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Body Corporate Levies

Frequently Asked Questions About Levies & the Impact of COVID-19

By | Articles, Body Corporate

The Queensland Government recently reported that “Bodies Corporate and their committees have a statutory obligation to act reasonably”, which includes balancing the statutory obligations of a Body Corporate with the rights of owners and occupiers (and the broader community). As the uncertainty surrounding COD019’s impact on the nation, and the world, continues OMB Solicitors address three frequently asked questions about current levy recovery procedures.

Whilst Bodies Corporate and residents must consider the impact of COVID19 on their buildings, including implementing appropriate steps to limit transmission of the virus, Committee’s need to continue making decisions (i.e. by way of VOCM) to ensure the obligations of the Body Corporate are met.

  1. How might a Committee deal with a failure of a lot owner to pay levies considering the impact of COVID19?

Given the social and economic impacts of COVID19, Committees need to draw an appropriate balance between compassion for individual circumstances and maintaining a scheme’s healthy financial status. In this regard, it is likely that Committees may be faced with increased hardship and payment plan requests from lot owners. It is important, during these times, for Committees to consider each matter on a case by case basis and (if necessary) ask lot owners to provide evidence of financial hardship (i.e. redundancy letters or a Statement of Financial position) prior to making a decision.

Whilst there is no obligation on a Committee to waive any portion of the debt, circumstances may arise which warrant a waiver of interest or a payment plan that would see the debt satisfied within a reasonable period of time.

In this regard, any payment plan requests need to be considered having regard to the lot owner’s payment history, the future needs of the scheme, how many lots are in the scheme and how the payment plan request may impact upon the day to day running of the scheme i.e. paying for insurance, caretakers or other essential expenses.

If an owner has been in arrears for a significant period of time and prior to March 2020, then the Committee ought to consider a separate strategy of the management of that debt (in consultation with its legal advisors).

  1. How is OMB Solicitors dealing with levy recovery processes during the COVID19 Pandemic?

OMB Solicitors have implemented several strategies in dealing with levies moving forward. These strategies include:

a compulsory telephone call from our experienced staff to all owners referred to levy recovery to ensure a specific examination of the individual circumstances, which will result in an appropriate management of the debt;

providing additional advice to the Committee prior to the institution of legal proceedings (if such proceedings are necessary), including advice on hardship and payment plan requests;

increasing the timeframes for debt management and exploring the financial options with each individual lot owner; and

discussing with the Committee how to manage and meet its financial obligations during the COVID19 Pandemic.

  1. Should the Committee refer a lot owner to levy recovery given the COVID19 Pandemic?

The short answer is yes.

As advised by the Queensland Government, it was confirmed that a Body Corporate must maintain common property in good condition (including the cleanliness of such common property). Accordingly, to ensure the Body Corporate can meet its financial obligation of insurance, repair, maintenance and cleanliness – contributions must continue to be paid by owners.

Whilst there is legislative change with respect to enforcement of Judgments (i.e. bankruptcy and Statutory Demands), unfortunately there are no amendments to the regulations governing how a Body Corporate recovers a levy from a lot owner (at this stage). Accordingly, Committees are doing their best to manage the impact upon the financial circumstances of their scheme by operating “business as usual” with the overriding considering of addressing the effect of the virus on lot owner’s individual circumstances.

A message from OMB Solicitors

During these times of uncertainty, OMB have implemented an action plan to ensure all levy recovery matters are actioned in a timely and appropriate fashion. We confirm that we are currently running business as usual and are taking steps to continue to minimise any disruption.

Over the last 2 years, OMB has invested heavily in technology which allows us to seamlessly work remotely if required and have been operating electronic Body Corporate files for approximately 12 months.

As this pandemic is ever evolving, our action plan and our levy recovery processes are fluid and will continue to adjust as we monitor the situation via the Australian Government Department of Health and World Health Organisation.

