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Body corporate rules

What are they? 

Every owners’ corporation, strata corporation or body corporate operates under a set of rules – some defined by state government laws, others by the owners themselves through ‘by-laws’. The laws cover governance, decision-making, finances, levies and fees, owners’ responsibilities, insurance, obligations around maintenance, capital works, fittings and fixtures, use of the property, pets and short-term rentals.

Note: different states have their own terms for strata ownership bodies, for example owners’ corporations, strata corporations and body corporates. For the purpose of this article we use all three terms interchangeably.

Who sets the rules?

Each state/territory has laws about managing a body corporate:

Victoria: Owners Corporations Act 2006

Qld: Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997

NSW: Strata Schemes Management Act 2015

SA: Strata Titles Act 1988

WA: Strata Titles Act 1985 (under review)

Tas: Strata Titles Act 1998

NT: Unit Titles Act 1975

ACT: Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011

Typically, they cover insurance requirements, administrative management of the body corporate, care and maintenance of the property, rights of individual owners, and the legal status of the organisation. The laws also cover important budgeting needs like sinking funds (also known as capital works or maintenance funds).

The state based laws or “Acts” are often complimented by ‘Regulations’ have greater details of how the Act is to be applied.

In addition, owners can make their own by-laws relating to the property.

How do owners make their own rules?

Members of the owners’ corporation / body corporate can (and often do) make their own specific by-laws to cover the strata complex. They do this by voting on resolutions at Annual or Extraordinary General meetings of the body corporate.

Some states provide ‘model laws’ that can be easily adopted or adapted by owners’ corporations, provided those changes don’t try to get around statutory obligations or limit owners’ rights under the law.

What by-laws can an owners’ corporation make?

As long as they are reasonable and don’t contradict mandatory state laws, owners’ corporations can make whatever by-laws they feel are necessary. Most commonly these include:

  • Keeping of pets
  • Use of balconies
  • Maintaining the appearance of exterior areas
  • Noise and disturbances
  • Smoking
  • Use of shared facilities and common areas
  • Adding fixtures and fittings, such as air conditioning units and awnings by individual lot owners
  • Short-term rentals such as Airbnb
  • Drying clothes and laundry
  • Waste and rubbish disposal
  • Car parking and storage
  • Meetings, proxies and appointment of committees and office bearers
  • Investment of the body corporate funds
  • Use of body corporate funds
  • Resolving disputes

Final word…

Before buying an apartment or unit in a strata complex, always ask to see the so that you know what restrictions or obligations you might face as an owner.

Body corporate/ owners’ corporation rules exist to make life more enjoyable for all owners and residents. These can however become out of date. So if you’re an owner, make sure your body corporate/ owners’ corporation regularly reviews and discusses the rules.

Body corporate insurance