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Body corporate/owner’s corporation – what does it have to do with me?

A body corporate (also known as an "owner’s corporation") is created by a piece of legislation called the Unit Titles Act 2001 wherever there is a piece of land that is subdivided to make flats, units or apartments. Owner’s corporations are made up of the proprietors of the dwellings, and are primarily responsible for the control, management, and maintenance of the common areas.

Owner's Corporation rules

If you live in owners corporation managed premises, you are bound to comply with the owners corporation rules. This is because of clause 66 of the Standard Residential Tenancy Terms (schedule 1 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997), which says:

Tenant of unit to observe articles
If the premises are a unit under the Unit Titles Act 2001, the tenant must comply with the articles of the owners corporation, and with any notice served in accordance with the articles, to the extent that they are not inconsistent with the standard residential tenancy terms in this Agreement).

Your lessor is obliged to give you a copy of the rules before you sign an agreement with him or her (this obligation is in clause 13 of the Standard Tenancy Terms). If this didn’t happen, then the lessor has breached the agreement, but you still have to comply with the rules.

Whether you can get a copy of the rules may in fact not matter all that much, because the Unit Titles Regulation 2001 has a set of default rules in Schedule 1, and it is unlikely that the owner’s corporation will have amended those default rules in any significant way. We have reproduced the rules that are likely to impact on you at the bottom of this page*. Be aware that if you breach one of these rules, you may be breaching your tenancy agreement.

Keep in mind though, that as a tenant you don't have a legal relationship with the body corporate, so the body corporate can't take action against you directly in relation to your tenancy. So, generally if you breach a body corporate rule, it is still up to your lessor or the real estate agent to decide whether or not to take any action.  However there are some circumstances in which a body corporate can take action against you and seek orders that do not interfere with your tenancy.  If there are claims from the body corporate about a breach it is a good idea to get specific advice in relation to your particular circumstance.

Repairs

The other way in which the body corporate might show up on your radar is because of clause 58 of the Standard Residential Tenancy Terms, which says:

Repairs in unit titles premises
If the premises are a unit under the Unit Titles Act 2001, and the tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises reasonably requires repairs to the common property, the lessor shall take all steps necessary to require the owner's corporation to make the repairs as quickly as possible (clause 58 of the Standard Lease.)

The effect of this clause is that the lessor or real estate agent should deal with the body corporate when repairs are needed to common property. You shouldn't have to have any contact with the body corporate at all, although repairs may happen faster if you chase up the body corporate as well. If the lessor or their agent fails to take 'all steps necessary ...' then that is a breach of the agreement by them, and you can seek the usual remedies.  If the body corporate refuses to act, then taking 'all steps necessary' may require the landlord or real estate agent to apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for orders that the body corporate undertake repairs.

Pets

Rule 9 of the default owners corporation rules used to say that tenants could not keep animals unless the executive committee gave written permission. Rule 9 was removed from 17 December 2009, so no longer applies, even if your tenancy started before 17 December 2009. Now, section 51A of the Unit Titles Act 2001 deals with pets.

51A     Animals—owners corporation's consent

(1)   A unit owner may keep an animal, or allow an animal to be kept, within the unit or the common property only with the consent of the owners corporation.

(2)   The owners corporation may give consent under this section with or without conditions.

(3)   However, the owners corporation’s consent must not be unreasonably withheld.

       Note     An owner or occupier of a unit may apply to the ACAT to resolve a dispute with the owners corporation about keeping an animal, or allowing an animal to be kept (see s 123).

(4)   In this section:

animal includes—

(a)   an amphibian; and

(b)   a bird; and

(c)   a fish; and

(d)   a mammal (other than a human being); and

(e)   a reptile.

The ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety published a factsheet on changes to the Unit Titles ACT 2001, which can be found here.

The fact sheet explains that the owners corporation "must act reasonably when placing any limit on the keeping of an animal. For example, it might be reasonable to refuse the keeping of a horse in an inner city unit, but less so in a rural block. Similarly it might be unreasonable to refuse the keeping of a budgerigar in a unit, but reasonable to refuse to permit the keeping of a flock of racing pigeons or a bee hive."

The fact sheet also states that "An owners corporation cannot amend its articles to preclude any right of any unit owner to keep an animal."