At OMB Solicitors we are all doing our part to minimise the risk of infection including practicing social distancing. In conjunction with this, we ask that all meetings are conducted via phone call or video conferencing. Should an onsite meeting be required, we further request that you advise if you have previously been in contact with the Coronavirus or have travelled within the last 14 days prior to the meeting.

 

Short Term Letting

Short Term Letting – Body Corporate

By | Articles, Body Corporate

The advent of short-term stay platforms such as Airbnb and Stayz have been a boon both for those looking for extra accommodation options in popular locations and those looking to make some extra income from letting out a spare room or granny flat in their residence, or their entire property.

But this evolution of the internet’s ‘gig’ economy has also brought with it some pertinent legal challenges. For example, what are the implications of short-term letting when you own a property within a body corporate?

Bodies corporate are perhaps naturally predisposed to resisting the trend to short-term letting, worried about the overall effect of itinerant people passing through the property, a concern perhaps enhanced by some media horror stories of properties short-term let by people who use them for raucous, all-night parties.

A couple of court decisions in recent years have helped clarify the issue of whether a body corporate can, through its by-laws, ban owners from letting part of their property through a platform such as Airbnb, which we’ll look briefly at in this article.

The case of Hilton Park CTS 27490 v Robertson

In this 2017 Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) case, the position of owners within bodies corporate was clarified when the Tribunal ruled that unit owners were legally entitled to offer their units for short-term rentals. QCAT stated that any attempt made by the body corporate to restrict owners from using their property in this way through a by-law or by other means was invalid and was not enforceable.

The decision relied on s 180(3) of Queensland’s Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (“BCCMA Act”), which essentially states that by-laws cannot restrict the type of residential use of the lot if the lot may lawfully be used for residential purposes. In addition to the above, as the term ‘residential’ has not been clarified or defined, it is to be broadly interpreted and so permits any residential use of the lot.

The decision in this case remains the law for properties which fall under the BCCMA Act.

More recently in 2019, the general view of banning short term letting was challenged by the Fairway Island GTP v Redman and Murray decision, where the body corporate successfully banned short-term letting through the use of a by-law.

The case of Fairway Island GTP v Redman and Murray

In this decision handed down in the Queensland Magistrates Court, a Hope Island resort on the Gold Coast successfully relied on one of its by-laws to ban short-term letting through platforms such as Airbnb by its lot owners.

The key difference with the decision in the Hilton Park case of 2017 is that the resort in question in this case remained governed by earlier legislation, the Building Units and Group Titles Act 1980 (Qld) (“BUGTA”), rather than the BCCMA.

Significantly, BUGTA does not place the same statutory restrictions on by-laws as the BCCMA, the latter ensuring that a by-law cannot be oppressive or unreasonable having regard to the interests of all owners or occupiers of lots and the use of the common property.

The implications

The vast majority of Queensland’s 50,000-plus strata schemes are governed by the BCCMA and so the decision in Hilton Park remains the more applicable law. But the decision in Fairway Park has emboldened managers of strata schemes to urge the state government to reconsider the ability of bodies corporate to restrict short-term letting by unit owners.

The Strata Community Association (Qld), for example, which represents more than 1.2 million Queenslanders who live in apartments, units, townhouses and other strata title property, welcomed the Fairway Park decision for restoring the power of the body corporate to make a by-law that “protects community interests”.

Additionally, some legal commentary has suggested that future applications by bodies corporate regarding short-term letting under the BCCMA may rely on the Magistrate’s interpretation of the term ‘residential’ under BUGTA in the Fairway Park decision.

For the majority of owners in Queensland, though, bodies corporate cannot prohibit the letting of your property through platforms such as Airbnb and Stayz through by-laws.

If you are unsure of the status of your property under the current law, and are interested in either undertaking, or preventing, short-term letting within the property, contact OMB Solicitors today. We are experienced, expert legal professionals on all matters relating to body corporate and strata management. Call our body corporate team today on (07) 5555 0000.

