Buying a unit in a body corporate

If you buy a flat, unit or apartment that has a body corporate, you automatically become a member of a body corporate.

This means you have bought the title to your flat or unit, as well as a share in the building and its surroundings, for example the garden and car park.

The surroundings you own is called common property. 

You will have to share the maintenance costs for the building and its surroundings with all of other owners.

Before you buy

You should check all of the following about the body corporate:

  • rules
  • fees
  • funds
  • management duties
  • meeting minutes
  • certificate of body corporate. 

You should check details about the unit, including:

  • construction and design of the building
  • noise, parking and security
  • how may properties are owned or rented
  • what area you own
  • extra fees.

What common property includes

What you own will be set out in a unit plan.

You will own your apartment or flat plus a share of the common property.

The amount of this share will set the amount of body corporate fees you will have to pay, and possibly your voting rights.

Common property includes other parts of the building and land such as any of the following:

  • stairways
  • passages
  • driveways
  • swimming pool areas
  • communal gardens
  • car park.

Body corporate responsibilities

The body corporate has these responsibilities below. 

Rules

You should read the body corporate rules before you agree to buy the property.

These include all of your rights and obligations, as well as the other owners and tenants.

These can include any of the following:

  • pet restrictions
  • noise restrictions
  • specific use and enjoyment of common areas eg gym or pool
  • cleaning
  • use of balconies - eg: hosing of elevated balconies or hanging of laundry over railings.

Fees

You should check fee amounts and dates for when you must pay. 

Body corporate fees include all of the following:

  • management
  • security
  • cleaning
  • repairs
  • maintenance
  • insurance of the building and common property.

Sinking fund

A sinking fund is an amount of money held by the body corporate that can be used to pay for any future costs to maintain common areas of the building.

You should check how much money is in the body corporate's sinking fund.

You may have to pay extra fees towards the sinking fund on top of your body corporate fees 

This could include painting, roof repairs, lift maintenance or air conditioning. 

Body corporate management

You should ask whether a body corporate manager has been appointed and services provided including all of the following:

  • the duties, functions and powers of the body corporate
  • what powers are delegated to the manager and the members of the committee
  • committee meeting dates
  • when the next annual general meeting is due to be held.

Meeting minutes

Meeting minutes will help you see how the body corporate is operating and give notice of any issues or future expenses.

You should get copies of the minutes of the last two or three annual general meetings, including financial statements and copies of any minutes of committee meetings and any maintenance program.

Body corporate certificate

You can get a body corporate certificate during the conveyancing process before you buy.

This certificate gives you information about the lot and the body corporate.

It will also show you whether there are any outstanding fees that the former owner has not paid.

It should also show plans for any future building works, debts of the body corporate and legal claims.​

Check condition and design

Check the building suits your needs if you have children and pets.

Poor construction or an old building design may also see you paying expensive maintenance costs.

You should get an engineer or architect report to show any minor or major faults with essential services that need maintenance.

Noise, parking and security

Poor design and construction can result in high levels of noise and lack of privacy.

Living close to neighbours can lead to disputes. 

Find out how many parking bays your unit or flat has, and if there are visitor car parks.

Check the access to the property and building and security generally, such as security doors, intercoms and night lighting.

Ask about the break-in and vandalism levels of the area.

Social dynamics

Identify how many units are in the complex, how many are owned by individuals or organisations and how many are owner-occupied or rented.

Other factors to consider are the age mix of owner-occupiers and tenants, the turnover of tenants and the general harmony among the owners.

Other fees

As well as your body corporate fees, you will be responsible for your household expenses such as all of the following:

  • local council rates
  • water
  • electricity
  • telephone charges
  • contents insurance.

You may have to pay more body corporate fees if the complex includes shared facilities such as a lift, swimming pool, gym, barbecue or play area.

Last updated: 27 June 2017