UPDATE: These new body corporate laws were passed by parliament on 14 November 2023. The new laws will commence on a date yet to be announced, which is likely to be in early 2024.
The Queensland Government has started the year at a cracking pace by outlining their in-principle decisions for reforms to strata law in the State.
After two years of consulting with industry and hearing from experts, the Government has released the first of an expected series of proposed changes as a preliminary to draft legislation being introduced to parliament later this year.
As with all businesses, the strata industry thrives on certainty. By providing strong guidance as to the likely direction of strata law in the State, the government has at least set some parameters for what is to come. But as ever, the devil will be in the detail. People who get their thrills by going through Bills on a line-by-line basis will be waiting restlessly.
But the general direction from the government is clear: changes are coming for laws governing how a body corporate can be wound-up, on pet ownership in a strata scheme, on smoking in a strata scheme and on the always contentious issue of towing cars from a strata scheme.
The first of these—winding up a body corporate—will make it easier to redevelop ageing apartment blocks.
The proposed new laws would require just 75% of lot owners to approve the termination of a scheme where the body corporate has agreed it is more financially viable to terminate rather than maintain or remediate the scheme. It seems that this is the only basis on which schemes can be brought to an end without 100% support.
The changes will bring Queensland into line with other states and some international jurisdictions and should be well received by the property industry, which is keen to respond to the massive demand for new housing by redeveloping ageing blocks into larger medium-to-high density developments. It’s a sobering thought that population projections have another million people living in south-east Queensland by the time of the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. All those people won’t be housed in existing six-pack unit developments.
There are many questions to be answered, including whether dissenting owners will be compensated beyond the sale price of their lot for the inconvenience and the cost of having to move, and what constitutes the financial triggers to terminate a scheme. Is it the equivalent of a car write-off? Or will the trigger points be more tightly codified?
Currently, a scheme can only be brought to an end if all owners agree to that, regardless of the age or dilapidation of the scheme.
Other proposed changes announced by the government include:
Bodies corporate will not be able to ban pets in a community title scheme, except in special circumstances. This might take away the arguments about whether prohibiting pets is unreasonable or oppressive, which is the battleground at the moment. This guidance seems to make clear that pets are part of residential life – in whatever type of structure you live in.
Bodies corporate will be given the power to make by-laws that prohibit all smoking from outdoor and communal areas. This doesn’t quite cross the bridge to prohibiting smoking inside lots and on balconies that was considered in the Artique decision, but it puts more power into the hands of other lot owners. It also emphasises the importance of committees having by-laws that are legally enforceable.
Bodies corporate will be able to tow vehicles that prevent access or cause a hazard. At the moment the issue is that by-law enforcement takes longer than is effective for dealing with these types of breaches. It would seem that a more immediate ‘self-help’ remedy may be around the corner.
There are still many questions over details that will need to be answered which will be part of the consultation process later this year. No actual legislation or detail has been drafted yet.
But it shows the government is moving on some fundamental issues that have dogged the strata industry for years.