Defamation in Strata

Defamation in Strata. What You Need to Know

By | Articles, Body Corporate

Anyone who has had dealings with strata management and bodies corporate will know that in worst-case scenarios, they can become minefields of petty politicking and administrative overkill. Often, relations between managers and owners/tenants can become so acrimonious as to lead to legal action between the parties, as a number of high-profile court cases demonstrate.

The focus of this article is on the legal action of defamation, where either tenants/owners or strata managers have sued for statements they believe damage their personal or professional reputation.

It’s helpful to begin with a quick look at what constitutes defamation and what the law does to protect those who believe they’ve been defamed. Defamation is designed to protect people from false or damaging statements being made about them that may cause harm to their personal or professional reputation. A successful action for defamation can provide compensation for financial and other losses resulting from a defamatory publication of any kind.

What constitutes defamatory material? Emails, articles, blogs, novels, poems, photos, songs, cartoons, drawings, paintings, online reviews, social media posts and more can be defamatory. Material that is defamatory can also be broadcast or spoken, i.e. on a TV or radio show, or in a public presentation.

Case example 1

In Walden v Danieletto, a Queensland case decided in 2018, Mr Walden, a lot owner, owed overdue levies to the body corporate. He paid this online the day before a general meeting of the body corporate but because the amount he paid did not exactly match the amount owing, the system operated by the body corporate manager – Mr Danieletto – did not pick up the payment.

As a result, the body corporate manager declared at the general meeting that Mr Walden was “unfinancial”, a finding also entered into the minutes.

Mr Walden took exception to this declaration on four grounds, saying it imputed that he was a delinquent payer; could not afford to pay his body corporate levies; had financial difficulties; and was insolvent.

Mr Walden commenced defamation proceedings against Mr Danieletto claiming his reputation had been damaged to the amount of $100,000. The action failed in the Magistrates Court, the judge finding that Mr Walden had not been defamed and that, even if he had been, the matter was trivial and the defence of qualified privilege (that is, Mr Danieletto’s acts were committed in the performance of a legal or moral duty, were properly exercised and free from malice) applied. The magistrate found there had not been malice on the part of the body corporate manager, he’d just been doing his job.

“Do people hate or ridicule one another about overdue bills?” posited the magistrate in explaining why Mr Walden had not been defamed. “Do these cause people’s estimations of one another to be lowered where neither the amount, the period they are late, or the reason are known? Clearly not. Ordinary people accept that other ordinary people are neither infallible or perfect.”

Mr Walden appealed the decision and again lost, with the District Court judge upholding the original decision and again finding that:

  • Reputational harm could not have occurred because the matter was so trivial.
  • The actions of the body corporate manager were reasonable in giving members of the body corporate information about which they had an interest in receiving.
  • The owner had commenced numerous proceedings against the body corporate and if other owners were poorly disposed towards him, it was more likely to be because of this than anything the body corporate manager did.

Case example 2

In the 2019 NSW case of Murray v Raynor, apartment block tenant Ms Murray won an appeal against a NSW District Court decision finding that she had defamed My Raynor, chair of the block’s strata committee, in an email she sent to fellow tenants in response to Mr Raynor’s emails to her insisting that she lock her mailbox.

Mr Raynor was awarded $120,000 in defamation damages, including an amount for aggravated damages, after the District Court judge found Ms Murray had no defence to Mr Raynor’s claim that her email implied he was a “small-minded busybody”.

However, this matter went on appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal where the original decision was set aside on the basis that a defence of qualified privilege was available to Ms Murray. The court also found the award of aggravated damages to Mr Raynor was “manifestly excessive” for an email that was addressed to 16 other people. The decision has also cast doubt on the statutory cap on damages for non-economic loss in defamation cases where aggravated damages are awarded.

In conclusion

As is clear from the cases cited here, the bar is quite high in order to prove you have suffered reputational damage in the context of strata matters.