This means that the owners corporation cannot have a blanket rule against pets, but must give or withhold consent on a case-by-case basis.  The owners corporation must have a good reason not to give consent.

If the owners corporation gives you consent to keep a pet, then you will not be in breach of clause 66 of the Standard Residential Tenancy Terms by keeping a pet.  However, there may be other clauses which prevent you from keeping pets.  If your tenancy agreement or application form deals with pets, you should also read our Frequently Asked Question "Pets - are they allowed?"

A Final Comment

While tenants are obliged to observe the rules of the body corporate where there is one, this does not give the body corporate a licence to bully or intimidate tenants (unfortunately, this is not uncommon). You are only bound to observe the rules as written, and not the decisions of body corporate meetings that might happen from time to time. And in any case, the body corporate is not a party to your tenancy agreement, and therefore has no capacity to challenge your tenancy.

Unit Titles Regulation 2001 – Schedule 1: Default Articles

3 Repairs and maintenance

(1) A unit owner must ensure that the unit is in a state of good repair.

(2) A unit owner must carry out any work in relation to the unit, and do anything else in relation to the unit, that is required by any territory law.

4 Erections and alterations

(1) A unit owner may erect or alter any structure in or on the unit or the common property only—

    (a) in accordance with the express permission of the owners corporation by unopposed   

        resolution; and

    (b) in accordance with the requirements of any applicable territory law (for example, a law

         requiring development approval to be obtained for the erection or alteration).

(2) Permission may be given subject to conditions stated in the resolution.

5 Use of common property

A unit owner must not use the common property, or permit it to be used, to interfere unreasonably with the use and enjoyment of the common property by an owner, occupier or user of another unit.

6 Hazardous use of unit

A unit owner must not use the unit, or permit it to be used, so as to cause a hazard to an owner, occupier or user of another unit.

7 Use of unit—nuisance or annoyance

(1) A unit owner must not use the unit, or permit it to be used, in a way that causes a nuisance or substantial annoyance to an owner, occupier or user of another unit.

(2) This article does not apply to a use of a unit if the executive committee has given an owner, occupier or user of the unit written permission for that use.

(3) Permission may be given subject to stated conditions.

(4) Permission may be withdrawn by special resolution of the owners corporation.

8 Noise

(1) A unit owner must not make, or permit to be made, such a noise within the unit as might (in the circumstances) be reasonably likely to cause substantial annoyance to an owner, occupier or user of another unit.

(2) This article does not apply to the making of a noise if the executive committee has given the person responsible for making the noise written permission to do so.

(3) Permission may be given subject to stated conditions.

(4) Permission may be withdrawn by special resolution of the owners corporation.

10 Illegal use of unit

A unit owner must not use the unit, or permit it to be used, to contravene a law in force in the ACT.

11 What may an executive committee representative do?

(1) An executive committee representative may do any of the following in relation to a unit at all reasonable times:

(a) if the committee has reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is a breach of the Unit Titles Act 2001 or the articles in relation to a unit—inspect the unit to investigate the breach;

(b) carry out any maintenance required under the Act or these articles;

(c) do anything else the owners corporation is required to do under the Act or these articles.

(2) An executive committee representative may enter a unit and remain in the unit for as long as is necessary to do something mentioned in subarticle (1).

(3) An executive committee representative is not authorised to do anything in relation to a unit mentioned in subarticle (1) unless—

(a) the executive committee or the representative has given the owner, occupier or user of the unit reasonable notice of his or her intention to do the thing; or

(b) in an emergency, it is essential that it be done without notice.

 

Reviewed 3/12/13

Disclaimer:

This website provides information about the law designed to help users understand their legal rights and obligations. However legal information is not the same as legal advice (the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances). Although we make all efforts to ensure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult the Tenants Advice Service for advice specific to your circumstances. You are also free to consult an independent solicitor for a second opinion.

Please note that this website is NOT intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice or opinions and the transmission of this information is NOT intended to create a solicitor-client relationship between the Tenants’ Union A.C.T. and members of the public.  Tenants’ Union A.C.T. makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currency, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.

Please note that the information on this site is only relevant to renters in the A.C.T. Please  also note when the page was last updated, as the law may have changed.


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