Timeframes are an integral part of most legislation – not just body corporate legislation – as they clarify obligations and remove the doubt that has the potential to create unnecessary conflict.
For instance, under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, a property owner must respond within 14 days from the date a tenant sends a request to keep a pet in their rental property. If there is no response, the property owner is assumed to have approved the request.
We often hear from owners and occupiers who feel that their body corporate has not responded to requests in a timely manner. It should be noted from the outset that this article is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every timeframe in body corporate legislation.
Instead, we have highlighted a few of the main ones and divided them into three distinct categories:
- standard timeframes for committee decisions
- instances where the committee may need to decide issues within a shorter period
- general meeting decisions.
Timeframes for committee decisions on owner motions
While owners had been able to submit motions to the committee, there was no definitive timeframe for any committee response before the regulation changed in March 2021. The term ‘stonewalling’ had been used regularly by our clients when they believed their committee was unresponsive.
There is now a six-week ‘decision period’ within which a committee must make a decision (commencing the day after an owner’s motion had been submitted). There is, however, some flexibility afforded to committees. If extra time is required, the committee must give written notice to the owner within the initial decision period stating:
- why they need more time; and
- a reasonable period of no more than six weeks after the ‘decision period’ within which they must decide.
If the committee does not decide within the six-week ‘decision period’, or – where a committee has given notice to an owner requiring extra time – within 12 weeks after the day the motion was submitted, the motion will be deemed to have been declined.
Requests from tenants for a committee decision
While there is no express provision in the legislation, it is largely understood that a tenant can submit a request for the committee’s consideration. For instance, a tenant may apply to keep a dog or park a vehicle on an area of common property where there is an appropriate by-law. However, there is still uncertainty around what would be considered a reasonable timeframe for tenants to expect a decision from the committee.
Although the decision period for owner motions does not strictly extend to tenants, it might be used by tenants as a guide on what is a reasonable timeframe for committee decisions on their requests.
Instances where the committee may be required to decide within a shorter period
It is important to bear in mind that the six-week ‘decision period’ does not apply to all committee decisions. As you will see in the following examples, there are shorter timeframes, specified in the legislation, for the committee to decide within.
Voting outside a committee meeting
Where the committee is making a decision without holding a meeting – namely, voting outside a committee meeting (VOC) or a ‘flying minute’ – committee members must return their votes within 21 days after the notice has been given. If no decision is reached by the committee within this timeframe, the motion is not passed.
To clarify, this does not mean that the committee must wait the full 21 days for all members to return their votes before a decision can be made.
Rather, a motion for a VOC is taken to be decided if:
- the majority of all members who are entitled to vote – agree; or
- the majority of all members who are entitled to vote – do not agree; or
- one-half indicate that they do not agree with the motion (as at best there would be a tied vote, which still means the motion is lost).
Therefore, a decision can be made for a VOC well before the 21-day timeframe expires.
Issuing a by-law contravention notice
Where an owner or occupier gives their body corporate an approved notice (BCCM Form 1), advising them of a potential by-law breach, the committee has 14 days to issue a contravention notice. If the committee does not advise the owner or occupier who made the complaint (the complainant) that a contravention notice has been issued within this timeframe, it is open to the complainant to lodge a dispute application about the by-law breach through this office after sufficient self-resolution has been attempted.
Transferring an engagement
Body corporate approval is required if someone is seeking to transfer their engagement as a body corporate manager or service contractor or an authorisation as a letting agent. The committee has 30 days, after receiving the information reasonably necessary to make the decision, to decide on the transfer application. Importantly, the committee cannot unreasonably withhold approval for the transfer.
General meeting decisions
While there are some timeframes in place for the making of committee decisions, there are no similar provisions or timeframes when it comes to making general meeting decisions. Accordingly, if an issue requires a general meeting resolution, an owner or occupier may wait much longer for a decision.
Some decisions that must wait for a general meeting include owner improvements to the common property exceeding the value of $3000 and most requests for maintenance that exceed the committee’s spending limit. Read more about committee spending limits on our website.
A body corporate is only required to hold one general meeting per year, called an annual general meeting. The committee can call extraordinary general meetings by passing a committee resolution.
Alternatively, if the committee refuses to call an extraordinary general meeting, an owner can ask other owners to sign a notice requesting an extraordinary general meeting be called to consider their motion. The notice must be signed by at least 25 per cent of lot owners or their representatives. Read more about requesting extraordinary general meetings on our website.
This means, if you are unable to obtain enough signatures from other owners to compel the committee to call an extraordinary general meeting, you may find yourself waiting quite some time for a decision.
If an owner submits a motion for consideration by the body corporate that requires a decision at a general meeting, the body corporate must put it on the agenda of the next general meeting. This meeting may well be the annual general meeting if no others are called throughout the year.
Requests from tenants for a general meeting decision
If you are a tenant in need of a body corporate decision at a general meeting, you may have to ask your landlord to submit the motion on your behalf because general meeting motions can only be submitted by owners or the committee.
Alternatively, you can write directly to the committee and ask them to submit your motion for consideration at the next general meeting. If you are unable to get a response to your request, you may consider the dispute options available to you under the tenancy legislation or the body corporate legislation, depending on the party your dispute is against.
Notice for committee meetings and general meetings
Notice must be given to all owners for committee and general meetings.
The legislation requires written notice of a committee meeting to be given to all committee members and owners at least seven days before the meeting, or a reduced period of two days if all voting members have agreed in writing.
For a general meeting, written notice must be given to all owners at least 21 days before the meeting.
It is helpful to know about body corporate decision-making timeframes to ensure that you not only manage your expectations but also allow you to time your requests – if at all possible – so they can be considered by the body corporate in a timely way.
Having clear timeframes means that residents are not left waiting indefinitely for committee decisions and it reduces the likelihood of unrealistic expectations being placed on the body corporate.