Understanding the most common defences to defamation can help you understand whether commencing an action against someone you believe has published or said something defamatory about you is a good place to start. Legal professionals experienced in this area of the law can help explain these defences, which may include that:

  • the publication was an honest opinion, rather than statement of fact;
  • the publication was of public concern or substantially true;
  • the publication was obligatory for a legal, social or moral reason;
  • you are unlikely to have sustained any real harm to your reputation;
  • the person you claim defamed you did not know or ought not to have known that the published material was defamatory;
  • the publication was made in a privileged context (parliament, a court, a tribunal, etc).

OMB Solicitors has specific experience in acting for both clients who have been defamed and also defending clients that have been accused of defamation. We have a good understanding of the alternative dispute resolution requirements contained in Queensland’s Defamation Act, as well as how to progress a matter through the court system if the matter cannot be resolved through mediation.

If you consider that you have been defamed or you find yourself in a situation where someone is alleging that you have defamed them, then OMB Solicitors can help. Contact us today on (07) 5555 0000.

Juliette Nairn Gold Coast Lawyers

What the Draft Body Corporate Regulation Means for Bodies Corporate in Queensland

By | Body Corporate, Videos

After nearly six years of consultation, the first of several draft regulations have finally been prepared and the last round of community involvement has commenced. In this video, OMB Solicitors, Partner Juliette Nairn discusses key features of the draft regulations.

A summary of the draft regulations can be accessed here.

Contact our Gold Coast Lawyers team for more information here Body Corporate Enquiries.

Tips Before Renovating Your Unit

Five Top Tips You Need to Know Before Renovating Your Unit or Townhouse

By | Articles, Body Corporate

Living in a Body Corporate is unlike owning your own freehold land. As a member of a Body Corporate you are required to follow the rules and regulations applying to your Scheme. Consequently, any maintenance or improvements you wish to make to your unit or townhouse ought to be well thought out and planned to keep the Body Corporate, Committee, owners and occupiers happy – after all it is ‘community living’.

To assist you with dealing with your Body Corporate, we recommend that you implement the following five quick tips in your next project:

  1. Obtaining Body Corporate approval

Be proactive! In almost all cases, you will require Body Corporate approval before ripping out your kitchen or bathroom. Approvals can be sought from the Committee or at a General Meeting depending on the extent of the renovation. If the total renovation cost is under $3,000 and the renovation will not detract from the appearance of the building or will result in a breach of your duties as an owner or occupier (i.e. cause nuisance), then approval can be granted by your Committee.

In the event your unit renovation will exceed $3,000, you will need to submit a motion at the next general meeting where all owners can decide by ordinary resolution to approve the works. It is best to get this step completed early as your general meeting only comes around once a year.

  1. Prepare a Scope of Works

Speak with your Contractors and prepare a summary of the works which are going to be undertaken. Provide the Scope of Works together with your request for Body Corporate approval.

This will save you time when seeking Body Corporate approval i.e. it will avoid the “to-ing and fro-ing” and questions from the Committee.

  1. Check your By-Laws

We like to say “the By-Laws is your Bible” – don’t allow it to collect dust! The By-Laws may identify conditions required to be met in order to undertake the renovation. You can obtain a copy of your By-Laws from your Body Corporate Manager.

It is likely that some of the conditions in which the Committee impose on you to grant approval, will already be contained within the By-Laws (i.e. where Contractors can park, whether padding is required for the elevators etc).

  1. Engage Appropriate Contractors

It is important that you engage the appropriate licensed Contractors to ensure that the works comply with current building standards. It is likely that the renovation will not be approved in circumstances where you are recommending that the works are carried out by a lay person or the classic ‘handy man’.

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

It is always good practice to keep the Committee or on-site manager informed throughout your project. This is, of course, unless you want a battle on your hands.

It is also prudent to explain to the Contractors the requirements/conditions of the By-Laws in completing renovations at the scheme.

