Noise, parking, pets, contractors, short-term holiday rentals and money are common sparks for apartment dweller disputes, an expert says.
Joanna Pidgeon, Auckland District Law Society president and Pidgeon Law principal, spoke at an inaugural half-day conference on unit titles and bodies corporate today, telling of regular battlegrounds.
The conference was run by the society and Strata Community Association New Zealand.
Defects in buildings, lack of property maintenance, a large group of owners exerting influence over a smaller group, proxy "farming" where people use other people's votes to get their own way and being in denial over leaky building issues were some other areas she cited as causing disputes.
Bodies corporate were "at war" over such issues, she said and for issues to be resolved, people first had to understand who the parties involved were, what the issues were, if there was any conflict of interest and what relief could be sought.
"Bodies corporate are a democracy and not everyone will agree. There can be factions and dysfunction. We are looking at the types of issues which may crop up and how to deal with them," Pidgeon told the conference, attended by body corporate chair people, committee members, lawyers and managers.
Owners of body corporate titles usually have apartment and townhouse properties.
Pidgeon said smaller body corporates were often not run according to the law, people involved sometimes lacked knowledge about the sector and rules, their insurance policies were sometimes not compliant and issues could become "more personal".
But larger properties had other issues, such as owners' lack of engagement in the management processes and there was more at stake due to the sizes of contracts and that led to heightened tensions, Pidgeon said.
She also raised the topic of developers having an influence over the running and management of a body corporate, as they sometimes kept units in projects they built. There could be conflicts of interest between the developer and other residents, she said.
This could include family members or companies with financial interests in the projects because they were suppliers to it, Pidgeon told the conference.
Members of bodies corporate should communicate well, face-to-face if possible, she said. Dealing with difficult and vulnerable people was common. Disputes could be resolved in the Tenancy Tribunal, District Court, High Court or via arbitration if both parties agreed.
Simple steps to avoid disputes were to "respect fellow owners and managers, be courteous, ask for permission before making unit changes, get involved in the body corporate by standing for election for committees, understand the balance of rights and responsibilities, deal with disputes promptly and appropriately and stick to the issues," Pidgeon said.
She told of specific disputes and cited a 30-unit leaky building where some people wanted to repair but some were in denial, the value of the units was significantly reduced, an engineering report was obtained but there was an emotional extraordinary general meeting and the body corporate committee got bogged down in details. The committee disconnected with the residents because technical jargon was used.
Other speakers scheduled to address the conference this afternoon were Pidgeon Law senior associate Liza Fry-Irvine, Barfoot & Thompson branch manager Andrew Yovich, barrister Katerina Wendt, Doug Wilson of Strata Title Administration, Rainey Law partner Jeanne Heatlie, Colliers International national body corporate director Gillian Blakely, David Bigio QC and Glaister Ennor partner Vicki Toan.
Levy collection and use of funds, body corporate governance and best practice tips, property remediation schemes and developments in the Unit Titles Act 2019 were other topics.
Both Labour and National plan to amend the law, tightening up a number of areas including pre-purchase disclosure, rules about the powers of body corporate managers and secretaries, the use of proxies in voting, and finances.