Frequently Asked Questions

Is an Owners Corporation the same thing as a Body Corporate?

Yes, in Victoria Body Corporates were renamed to Owners Corporations approximately 8 years ago.

What is a strata scheme?

A strata scheme is a system of multiple ownership of a building or collection of buildings.  Each owner owns a portion (called a ‘lot’), which is usually an apartment or townhouse, but every owner shares ownership of any common property (e.g. foyers, driveways, gardens) if it is indicated on the title.

The multiple ownerships are combined in a legal entity called the owners corporation — or body corporate, strata company or community association, depending on your state or territory of residence. Although the term for an owners corporation varies across Australia, the role of an owners corporation is essentially the same in every state and territory.

The owners corporation is responsible for the good management of the strata scheme. All owners can vote on management decisions at an Annual General Meeting (AGM), but decisions are usually made on behalf of the owners corporation by a committee of owners who are elected at the AGM.

Some owners corporations elect to manage the day-to-day financial, maintenance, and other administrative duties themselves, but given these are complex, most choose to use the services of a professional strata manager.

Does every high-rise/multi-dwelling building have a strata scheme?

Generally speaking, where there is multiple ownership within a single structure or plan, there will be a strata scheme and owners corporation. That said, there are still a smattering of company titles – the main multi-owner legal form before strata – where residents and investors hold shares in a company that owns the whole building. Strata is usually preferred because company titles require the approval of the whole company to buy or sell an individual holding.

If I buy into a strata scheme building do I automatically become part of the owners corporation?

Yes. You cannot buy into a strata scheme without buying into the owners corporation. The two elements of your property rights are separate but not separable.

What exactly do I own in a strata scheme?

Generally speaking all you own in a unit is the air space and its contents, including internal walls and fixtures. Everything else – outside walls and the roof, hallways, stairs, foyers, lifts, gardens, carparks etc. etc. — is collectively owned by all of the owners in equal shares as tenants in common.

How much say do I have in a strata scheme?

Your interest and voting rights (at general meetings of the owners corporation), which are known as lot entitlements, will be spelt out either in the original strata plan for the building or, in some states, by a formula based on market value. These should be spelt out in your purchase documentation and you should take the time to understand them.

What costs are involved in owning a strata apartment and how are the costs set? Does everybody pay the same amount?

Strata owners are levied by the owners corporation to cover many of the expenses faced by all home owners, such as council charges, insurance, cleaning, general maintenance and utilities such as power and water. It should also include an amount to be saved for long-term expenses as the building ages, such as painting, tiling, plumbing, carpet, plant and equipment, etc for the Sinking Fund. The amount is usually calculated in proportion to an owners lot entitlement as it relates to the total number of lot entitlements in the strata scheme.

If I buy into a strata scheme building what are my obligations, apart from costs? What are my rights?

You must pay your levies and comply with the scheme’s by-laws, which can cover everything from renovations to pets. You have the right to contribute to your community’s decision making, to stand for a position on your committee and generally be heard. As an owner, you also have a share of an unlimited liability for anything that goes wrong, which is why strata insurance is compulsory in every state and territory.

Will I need to attend regular meetings? What happens if I do not live in the property, or live close by, or live in another state?

It’s in everyone’s interests to be actively involved in your strata scheme. If you can’t attend a general meeting of the owners corporation in person, you can appoint a proxy to vote in your place.

If there is something I want addressed, can I call for a meeting, regardless of whether the strata scheme is due for one?

First talk to your owners corporation manager or committee members. The scheme’s governing legislation will include specific provisions on calling meetings but it’s not something to be done lightly as it can inconvenience your neighbours. If it’s not urgent, wait for the next general meeting.

In what sort of instances will I need to seek permission or approval from the owners corporation?

This depends upon your relevant state or territory legislation. Generally speaking, you will need the approval of the owners corporation when you intend to make significant structural alterations to your lot, or any alterations to any part of the common property. You will also need the approval of the owners corporation if you plan on engaging activity that contravenes your scheme’s by-laws — for example, the keeping of a pet may be prohibited. You should consult your by-laws to determine whether approval is necessary.

Does majority rule or does each and every member of the owners corporation need to agree to any proposals?

It depends on the type of decision and the legislation in your state or territory – routine matters are usually delegated to committees and/or a professional strata manager. Levies and annual budgets are usually approved by general meetings and spending outside those budgets may also require a general meeting. Major decisions such as changing by-laws can require a three-quarters majority of owners, depending on state/territory legislation.

