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Unit title developments 

The Unit Titles Act is the law governing building developments where multiple owners hold a type of property ownership known as a unit title.

Residential unit title developments are typically apartment blocks, townhouses and suburban flats. Commercial and industrial types include office blocks, industrial or retail complexes and shopping malls.

As of May 2013, New Zealand had more than 14,000 parcels of land that had been subdivided as unit developments, all with a wide range in the number of units on each parcel of land. Most of these are residential. About one quarter are commercial or industrial.

Unit Titles Act 2010

On 1 April 2010 Parliament passed the Unit Titles Act 2010Link to the legislation website.. The Act aims to ensure the diverse and complex range of unit title developments are able to be managed more effectively; and will provide a clear and flexible mechanism for simple and complex developments to be created in the future.

The Act contained transitional provisions through to 1 October 2012 which enabled a Body Corporate to prepare long term maintenance plans and determine new operating rules. Otherwise from 1 October 2012 default operational rules would apply.

The explicit purpose of the Act is to provide a modern legal framework for the joint ownership and management of land, buildings and facilities on a socially and economically sustainable basis by communities of individual owners.

The Unit Titles Act 2010 improves on the Unit Titles Act 1972 in a number of ways.

The new Act:

  • clarifies the definition of a principal unit - a principal unit must contain or be contained in a building or be a car park
  • streamlines the process under which a development is built in stages
  • creates a sensible and more flexible system for calculating how much a unit owner should contribute to body corporate common funds
  • states that the body corporate owns the common property
  • clarifies the rights and responsibilities of unit owners and bodies corporate
  • creates more efficient and transparent governance and management structures
  • lowers the voting threshold for most body corporate decisions
  • provides a comprehensive disclosure regime for buyers and sellers, developers and bodies corporate
  • provides a fully integrated and cost-effective dispute resolution service for unit title disputes, through the Tenancy Tribunal.

Amendments to the Unit Titles Act

Twenty-one minor and technical amendments to the Unit Titles Act came into force on 3 December 2013.

Bodies corporate: what you needed to do before 1 October 2012

Bodies Corporate that existed before the new Act had a transitional period to help them comply with the new Act. That transitional period ended 1 October 2012.

By 1 October 2012, every body corporate should have:

Who administers the Act?

The Unit Titles Act is administered by Land Information New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (through its Building and Housing Group, formerly the Department of Building and Housing), and the Ministry of Justice. Each agency has different responsibilities under this legislation.

Land Information New Zealand

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is a government department responsible for managing a variety of land, information and transactions functions, including authorising and recording changes in rights to land in New Zealand. This includes creating new titles, recording changes of ownership and interests in land, and providing access to these records.

LINZ also manages Landonline. Landonline provides land professionals with secure access to New Zealand's only authoritative titles register and digital cadastre maintained by LINZ. It enables land professionals to search, and to lodge title dealings and survey data digitally.

LINZ is implementing the changes to survey and title regulatory requirements, as well as the changes required to Landonline. For more information, visit www.linz.govt.nz Link to the LINZ website.or call 0800 665 463.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

MBIE (Building and Housing Group) provides advice and information services to the unit titles sector. The Ministry provides a mediation service, as well as administering cases to the Tenancy Tribunal.

The Ministry wants people to participate with confidence in the building and housing market and resolve disputes in timely and cost-effective ways. For more information email info@dbh.govt.nz or call 0800 UNIT TITLE (0800 864 884).

Ministry of Justice

The Tenancy Tribunal (supported by the Ministry of Justice) hears disputes between parties who have not been able to reach agreement in mediation provided by MBIE. The Tribunal hears disputes up to $50,000.

Tenancy Tribunal hearings are heard by impartial and independent Tenancy Adjudicators. Most are lawyers appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Ministers of Justice and Housing. The Tribunal conducts proceedings with minimal formality and technicality.

For more information visit www.justice.govt.nz Link to the Ministry of Justice website.