An owners corporation is a term used to describe the owners of a joint tenancy or mixed use building; all these owners together are responsible for certain aspects of building maintenance and management. If you've recently purchased, or are thinking of purchasing, an apartment, townhouse, or other such attached dwelling, you may need to learn about being part of an owners corporation. You will have some duties and responsibilities and will face costs involved in such a corporation. Note a few general factors to consider.

Owning versus renting

An owners corporation is as the name implies; it's only for owners of a property, not for renters. Don't assume that you are part of an owners corporation when you rent, even if you sublet from an owner himself or herself.

Opting out

If you buy into a property that is jointly owned, you are typically legally required to be part of that owners corporation and may become part of it automatically once you take possession of the property. There are few, if any, legal ways of opting out of being part of the owners corporation, although you may have some flexibility as to how much you participate in the decision making process, depending on how the corporation is structured.

Fees and costs

You can be charged fees and costs when part of an owners corporation, and this can include administrative fees, special levies, maintenance fees and the like. If you don't pay these fees, the owners corporation may be able to legally exclude you from decision making processes, add late fees to these original fees and even put a levy against your property. An owners corporation near you can explain all the potential penalties you might specifically face depending on the laws in your area.

Managers and representatives

An owners corporation can hire a representative to manage many of the duties of the corporation; this can include collecting dues and rent for properties that have tenants, scheduling maintenance tasks, paying vendors and service personnel, and the like. They may have limited access to funds held by the corporation to manage many of these tasks.

A proxy or delegate can be involved in the decision making process as allowed by the corporation but may not overturn decisions of the corporation. Again, talk to an owners corporation in your area to learn more about strata management and what you can expect based on local laws and the structure of the corporation.