An Owners Corporation (formerly known as a Body Corporate) is required whenever there is common property in a commercial, retail, industrial or residential development. Every Owners Corporation is governed by the Owners Corporations Act 2006, which sets out the duties and powers of Owners Corporations.

Legal Services for Owners Corporations

Owners Corporations

Owners Corporations sometimes face difficult issues in respect of their duties and powers. At Armstrong Lawyers, we assist Owners Corporations and managers by providing expert advice in respect of:

  • the registration, transfer and selection of the management of Owners Corporations;
  • maintaining common property and rectifying building defects;
  • the liability for injury or death on common property;
  • collecting outstanding fees;
  • providing guidance on the rights and responsibilities of Owners Corporations and their members, including in respect of the Model Rules and Additional Rules; and
  • dispute resolution (Please visit our Property Disputes page for more information on how we can assist you in respect of Owners Corporation disputes).

Management Rights


Managers of owners corporations are required to be registered with the Business Licensing Authority (BLA). It is an offence for a person to act and collect a fee as a manager of an owners corporation if they are not on the BLA register. The only eligibility requirements for registration are that the person is over 18 years of age, is not subject to a guardianship order, and not insolvent or externally administered. A manager must also have sufficient professional indemnity insurance.

Transfer of Management Rights

The process of transferring the management of owners corporations is subject to specific legal requirements of contract formation. This is a complex process that requires careful attention to detail to avoid exposing the owners corporation to potential harm from the instatement of incompetent, or unscrupulous management.

Choosing the Right Management

The relaxed standards for registration as a manager of an owners corporation mean that the onus is on the owners to ensure that a competent and trusted party is appointed as manager. The consequence of an uncontrolled transfer of management may be the instatement of a person that has previously been found guilty of stealing money from similar funds, or to a party that is subject to a conflict of interest. In order to appoint an appropriate person or company to manage a body corporate, some prudent factors to consider, should be the applicant’s:

  • Relevant experience
  • Qualifications
  • Training and education
  • Evidence of good character
  • Relationship to the owners corporation
  • Financial standing (to ensure solvency)

Maintaining Common Property

Obligation to maintain common property

Our solicitors have substantial experience acting for owners corporations, lot owners, and occupiers to achieve positive outcomes in disputes relating to the maintenance and repair of common areas.

A statutory duty is imposed on owners corporations to maintain and repair common property. The areas and structures that will be classified as ‘common property’ will be detailed in the plan of subdivision, strata, or cluster subdivision. Failure to maintain or repair common areas can result in complaints by lot owners or occupiers which, if ignored, can lead to orders from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

There may be additional maintenance requirements if the owners corporation:

  • Levies annual fees in excess of $200 000 in a financial year;
  • Consists of more than 100 lots.

This would attract a “prescribed owners corporation” classification and a statutory requirement to create a ‘maintenance plan’ for the purpose of maintaining large common assets, like a lift or heating plant. Maintenance plans are optional for non-prescribed owners corporations.

Duty of Lot Owners

Common areas must not be used or neglected by a lot owner in a way that might cause damage or deterioration. This duty is also imposed where a lot owner permits a third party to use or neglect the common area that might cause damage or deterioration, such as an occupant. This means that a tenant may potentially trigger a breach of a lot owner’s duty if the lot owner neglects to protect the common area from harm created by the tenant.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) recently held in Lee v Owners Corporation No. 501391P [2013] VCAT 1942 that a lot owner was not liable to bear the costs of a false fire alarm fee caused by an occupier. This case was decided on the basis that a lot owner only has a duty not to permit damage or deterioration, rather than a positive duty to protect common property.

Our solicitors are experienced at finding the source of liability and acting in the best interests of our clients to achieve positive outcomes. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have a query or problem that needs to be addressed to get your owners corporation back on solid ground.

Rectifying Building Defects

Often in cases involving owners corporations, the discovery of a building defect is quickly followed by confusion, and finger pointing shortly thereafter. Determining the party responsible for correcting building defects requires a careful assessment of the facts.
The primary responsibility for correcting building defects falls to the owners corporation, which does not enjoy limited liability and may need to spread the cost over the members in some circumstances, particularly if the owners corporation does not have valid insurance cover. This is most likely to occur if the defect was created by the original builder, and the owners corporation failed to adequately correct the defect despite prior notice of its existence.
The cost of correcting some defects will fall to the lot owner in certain circumstances. This will depend on the location of the defect, the period in which the defect was caused, and the plan of subdivision, strata, or cluster subdivision.

All structures that are classified as common areas must comply with the Australian building standards applicable at the time that the structure was built. If an owners corporation has notice of a structure or aspect on a site under its management that is not compliant with the standards, it may be liable if damage or injury is caused by the failure to correct the defect. This may result in damages which can amount to millions of dollars in certain cases.

Our solicitors are experienced at finding the source of liability and acting in the best interests of our clients to achieve positive outcomes. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have a query or problem that needs to be addressed to get your owners corporation back on solid ground.

Injury or Death on Common Property

Liability for Injury or Death on Common Property

In some circumstances, the death of a person can create liability where the cause of the death can be at least partially attributable to the state or condition of buildings, land, or other structures. In law, this is commonly known as occupier’s liability, which attaches to the party in control of a premise, or responsible for the construction or maintenance of structures on the premise. This liability can apply to all entrants of a premise, including non-residents, such as a visitor or even a trespasser.

The principles for determining occupier’s liability include:

  • Whether a reasonable man in the defendant’s position would have foreseen that his conduct involved a risk of injury to the plaintiff or to a class of persons including the plaintiff.
  • If the answer to first question is YES, the Court will then determine what a reasonable person might do in response to that risk.

In coming to a conclusion, the Court will determine:

  • The magnitude of the risk
  • The degree of probability of its occurrence
  • The expense, difficulty, of taking alleviating action and any other conflicting responsibilities which the defendant had.

Where Does the Liability Fall?

Liability may attach to builders, architects, owners corporations or individual owners, depending on the respective roles and responsibilities of each party. In some circumstances, each party may be partially liable. If a person is injured from a fall due to a defective balcony, and the owners corporation had notice of risk posed by the balcony, but did nothing, both the owners corporation and the builder/architect may be liable for a part of the injury suffered by the entrant.

Owners Corporation Responsibilities

Owners corporations must ensure that the common areas, chattels, fixtures, fittings and services related to the common property or its enjoyment, under its control, are managed to avoid causing foreseeable injury to entrants.

Free initial advice

For obligation free, no cost initial legal advice:
– call us on 134 134; or
– email us at


Click here to find answers to frequently asked questions in respect of Owners Corporations.