Unit Titles: Are we safe yet?

The Unit Titles Act 2010 was an attempt to address the gaps and inadequacies of the Unit Titles Act 1972.

While the changes it brought were welcome, it soon became apparent that more were necessary.

Evolving – the law managing medium/high density housing

As New Zealanders move from traditional suburban, stand-alone “quarter acre pavlova paradises” into close quarter living, townhouse or apartment complexes, the shift for many is not smooth. Living on the other side of the party wall is not something we’re used to. Unlike, for example, England or France we have no lengthy legacy of apartment living and associated law to call on.  The result is that we’re learning about it “as-it-happens”. Change is inevitable.

Martin Doyle Pavlova Paradise cartoon 2014
Credit: Martin Doyle 2014

Minimizing risk

John Ross - co-author Unit Titles Manual Edition 2To help avoid and minimize unpleasant surprises  Director of Oxygen, John Ross, has co-authored a second edition of Unit Titles Manual.

The aim of the book he says is to provide a comprehensive “de-jargoned” reference enabling people to find facts quickly. It is important, he says, that people buying into any form of close density, multi-dwelling development understand their legal rights and obligations as part of the community. The book offers practical, accessible cross-referenced guidance, with examples for owners and those who serve on a body corporate committee.

The first edition, John says, was used as a resource by Oxygen, a division of Red Coats Limited and member of the Professional Group Cooperative, a leading property management company. All Oxygen account managers use the book, and they in turn made sure the bodies corporate they were involved with, also had copies.  The text says, John, is a life saver. It keeps everybody safe.

As the accountability of bodies corporate, particularly their chairpersons, become more significant it is imperative to keep up to date. He says, ignorance, or naivety is not a defense. The consequences for mishandling matters can get expensive and messy very quickly.

Unit Titles Manual – second edition

Unit Titles Manual - 2nd Edition - published by Thomson Reuters NZThe second edition of the Unit Titles Manual  includes changes made under the recent Unit Titles Amendment Act 2013 as well as new chapters. John Green, founder of the New Zealand Dispute Resolution Centre, has written on resolving disputes in relation to body corporate, while Claire Tyler from Rainey Collins has contributed a useful step by step breakdown on how to set up a new body corporate.

The bottom line, says John, is that more and more of us are moving into unit type housing. As buyers we need to be informed about the state of health and functioning of the body corporate. And if we accept a position on a body corporate, we need to be fully appraised about the position’s responsibilities. Not knowing can cost financially and emotionally.

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