Contact Gold Coast Lawyers for more information.

Elisha Hodgson Gold Coast Lawyers

Registered Plans in a Body Corporate & Maintenance

By | Body Corporate, Videos
body corporate video

The Difference Between the Two Types of Registered Plans in a Body Corporate and how the obligations of maintenance differ between them.

In this video, Body Corporate Solicitor, Elisha Hodgson discusses the differences between a Standard Format Plan and a Building Format Plan in a Body Corporate and how the obligations of maintenance differ between these two types of registered plans.

Contact our Gold Coast Lawyers team for more information here Body Corporate Enquiries.

gold coast lawyers

What You Need to Know About the New Cladding Laws in Queensland

By | Articles, Body Corporate

In 2018 this resulted in the Building and Other Legislation (Cladding) Amendment Regulation 2018 (Qld) coming into effect on 1 October 2018. The legislation and it’s operation is a data collection strategy which will recognise and evaluate the risks involved with cladding products on privately owned buildings in the state of Queensland.

There are a number of obligations under the legislation in which building owners (i.e. Bodies Corporate) need to be aware. These obligations and timeframes are outlined below.

Stages and obligations

Stage 1: Buildings must be registered if they are located in the ‘compliance zone’. A building is considered to be in the compliance zone if:

  • It is any of classes 2 to 9 (this includes residential and commercial buildings, excluding houses); and
  • between the period from 1 January 1994 but prior to 1 October 2018, a building development approval was issued to build the building or alter the cladding;
  • is of Type A or B construction (three storey buildings or taller).

A checklist can be found through the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) website and will help to determine whether the building is one of those with non-conforming cladding. A time limit of 29 March 2019 was set for building owners to complete this checklist. If after registration it is identified that the building has a rendered surface finish or combustible cladding or you are unsure of the building materials, you will be directed to complete Stage 2.

Stage 2: Before 29 May 2019, a statement will be required from a building industry professional as to whether the cladding on the building is non-conforming. If you know for a fact that the building has non-conforming cladding, you can simply notify the QBCC directly and by-pass Stage 2.

Stage 3: Before 27 August 2019, buildings which are found to have combustible cladding, building owners must engage a qualified fire engineer to undertake a fire risk assessment to determine the overall fire safety of the building and whether rectification works are needed. The QBCC requires the name of the specific fire engineer by the above date and by 3 May 2021, the QBCC must have received the final report. If you fail to follow these rules, the consequences include a total range of 50 and 165 penalty units, amounting to around $6,527.50 and $21,540.75 in fines.

Obligation to disclose

If a building has non-conforming cladding, it does not necessarily have to be removed if other fire safety mechanisms adequately cover the fire safety requirement. However, the risk that it could still be considered a defect is an issue. A building with non-conforming cladding must be disclosed to interested buyers of the property as a defect they should be aware of. This should be done via providing a copy of the status of compliance with the process outlined above to every owner and tenant of the building, as well as be put on view in a visible area of the building. In the instance that non-conforming cladding is not disclosed, the situation might result in litigation for non-disclosure against all those involved with the selling of the building, including the sellers themselves, the sales agents and the lawyers involved with preparing the contracts for sale.

If an owner of building with non-conforming cladding sells the building prior to completing the above steps, it is required that before the settlement, the current owner provides copies of all relevant documents to the buyer, as well as a notice containing information about the extent to which the seller has complied with the obligations required. The seller must also provide a copy of the notice given to the buyer to the QBCC. From then on, the new owner will take on the responsibility to conform with the remaining regulations.

If you have any questions in relation to the obligations of the Body Caporate or the building owner to comply with this legislation, please do not hesitate to contact our Gold Coast lawyers.  

body corporate question at Gold Coast Lawyers

Common Body Corporate Questions Answered

By | Body Corporate, Podcasts

In this podcast, OMB Solicitors Partner, Juliette Nairn answers some commonly asked questions by bodies corporate.

