Body corporate disputes may involve a range of issues between individual unit owners, unit owners and a body corporate, or unit owners and / or a body corporate and neighbours of a community title (also known as strata) complex.
Disputes typically concern the calculation and payment of levies, lot entitlements, by-laws (including by-laws concerning smoking, pets and parking), services and facilities, property damage, maintenance and use of common property, overhanging trees and drainage problems, noise and other complaints or issues between unit owners.
The nature of body corporate and community living and the desirability to have amicable ongoing relationships between the parties, reiterates the importance of using conciliatory approaches to resolve disputes. This is reflected in the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (Qld) which provides mandatory dispute resolution provisions for body corporate disputes.
Ordinarily, a party to a body corporate dispute must first attempt to resolve the issue internally before proceeding elsewhere. Self-resolution attempts include actions such as communicating with the other party, notifying the body corporate committee in writing of an issue, or raising the matter for consideration at a general meeting.
Some bodies corporate have established their own internal dispute resolution processes which should be followed before proceeding further with a dispute. Such schemes may appoint a central contact person to receive and log complaints, a timeframe within which to respond, and the use of external mediators to assist in resolving the dispute. These processes can offer a quick, cost-effective way to resolve disputes and preserve relationships.
In Queensland, most body corporate disputes that are unable to be resolved between the parties must be referred for conciliation or adjudication with the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management (BCCM).
An application is lodged with the BCCM and the other party has an opportunity to respond through written submissions.
The BCCM has its own practice directions and guides setting out the rules and processes for matters referred for conciliation or adjudication which should be carefully followed.
Conciliation involves an appointed independent person (conciliator) with knowledge of body corporate law to assist the parties to resolve the dispute. Adjudication usually follows if the matter does not settle through conciliation.
In determining a dispute, the adjudicator, who either may be a specialist adjudicator or a BCCM adjudicator, has the power to:
- request additional information such as an expert report;
- interview parties involved in (or that may assist with determining) the dispute;
- inspect body corporate records and lots and common property in the community title scheme.
BCCM appointed adjudicators may make orders that are ‘just and equitable’. Such orders may include a declaration that a committee or general meeting or motion passed at a meeting is void, that a motion raised at a meeting has passed, or that a by-law is invalid. An adjudicator may also require a general meeting to be held to deal with certain matters or order a body corporate or unit owner to carry out maintenance.
Matters may subsequently be referred on appeal to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and, in limited circumstances, to a Court.
Our lawyers have vast experience across a range of body corporate matters and have assisted body corporates for large and small body corporate complexes, committees, lot owners, body corporate managers and developers.