What happens if I have a disagreement with the owners corporation? What can I do?

If you are unhappy with the way the rules are being applied you can talk to a committee member, raise it at a general meeting or contact for advice the government authority responsible for regulating strata issues in your state or territory. A national list with links is here.

How do strata regulations and laws differ across the states?

All states and territories have enacted essentially the same types of laws but with a wide variety of terminology, definitions and detailed rules. See Legislation.

What is an owners corporation certificate and how important is it to organise one before committing to a purchase?

An owners corporation certificate provides the details of the collective aspects of your prospective purchase. This should include information on levies, by-laws and lot entitlements, details of funds held for short and long term maintenance and minutes of meetings which might point to future costs. It is vital that you familiarise yourself with these before committing to any purchase to avoid nasty surprises later on.

Questions About Your Committee & Contacting Management

What is an owners committee?

The administration of an owners corporation may be undertaken on behalf of all the lot owners by a committee. This consists of a group of owners elected at each Annual General Meeting who represent all the lot owners of the strata scheme, and is charged with making decisions on all matters which confront the owners corporation. These include the control, maintenance and repair of the common property. The committee also has the responsibility of enforcing the bylaws, and has the ability to make new ones. Depending on the state or territory, the committee is called an executive committee, managing committee, committee of management, the committee, or council. Read more about committees.

Must a strata scheme have a committee?

Yes, except in South Australia and Tasmania where it is optional, and in Victoria where it is optional if there are 12 lots or less.

How do I join the owners committee?

By attending the Annual General Meeting where you can be voted in. All owners corporation committees must hold an annual meeting which is open to all lot owners.

Can I choose not to be part of the committee?

Positions on the committee are obtained through election at the Annual Meeting of lot owners. You don’t have to nominate yourself for a position. You also don’t have to attend the meeting. However, given you are a part owner, it is in your best interests to participate as much as possible.

I live in a strata apartment/townhouse. How do find out who manages it so I can contact them?

A strata scheme may be either managed by a professional strata manager or self managed.

  • If managed by an owners corporation manager — they implement the decisions of the owners corporation, which consists of all the lot owners. The decisions are usually made on their behalf by a committee (a group of elected owners, or their proxies). However, some small strata schemes may not have a committee. In such cases, decisions are typically made by all owners, with one or more elected owners performing the duties of Chairperson, Treasurer and Secretary.
  • If self-managed — this is usually through a committee of elected owners, working on behalf of the owners corporation. However, as previously mentioned, some small strata schemes may not have a committee, with the management decisions typically made by all owners, with one or more elected owners performing the administrative duties.

If the strata scheme is managed by a owners corporation manager, their name, their company and contact details will be on the minutes of the committee meetings. If you are a lot owner you must be sent these, and a copy of the minutes will be also attached to Contract of Sale of your lot. If you have any issues with your strata scheme the owners corporation manager should be your first point of contact.

If the strata scheme is self-managed, the names and contact details of the committee titleholders (Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer) will be on the minutes. If there is no committee, and no meeting minutes, you will need to ask the other owners in your strata scheme who the go-to person is.

If you are renting and have an issue concerning the management of the block, you should contact the office of the real estate agent from whom you are renting, or your landlord if renting directly. They may contact the management on your behalf.

How do I find out who the members of the management committee are, and who the Chairperson and Treasurer are?

Their names will be in the committee meeting minutes.

How do I contact the owners corporation directly?

All owners corporations are required to keep a letterbox and/or a sign displaying their current contact details.

How do I obtain the phone number/email address/postal address of members of the committee?

Due to privacy laws you only have the legal right to obtain the postal address of lot owners, which you can request from the strata manager, or if the scheme is self-managed, the committee.

Records of the committee (which include the postal addresses of lot owners) must be made available for inspection by lot owners. If the strata scheme is managed by a strata manager, the committee (not the lot owner) may be charged a supervisory fee by the strata manager for arranging this. That’s because they need to supervise the viewing to ensure privacy laws aren’t breached in terms of allowing you to view the email addresses and phone numbers of other lot owners without their permission.

Nevertheless, in smaller self-managed schemes, it’s not uncommon for owners to agree to share their phone numbers and/or email addresses, but this should not be expected.

I don’t know what’s going on with the management of our block. How do I get more information?

Read the minutes of the committee meetings. You can also ask questions of the owners corporation manager if there is one.

We would be delighted to discuss with you how Iconic Strata Management can make a difference for your Owners Corporation.

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