Dan: The first question we have here is, in the event that an owner is requiring a copy of the body corporate roll, does the body corporate have to release all the information or just their name and address, or is there a privacy issue that might apply in this circumstance?

Juliette: Dan that is a great question. It is a question, which we often get, whether it’s from a lot owner, committee members or a body corporate manager. When I’m a lot owner and I write in and put my information on the body corporate roll or sometimes it’s called, The Strata Roll, all of that information is capable of being disclosed to anyone who pays the application fee to get that information. So if I’m a lot owner or a potential purchaser, the privacy rules don’t apply with respect to that information.

Juliette: So if I have my full name, my personal home address, a PO Box address, an email address or any other information like a mobile phone number, then all of that information must be disclosed as part of the body corporate roll. There’s actually quite a number of adjudicator’s decisions from the Commissioner’s Office which deal with exactly that point because people don’t want their mobile numbers being disclosed.

Juliette: It’s important at an early stage, if you’re a lot owner who doesn’t want that information to be disclosed, then you just put the minimal amount of information on so it’s included on the Strata Roll in that way.

Dan:  Tremendous. Okay. Next question, which at sort of first blush might seem fairly remedial but I’m assuming also a commonly asked question and that is, can a body corporate charge GST on any fees payable to them?

Juliette: You would think that, that is actually quite an easy or straightforward question but the answer can be quite complicated depending on the size of your body corporate as well. The starting point is, there are some fees that are actually contained in the regulation. So for example, like we were talking about the body corporate roll before, if I’m a lot owner and I would like a copy of the body corporate roll, my only obligation and all that the body corporate can charge me is the photocopying fee for that body corporate roll because I’ve asked for a copy of that document.

Juliette: If I’m in a small Strata scheme that only has six lots, then it may not fall within that component of having a GST and that GST service fee charged to it. The majority of the body corporate fees actually don’t have a GST component but if you are in a very large body corporate such as Q1, then you might find that there may be GST component payable and it also depends sometimes on whether the lots an investment property and how the lot is structured.

Juliette: So the question can actually become quite complicated … well the answer can actually become quite complicated when we talk about GST and normally we refer those types of questions to our accountants depending on the individual lot owner but the general answer is, most body corporate fees do not have a GST component.

Dan: Now the next question which I’m assuming is relatively common and that is, how should body’s corporate respond to tenants who contact them about breaches of bylaws and maintenance issues?

Juliette: Dan that’s a really interesting question as well because particularly from a committee member or a body corporate manager’s point of view, there was always a view held that unless you’re an actual lot owner within the body corporate, you’re not entitled to receive information about the body corporate. That view has been around for a long, long time but it’s actually an incorrect view.

Juliette: As a tenant, I’m considered an occupier within a Strata scheme within a body corporate, and as an occupier all the bylaws apply to me and all the rules and regulations apply to me as well. So if I would like information from a body corporate, then I have a right as a tenant being an occupier to call a committee member or go through the normal communication channels to obtain that information.

Dan:  Okay the next question is, the body corporate committee wants to call an emergency general meeting, now can it conduct what’s called the EGM by a postal vote?

Juliette:  In most circumstances we only have on,e general meeting of a body corporate and it’s called, Our Annual General Meeting, and that’s the meeting where the majority of the lot owners go to because they’re going to vote on the next financial year of the body corporate. What amount of money do we need to raise for a budget, are we going to paint the building, what levies are going to paid during the year, all those normal body corporate questions that occur during a financial year of a body corporate.

Juliette: However, sometimes an emergency arises and an emergency might be a hole in one of the body corporate roofs, a water penetration issue, a burst pipe, electricity, so a failure of a utility of the structure, those sorts of issues and we may not have enough money in the body corporate to be able to pay to fix that type of problem. Normally what would happen is, we would get quotes together on behalf of a body corporate or the body corporate committee would go out and seek those quotes from different contractors and then motions would need to be put forward and the committee would request the holding of an extraordinary general meeting.

