Maintenance issues in medium-density housing (MDH) can be complicated by differing owner/tenant needs, making life hard for the body corporate. Changes flagged to the Unit Title Act, however, are likely to help.
MORE NEW ZEALANDERS are living in MDH, and an increasing number have to take up this lifestyle as pressure on land in cities grows. By MDH, we mean multi-unit dwellings up to 6 storeys.
Opportunities and challenges
Living in well designed and planned MDH brings many opportunities. These include living closer to amenities like shops, schools and public transport, being able to afford a first home and the possibility of being in a socially connected neighbourhood.
It also brings its challenges. One of these is making sure property is well maintained.
Rights and responsibilities
New research by BRANZ shows that many new MDH owners (including bodies corporate) may be unaware of their responsibilities and rights when it comes to maintenance. For many now living in MDH, understanding how their body corporate works is an important new challenge.
Bodies corporate and maintenance
Bodies corporate hold the responsibility for a range of management, financial and administrative matters relating to the property under shared unit title. These functions mainly relate to the things all unit owners have a shared interest in – land, money and other property.
All unit owners automatically become members of the body corporate when they purchase their unit. All unit owners in a unit title development make up the body corporate.
There are two specific areas in relation to maintenance that a body corporate is responsible for:
- Maintaining and repairing the common property, including common building elements and infrastructure that might not be common property.
- Establishing and maintaining a long-term maintenance plan.
Differing interests can be a problem
BRANZ research shows that bodies corporate face specific challenges with these two responsibilities. Some may find themselves unable to afford to maintain their properties, especially for things such as earthquake strengthening, which can be expensive.
People living in or owning MDH often have very different incentives or motivations when it comes to maintenance, for example, owner occupiers vs investors, or younger people vs retirees. It can sometimes be very difficult to reconcile differences and come to an agreement about levy rises, capital works or major repairs.
Changes to the Act could help
The good news is that government is considering amending the Unit Titles Act to address some of these issues for larger MDH buildings. Areas to be targeted include body corporate management and governance and long-term maintenance plans. Any new legislation should ensure that MDH with fewer than 10 units is adequately covered, since these smaller complexes make up the bulk of MDH.
In the meantime, body corporate managers are making significant progress regulating themselves, including making themselves subject to their own code of conduct. This can only be good for owners of MDH.
In the end, it is the responsibility of owners of MDH to ensure that their body corporate is working on their behalf to meet its obligations for maintaining the housing. A well maintained building ensures an asset retains both its value and its liveability.
Information on tenancy responsibilities in MDH is available at www.tenancy.govt.nz/uta/governance.
Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.