowoomba, you’re generally going to be buying into a community titles scheme with a body corporate.

If you’re not familiar with community titles schemes and bodies corporate, they can seem intimidating. So here are some of the basics about community titles schemes and bodies corporate and what you need to know before buying into one.

What is a community titles scheme?

A community titles scheme is a building or complex that includes individually owned lots or units as well as common property. Residential examples of community titles schemes include unit blocks, duplexes and townhouse complexes.

Community titles schemes allow people to privately own an area of land or part of a building as well as share common property areas with other owners. Examples of common property areas include shared driveways, letterbox areas, communal lifts and stairwells, communal pools, gyms and tennis courts.

What is a body corporate?

The body corporate of a community titles scheme is responsible for making decisions on matters of shared responsibility. All the owners in the scheme are part of the body corporate, and every new owner automatically becomes a member.

The body corporate makes decisions about such things as the maintenance of the common property, the levies which owners must pay to fund its operation, public risk and building insurances and establishing and enforcing by-laws for the scheme.

A committee, consisting of a chairperson, secretary and treasurer and any ordinary members, is elected once a year to handle the day-to-day running of the scheme.

What you need to know about owning a lot in a community titles scheme

Owning a lot or unit in a community titles scheme brings different obligations than owning a freestanding house. Not only do you have rights and responsibilities for your own property, but you also share responsibility for the common property with the other owners in your scheme. Therefore, it’s important to understand what the common property is and what the costs for maintenance and general upkeep will be.

Every community titles scheme has a survey plan which defines the boundaries between the lots and the common property. Body corporates are usually registered under either a building format plan or a standard format plan. The different types of plans determine whether or not an area is a common property and who is responsible for maintenance.

If you buy a body corporate property as an investment, to rent out, your rights and responsibilities are the same as if you were an owner/occupier.

What to look for before you buy

As well as the usual conveyancing searches undertaken when buying any property, you’ll want to find out some details about the body corporate of your chosen community titles scheme.

  • Read the body corporate by-laws so you know what you can and can’t do within the scheme, or what you need to ask permission for once you become an owner. This can be done by obtaining a copy of the scheme’s community management statement (CMS) from the Titles Registry (1300 255 750).
  • Obtain an information certificate from the scheme’s body corporate secretary. This will include information about the current levies (so you can get an idea of your likely ongoing financial contributions to the body corporate), any unpaid body corporate fees pertaining to the lot (which, as the new owner, you would be liable for), and any contracts the body corporate is a party to (for example, gardening or caretaking contracts).
  • Confirm that there are no outstanding adjudicator’s orders or defects in either the common property or the lot. You can conduct a search for adjudicator’s orders via the BCCM Office.
  • Find out whether the lot you want to buy is registered under a building format plan or a standard format plan, and that you understand any maintenance responsibilities that you will be taking on.

Body Corporates can seem overwhelming, but in reality, when managed well, they are a very efficient way to run a building with shared and communal areas.

If you want to find out more about buying a body corporate property, contact our expert team today.

Article by Jacqui Walker

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