Juliette:  An extraordinary general meeting is required to give 21 days notice. So it’s 21 days formal notice, plus usually add on another seven days for a postal rule. So normally 28 days is the total amount of notice a lot owner needs before we can hold an emergency or extraordinary general meeting. However, usually what we would do is we’d hold the physical meeting and everyone would turn up and you’d vote yes, no or abstain to the motions. In certain circumstances, if you are able to satisfy the rules and the regulations, that meeting can actually be held by what we call the postal way.

Juliette: So basically by email to make it more instantaneous so that the decision is happening faster in an emergency circumstance. You need to show that you can satisfy those requirements in the regulations. So there really does need to be a sense of urgency or an individual lot owner can actually make a complaint about that to a dispute resolution procedure, which is called our Commissioner’s Office. So yes, there is an ability in certain circumstances to hold that type of general meeting by way of what we call a postal vote.

Dan:  Okay. Next question is, now can an un-financial owner submit a motion for a general meeting or be a part of a request for an extraordinary general meeting or emergency general meeting?

Juliette:  See that’s actually a bit of tricky question that one and we’ve had quite a few adjudicator’s decisions handed down with respect to that. The normal rule that applies is if I’m a lot owner and I fail to pay my levies, so my contributions that are issued usually on, maybe two or three or four times a year, then I’m actually not entitled to propose a motion or go to a general meeting and vote at a general meeting and those types of things.

Juliette:  However, in certain circumstances that normal rule doesn’t apply and one of those circumstances is when the motion being proposed at the general meeting is actually a resolution without dissent. So what that means is there can’t be a, no vote. So if I have 20 lot owners, and as a result of those 20 lot owners let’s say 10 of them turn up to the meeting, and out of that 10, 9 vote yes but one votes no. That means that, that resolution would fail because we’ve had one no vote.

Juliette:  Even if I haven’t paid my levies, if there is a resolution that’s been put forward as resolution without dissent, then I’m entitled to vote at that particular motion because they’re the type of motions that are very poignant in this scheme. Like it might be the termination of the Strata scheme or those type of issues. So there are circumstances where, if I haven’t paid my levies, I am actually entitled to cast a vote or put forward a motion.

Dan:  Great. Now I’m assuming that there’s probably lots of body’s corporate out there that have gone lots of other questions that they’d like to ask, how do they best get those questions answered?

Juliette: A great way to do it, and what we’ve found here Gold Coast Lawyers at OMB Solicitors is we have obviously a specialised page on our website for body corporate and there’s an inquiry form. So if you make inquiry through our website at OMB Solicitors or either telephone us direct if you’d like to put just your question in writing, that’s no problem and just contact through the website and within 24 hours we’ll get back to you and have a chat with you or either talk to you through … we can email you back and provide you with the answers to any questions that you have and that’s for lot owners, body corporate managers or committee members.

Dan:  Tremendous. Thanks Juliette.

Juliette:  Thank you Dan.

People Celebrating in House Party

Nuisance Communication – Rights of Body Corporate

By | Articles, Body Corporate

Ten phone calls, fifty voice messages and a disgruntled lot owner who wants answers yesterday – there is always one. But when does it constitute a nuisance communication and what can you do about it?

Let’s face it, whether your neighbor’s TV is turned up to the max, the teenager next door is hosting a party or there are children screaming in the park, there is generally always something that you could complain about – that’s the joys of community living. But sending voluminous, repetitive or abusive phone calls or communications to the Body Corporate or manager could end up doing more harm than sitting back and biting your lip every once in a while (As difficult as that may be).

The question which needs to be considered is when the lot owner or occupiers complaints become a nuisance in itself?

Section 167 of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (the Act) deals with nuisance and provides that:

the occupier of a lot included … must not use, or permit the use of, the lot or the common property in a way that—

(a) causes a nuisance or hazard; or

(b) interferes unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of another lot included in the scheme; or

(c) interferes unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of the common property by a person who is lawfully on the common property.

