The Body Corporate Handbook

A guide to buying, owning and living in a strata scheme or owners corporation in Australia.

Population growth, rising property prices and the dream of a new lifestyle have made body corporate living more and more popular in Australia. Living in an apartment, unit or townhouse can be a rewarding experience, but body corporate life can also be confusing. In this book, expert author Stephen Raff clarifies the rules and answers vital questions such as;

* What should I look out for when buying a strata property?
* What are the responsibilities of the body corporate, owners and tenants?
* How do committee meetings work?
* What fees will I have to pay?
* Who takes care of the maintenance?
* What happens if I get into a dispute?

Packed with revealing case studies and state-specific information, 'The Body Corporate Handbook' is a comprehensive guide to every aspect of strata life for owner-occupiers, tenants and investors.

Stephen Raff is the CEO of Ace Body Corporate Management, an international body corporate management company based in Melbourne. Stephen has lived in and owned strata properties and served on committees of management for more than 20 years, and has been in body corporate practices as a manager for more than 14 years.

Review: The Body Corporate Handbook is the perfect companion for those wishing to invest, live and rent property that exists on shared land. Outlining the most important areas you need to consider before signing any agreement, The Body Corporate Handbook is fantastic advice for property investors, property owners (for their rights) and renters.

The Body Corporate Handbook
John Wiley & Sons
Author: Stephen Raff
ISBN: 9780731407774
RRP: $32.95


The Body Corporate Handbook

Population growth, rising property prices and the dream of a new lifestyle have made body corporate living more and more appealing to Australians. Living in an apartment, unit or townhouse can be a rewarding experience, but body corporate life can also be confusing, not to mention full of unexpected - and unpleasant - surprises.

The Body Corporate Handbook covers the pros and cons of owning, investing and living in a body corporate property in any Australian State and Territory, giving readers the opportunity to use the information to protect themselves from financial pain and enhance their investment.

Owners of body corporate properties all over Australia are under increased risk of hidden financial obligations, claims the book The Body Corporate Handbook, by Stephen Raff. The book highlights that inadequate insurance and ongoing debt among bodies corporate has left some buyers wishing they'd done better research.

Stephen points out in The Body Corporate Handbook, that buyers are either paying too much in insurance premiums for items that are already covered in the body corporate's policy or not ensuring the cover is adequate in the event of major damage to their unit. And it's not just insurance where Australia's two million unit owners are exposed. New buyers are increasingly buying into schemes where there is either an existing debt to service (by even new unit owners) or where the body corporate has already committed significant funds to major capital projects that new owners may or may not support.

In addition to insurance matters and investigating records, The Body Corporate Handbook also helps readers to understand:
how body corporate committees work
the state-by-state dispute resolution process for unit owners
fee structures
how maintenance is planned and managed.

Why did you decide to write this book?

Stephen Raff: There are over four million people living in bodies corporate all around Australia and most are not fully aware of their rights and responsibilities. I wanted to dispel some of the myths about body corporate life and expose some of the pitfalls, as well as highlighting the great lifestyle benefits unit living offers. As far as I'm aware, this is the first book of its kind in Australia. There are other books around about apartment living and so on, but nothing that covers all Australian states and territories. As I began to write I realised why no one has tackled it before - the law relating to body corporate is different in each state and territory - with different terminology - making compiling all the information a challenge to say the least!


Who would this book be perfect for?

Stephen Raff: Anyone who is looking for a guide to buying, owning and living in a strata scheme or body corporate (owners corporation) will benefit from this book - no matter where they live in Australia. It's also great for renters, investors and even people who own commercial property (like a shop) that is part of a BC.


Is this book more important now in, due to the economic crisis?

Stephen Raff: It has always been important for people to have a full understanding of this type of living; however, it is even more important due to the economic crisis. As unemployment levels continue to rise across the country some unit owners will not be able to find the money to pay their BC contribution/administration fees or any special levies struck by the BC. To protect themselves, owners need to be aware of their financial obligations /before/ they buy into BC so they can budget accordingly.


Why are unit owners drowning in hidden costs?

Stephen Raff: Unit owners are hit with unexpected costs simply because they don't do their homework. All the information about fees, levies and other costs is available but people are often reluctant to spend the time seeking it out. One example is insurance. Many property owners get their own building insurance not realising that their unit is already insured by the BC. Other times they under insure, thinking that the BC is responsible for all insurance, like contents, which they are not. Maintenance is another big area to look out for. BCs are well within their rights to approve large-scale building work with the support of existing unit owners, but new owners who join the BC after the decision is made will also have to foot the bill. Finding out about these things is as simple as requesting a copy of the body corporate records.


What can people do before investing in a body corporate?

Stephen Raff: The best approach is to be prepared. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to live happily in a body corporate environment and there are always pros and cons with any property purchase. If the buyer is planning to live in the property I would suggest making a list of 'must haves' and 'like to haves' before shopping around for units. It helps clarify in your own mind exactly what you are looking for and allows you to be less distracted by the 'wow' factor than can sometimes take over when you first walk in to a property. Employing a solicitor who specialises in reading plans can help clarify what is private property and what is BC common property if you are unsure.


Why else should you look out for when buying in property?

Stephen Raff: Like when buying any property, it's always a good idea to:

  • speak with a financial advisor about what you can afford to spend on your property
  • investigate if you're entitled to the first home buyers grant
  • assess the building and the surrounding property for damage
  • check the water pressure, look for cracks in the walls, check the quality of the roof, check the wet areas and windows and look for signs of rising damp (obtain a professional building inspection if you don't feel confident knowing what to look for)
  • check out the builders warranty insurance cover, especially if it is a new building or has been built within the builders warranty period.


    What type of responsibilities do the body corporate, owners and tenants have?

    Stephen Raff: Everyone within a BC must abide by the by-laws and rules of the body corporate. The rules are made for a reason and they are legally binding. Bodies corporate have the responsibility of maintaining all common property and insuring the buildings against damage. The by-laws that owners and tenants must follow can relate to anything from where you're allowed to park your car to the colour you can paint your front door.


    What fees have to be paid and who takes care of maintenance in a body corporate?

    Stephen Raff: Administration fees are paid by all BC members, usually based on the size of their portion of the overall block. In some states members must also pay into a 'sinking fund' to cover long term maintenance plans such as the repainting of the BC. The executive committee (on behalf of the BC) is usually responsible for looking after all common property maintenance such as communal gardens and shared driveways. Individual owners are responsible for the areas that they own, like courtyards and balconies.


    What happens if there's a dispute in regards to a unit? Or apartment?

    Stephen Raff: The process varies from state to state but the BC will usually try to solve the dispute internally as a first step (most have an internal process documented). If that doesn't work, the matter will often go before an independent mediator to try to keep the costs low. If that still fails to solve the problem, body corporate disputes usually end up in front of a government authority like Consumer Affairs or a state-based tribunal. Strata issues rarely make it to court.


    Stephen Raff is the CEO of Ace Body Corporate Management, an international body corporate management company based in Melbourne. Stephen has lived in and owned strata properties and served on committees of management for more than 20 years, and has been in body corporate practice as a manager for more than 14 years.

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