As the landscape of Brisbane changes and more people move to the city, the good old quarter-acre block with a three-bedroom house is becoming a rarity in the inner city. Instead, more and more Brisbane strata title communities are popping up where resources, assets and facilities are shared.
If you’re like many Brisbanites and thinking of buying a townhouse, apartment or unit you should definitely be comfortable with all of the add-ons owning a Brisbane strata titled property brings.
Consideration 1: What is strata property ?
A strata property is a building, or collection of buildings, where individuals each own a portion (a ‘lot’).
In addition to the lots, there is also common property that all owners share (e.g. driveways, foyers, lifts, gardens).
The owners’ are all responsible for the upkeep of this shared common property. Common property is managed by the owners corporation (also called body corporate, or strata company, or community association).
When buying a strata property, it’s important to do your research – not just about the property itself, but also about the strata scheme you’ll be part of.
Consideration 2: What will you own?
To find out exactly what you’ll own as part of your lot you need to check the strata scheme. This will outline what is included in your lot and what is common property. For example, if you were to buy an apartment your lot may include the floor coverings and the airspace within the apartment, but the external walls, stairwell and lift will be part of the common property.
Each owner is responsible for the maintenance of their lot while common property is maintained by the owners corporation.
Consideration 3: Who’s in charge of a Brisbane strata scheme?
The owners corporation is in charge of a strata scheme. Within the owners corporation is a committee. The committee is made up of elected representatives from lot owners of the strata scheme. This group makes decisions on matters affecting the owners corporation. There are rules around what the committee can and can’t do. These rules are outlined on the Queensland Government’s Body Corporate Website.
Consideration 4: Can you renovate?
This depends. Renovations are usually defined as either cosmetic, minor or major in a Brisbane strata scheme. Cosmetic renovations usually require no more than a notification be sent to the committee. Minor renovations can usually be carried out after a vote of approval from the committee while major renovations (usually involving structural changes) require a special resolution at a general meeting.
Consideration 5: Can you be forced to pay for things you don’t want?
Potentially. When you buy into a strata you become part of a group of owners. Sometimes this group may not all agree. For example, if the committee decides to hire a gardener to maintain the common property gardens, then all owners will share this cost. You may not support this but you will still have to pay.
When buying a Brisbane strata property it is essential to review the financial records so that you are aware of all of the costs associated with the strata scheme. It is also wise to ask for any upcoming or planned capital works so that you’re aware of any large costs that may be headed your way in the future.
Consideration 6: What ongoing costs will you need to pay?
If you buy into a strata scheme you will be legally required to pay levies. Every lot owner pays levies, although not always in equal amounts. Each lot owners’ levy will be determined by their lot entitlement (e.g. the size of your lot).
The levy and when it falls due is decided at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the strata committee.
The levy is made up of an administrative fund charge and a sinking fund charge. The administrative fund looks after everyday expenses such as garden maintenance charges or common water and electricity bills. The sinking fund looks after capital expenses such as painting the external walls of the building(s) or other major expenses.
When considering buying a strata property you should ask to see the financial records and minutes of the last few owners corporation meetings. Also check the quality and finishes of the overall property and what features it includes as you’ll be chipping in to keep these maintained.
Consideration 7: Who attends the annual general meeting?
Any of the lot owners can attend, even if they aren’t part of the committee. The AGM is a good opportunity to get current information on what’s happened at your property as well as to get to know the other lot owners. Here is some information from the Queensland Government on how AGMs should be called and run in a Brisbane strata scheme.
Consideration 8: What are by-laws?
By-laws are a set of rules that all residents within the strata scheme must follow. By-laws will usually cover things like parking, noise, smoke drift and the keeping of pets. Each strata scheme will have their own rules so it’s important to read over these before buying into the strata. The Queensland Government sets out exactly how a by-law within a Brisbane strata scheme can be made, enforced and overcome on its website here.
Consideration 9: What about insurance?
The strata building(s) is insured separately by the owners corporation. Each lot owner should insure their contents under a separate contents insurance policy.
Consideration 10: What about newly built or off-the-plan properties?
Newly built strata properties will likely have very few strata records. You will therefore need to ask lots of questions to gain an understanding of things like the body corporate by-laws, the budget, the balance of the sinking and administrative fund, and whether a body corporate manager will be appointed to assist with the setup and registration of the strata scheme.
Off-the-plan properties are unlikely to have a strata scheme setup or registered when you sign the contract so ensure you do as much research on the developer, builder, previous projects and the quality of materials and finishes as you can.
Be aware that if you buy into a small scheme or if you’re one of the first owners to settle, you may automatically be appointed as a committee member.
When buying a Brisbane strata property it is wise to consider the above, ask lots of questions and do some research. Always ensure that you –
Carefully review the body corporate financial records (including the budget, and the balance of the administrative and sinking funds). This will give you insight into the cost history and spend appetite of the committee and let you know what costs to expect if you buy into the strata scheme.
Review the body corporate AGM minutes and any other recent meeting minutes to get an idea of what’s happening within the strata.
Request and review information on any planned or tentative upcoming capital works to the strata scheme.
Check the strata insurance policy so you know what it covers.
Be aware that if you’re buying newly build property or off-the-plan that there may not be a registered strata yet.
Interesting Facts on Strata Titles:
Strata title is an Australian innovation in property law that’s been copied around the world! It was first introduced in 1961 in NSW.
Strata living is the fastest growing form of property ownership in Australia.
An estimated three million people live in strata titled homes in Australia.
The most common disputes within a strata community are –
Parking – 61%
Breaking of by-laws – 59%
Noise – 50%
Rubbish – 41%
Repairs and maintenance of common property – 39%
Renovations within an individual owner’s lot – 38%