Downsizing has been on the rise for a number of years in Victoria. Now more than ever people are choosing to live in smaller dwellings such as a unit or townhouse. This choice often comes down to people prioritising the area they live in over the living space they will have.

When it comes to buying smaller dwellings there are many key differences compared to standalone properties. Many units, flats and townhouses today are adjoined with others or share communal property features such as driveways, yards and mailboxes. These shared features can make property ownership more complicated and it can even lead to disputes.

When it comes to disputes over shared property it’s best to get counsel from a legal expert. Our Property Lawyers can offer you legal advice on any issue that may arise. They can also review any features of your shared property and subdivision. Shared facilities and maintenance responsibilities should definitely be reviewed thoroughly before you decide to buy and invest in a unit, flat, or townhouse.

Strata Schemes

If you are looking to buy an apartment then there’s a high chance your property will be part of a strata scheme. There may be extra costs involved such as paying levies. Extra responsibilities may include attending and voting at general meetings for the shared apartment complex.

What can make ownership and living in an apartment even more complicated is the set of by-laws associated with the apartment block. In some cases, these laws can be very restrictive on the day to day use or restrict your ability to renovate the property.

Having Closer Neighbours

For property types such as a unit or townhouse it’s inevitable you will be closer to your neighbours compared to a standalone house. You may be sharing walls and various common areas. So needless to say, you will be seeing your neighbours a lot.

So before you choose to buy a unit or townhouse, try and get to know the neighbours first. It’s this relationship with your new neighbours that can make or break your experience living in a small dwelling. When a relationship breaks down between you and your neighbours it can cause conflict. That’s when you may need legal advice from a Property Lawyer to help you navigate the situation.

Facility & Maintenance

Before committing to the purchase of a unit, flat, or townhouse it’s best to have a Property Lawyer review everything. They can take an extensive look at your contract of sale and section 32. These should reveal what shared facilities come with the property and what maintenance is involved.

Pay attention to how the shared facilities of the apartment complex are maintained. The condition of these can reveal how much you will have to pay in body corporate fees. It’s also best to find out if there is a caretaker for these shared facilities and common areas. Without one, you may have to spend hours out of your own time maintaining them.

Your Total Checklist Before Buying a Unit, Flat or Townhouse

Our Property Lawyers can review your property transfer documents and provide you with legal advice to safeguard yourself from disappointment, our Property Lawyers recommend you check the following items before committing to a property purchase:

  • check contract;
  • get legal advice;
  • do your homework;
  • document all promises and commitments in writing;
  • inspect the property (multiple times);
  • measure the land;
  • lookup any restrictions;
  • identify any easements;
  • confirm any chattels and fixtures;
  • check for recent renovations, extensions and building work;
  • confirm any rates and taxes;
  • check government charges;
  • identify the cost for connection of services;
  • zoning and town planning;
  • funds;
  • foreign investor;
  • auction; and
  • cooling off.

Additional Considerations:

    • COMMON PROPERTY: You or your Property Lawyer should check if there is common property on the Plan of Subdivision.
    • INSURANCE – COMMON PROPERTY: Has the Owners Corporation complied with its obligations to insure the common property?
    • SPECIAL LEVIES: Are there any special levies applicable or have any been suggested in past annual general meeting minutes?
    • LITIGATION: Is the Owners Corporation suing a member of the Owners Corporation, developer, builder, neighbour or being sued?
    • RULES: You should carefully investigate the Rules of the Owners Corporation, as the rules can impose restrictions that affect your use and enjoyment of the property and the ability to renovate the property.
    • LOT ENTITLEMENT & LIABILITY: Are the lot entitlement and liabilities shown on the Plan of Subdivision appropriately apportioned for each property that forms part of the building?
    • OWNERS CORPORATION MEETINGS: Check if any proposals or agreements are in place which will affect your enjoyment and use of the premises.

    Please note: This is information of a general nature only and cannot be relied upon as all-encompassing. You must seek legal advice specific to your purchase and never commit to an agreement unless you have obtained that legal advice. Contact us for further information.