The scope of this section is surprisingly narrow.

In its application, even where excessive communications or telephone calls are being made to the Body Corporate Manager which would naturally fall within the ordinary meaning of ‘nuisance’, this does not itself mean that the elements of section 167 of the Act have been satisfied.

If the communications were not made from within the scheme, then it would not make sense to say that the nuisance interferes with the use of a particular lot or area of common property.

When you’re faced with this issue, one can usually turn to a nuisance By-Laws (contained within the Community Management Statement) for enforcement.

However, where section 167 of the Act or a nuisance By-Law does not apply in your circumstances, i.e. the nuisance does not directly interfere with the use of lot or common property i.e. nuisance communication to the Body Corporate Manager, the recent decision of Deagon Village [2018] QBCCMCmr 208 (20 April 2018) may assist with filing the gap.

In that case, the Adjudicator had to determine:

  1. Whether it was appropriate to make orders that the respondent ceases to engage in conduct allegedly to be causing nuisance or unreasonable interference with others at the scheme? and,
  1. Whether it is appropriate to make an order restricting the ability of the respondent’s communication with the Body Corporate and its representatives?

On the first issue, the Adjudicator was tasked with applying the test of ‘reasonableness’. Generally, the Adjudicator has found that whilst what is reasonable to one may be unreasonable to another, most decisions on this point come down to the repetition, tone and frequency of the correspondence (as applied in the case of Tank Tower [2015] QBCCMCmr 322 (9 July 2015).

In Deagon Village the orders restricting communication by a lot owner were sought as:

  1. The respondent made a number of phone calls to the Body Corporate Manager and committee members in which on any given day varied. In some cases, more than ten calls were received on particular days, often in quick succession and sometimes occurring late at night through to early in the morning.
  2. When the calls were not answered, the respondent left excessive numbers of voicemails, sometimes continuing until the voicemail box was full, with more than 50 voicemails reported in one particular day.
  3. The phone calls and voicemail message made by the respondent were seen as abusive and involved profanity and yelling, and in most cases, were not about matter the body corporate or the body corporate manager could assist with.
  4. It was also shown that the conduct of the respondent was negatively affecting the wellbeing of the persons receiving those calls as well as their employees.

Whilst the adjudicator was satisfied that the respondent’s conduct amounted to nuisance communication, given the calls were not made from within the scheme, there was difficulty in finding that the nuisance was in conjunction with the use of the lot or the common property, such that it would be in breach of section 167 of the Act.

Notwithstanding this, even without a breach of section 167 of the Act or the by-laws, there still remained the question of whether the Body Corporate could decide to impose restrictions on communications in the face of conduct such as that of the respondent within Deagon Village.

In considering the submissions from both parties, the Adjudicator considered that the Body Corporate should not be placed in a position where the resources of the Body Corporate are unfairly burdened by the lengthy, repetitive and offensive communications of a single lot owner.

In the circumstances, the Adjudicator was satisfied that the Body Corporate had the right to place some restrictions and protocols on how lot owners and occupiers communicate with its representatives irrespective of whether or not a nuisance by-law or section 167 of the Act could be applied.

The restrictions imposed included:

  • Telephone communication (including the leaving of voicemails or text messages) may only be made in the event of a genuine emergency or where the Body Corporate for Deagon Village has expressly invited it;
  • Telephone communication may only be made to telephone number expressly nominated for the purpose by the Body Corporate for Deagon Village;
  • Other than in the circumstances above, all communication with the Body Corporate for Deagon Village must be in written form and addressed only to the postal or email address nominated for that purpose by the Body Corporate; and
  • Written and verbal communication must be courteous and not abusive or offensive.

With all considered, the adjudicator ordered that the body corporate was not required to respond to any communications from the Respondent, and was permitted to disregard any communications that were unreasonable in the circumstances.

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