The ACT Government is delivering a fairer and easier way to live and work together. The Managing Buildings Better reforms amend legislation related to unit titles (often referred to a strata or unit title management) to improve the management of apartments, townhouses and mixed-use developments and commercial units.
This work is also linked with our Better Building Quality program of reforms and the ACT Planning Review as we work to deliver a compact, efficient and sustainable Canberra, as outlined in the ACT Planning Strategy. This connection of projects allows us to take a holistic approach to improving the quality of development from planning, through construction to property management.
Why have we made these changes?
Canberra is growing by around 7,000 people per year and around 100,000 new homes will be required in the next 25 years. The ACT Planning Strategy sets a target of 70 per cent of these homes to be built in existing urban areas, which means that more people will be living and working in apartments, townhouses and mixed-use developments.
The previous legislation governing unit titles was complex and made it difficult for owners corporations (building governance bodies) to manage the operations of buildings fairly and efficiently, including common facilities, levies and disputes. In response to this, the ACT Government began the Unit Titles Reform Project in 2016. The aim of this project is to improve the planning, governance and management of units plans (commonly known as strata).
The first stage of reforms has now occurred, with changes to legislation to improve the management and governance of residential and commercial unit titled developments and mixed-used developments. These reforms took effect on 1 November 2020 following the commencement of the Unit Titles Legislation Amendment Act 2020.
Stage two of the project has considered further reforms to unit title legislation, and will commence on 1 July 2023 with the Unit Titles Legislation Amendment Bill 2023.
What do we mean by mixed-use development?
Mixed-use development are buildings or building complexes containing multiple, different uses. Generally, this means that there is a combination of residential units and commercial operations within the one site.
Some examples of mixed-use could be:
- an apartment block which has cafés and restaurants on the ground floor and residential units on the floors above
- a building with a commercial gym on the ground floor, commercial offices on the first floor, and with residential apartments on the floors above
- residential units situated above a public parking station.
What are the reforms?
The Unit Titles Reform Project has been undertaken in two stages.
The Unit Titles Legislation Amendment Act 2020 commenced on 1 November 2020. The initial package of reforms includes:
- allowing owners corporations to tailor the way they manage their buildings to suit the size, location and specific needs of the building
- empowering consumers by helping them to be informed of their rights and responsibilities when purchasing off the plan
- allowing a more equitable distribution of building costs, such as water, maintenance and insurance
- modernising the administrative processes used for owners corporations by making it easier to conduct meetings and cast votes
- providing greater ability for people to keep pets in their apartments and townhouses.
Find out more about the stage one reforms.
The Unit Titles Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 builds on the stage one reforms. These stage two reforms, which are expected to commence on 1 July 2023, include:
- allowing subleasing of common property, and clarifying the circumstances where this may occur
- allowing existing owners corporations to opt in to a Building Management Statement
- clarifying when owners corporations can recover an insurance excess payment
- amending the default rules for a units plan to add further examples of where permission for the installation of sustainability infrastructure may be withheld
- administrative improvements to streamline and improve processes, including the initial lodging of a unit title application ,and accessing and sharing information when purchasing a unit.
Find out more about the stage two reforms.
These reforms changed various pieces of legislation, including:
- Unit Titles Act 2001 - Provides for the subdivision of land by a units plan and primarily concerns applications for new developments and the way in which these developments are divided into units
- Land Titles (Unit Titles) Act 1970 – Provides for the initial registration of units plans, the registration of registration of an owners corporation’s rules and the registration of building damage schemes.
- Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011 - Provides for the management of units plans, outlining the rules, responsibilities and governance applicable to owners corporations (building management bodies)
- Civil Law (Sale of Residential Property) Act 2003 - Provides for the sale of residential property, outlining the rules, regulations and laws applicable to a term or contract of sale
ACT Government is now implementing the reforms under the Amendment Act and preparing information for stakeholders to assist in understanding the new requirements.
Work will then continue on other reforms, which will consider broader issues such as how we plan for and design mixed-use developments.
28 November 2019
An initial package of reforms was introduced to the ACT Legislative Assembly as the Unit Titles Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.
18 February 2020
The Bill was debated and passed by the Assembly.
1 November 2020
The Unit Titles Legislation Amendment Act 2020 commenced, with some reforms taking immediate effect and others phased in over time.
|1 July 2021||Transitional period ends (all reforms to take effect by this date).|
21 March 2023
Second package of reforms introduced to the ACT Legislative Assembly as the Unit Titles Legislation Amendment Bill 2023.
|1 July 2023||Stage two reforms commence.|
How did we decide what to reform?
An industry and community consultative group worked with Government to guide the reforms.
Members of the consultative group include:
- Master Builders Association of the ACT
- Property Council of Australia - ACT Division
- Planning Institute of Australia
- Housing Industry Association
- Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute
- Real Estate Institute of the ACT
- Strata Community Association (ACT)
- ACT Law Society
- Owners Corporation Network ACT
- Legal Aid ACT – Tenancy Advice Service
The reforms apply to all buildings governed by the Unit Titles Act 2001 and Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011, where a units plan or unit title is in place. Put simply, they apply where there are multiple units or dwellings on a single site. This may include apartments, townhouses or mixed-use developments and commercial tenancies.
The reforms benefit owners, residents and business owners living and working in mixed-use developments and have flow on benefits for residential unit-titled sites. They make it easier for owners' corporations across any site to manage their building, fairly distribute building costs and meet the needs of owners and residents.
For enquiries about the rules that govern unit titled properties in the ACT, phone Access Canberra on 13 22 81.