Apartment-buyers purchasing off-the-plan will have more rights to rip up sale contracts after the first phase of the Barr government's strata reforms passed the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Planning Minister Mick Gentleman secured swift passage of the legislation on Tuesday, with the Liberals and Greens supporting the changes.
However, opposition planning spokesman Mark Parton did warn that the laws had the potential to create a "massive and constipated pipeline" of appeals to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
In one of the most significant changes, developers will be required provide buyers with a "disclosure statement" in sale contracts, which would include outlines of floor plans, owners corporation rules and the method for dividing up levies among owners.
Buyers would be able to rescind contracts if the seller made significant changes to items on the list.
For example, a buyer would have grounds to walk away if the size of their future apartment was reduced by five or more per cent. Changes which had the potential to affect their "use or enjoyment" of the unit or common property could also trigger an exit from a sale contract.
If a buyer wasn't told about a major change to the project within a certain time frame, or at all, they would be able to tear up the sale contract.
This bill represents significant improvements for those living and working in units plans in the ACT.Planning Minister Mick Gentleman
Speaking during debate on Tuesday morning, Mr Parton acknowledged those concerns, but said the Liberals supported the changes because of the extra protection they gave to consumers.
In other changes, developers and owners in mixed-used developments will now have the flexibility to choose how costs and levies and contributions are divided up.
Under the current system, all owners - including businesses and residents - pay the same contribution regardless of how often they use their complex's utilities and facilities, such as lifts and pools.
In one example referenced by Mr Gentleman, a laundromat or restaurant on the ground floor of a complex might be paying the same water costs as someone living alone on the building's tenth level.
"This bill represents significant improvements for those living and working in units plans in the ACT," he said.
"I am confident that the reforms proposed in this bill will empower buyers, owners and occupiers of units plans, and is an important first step in delivering much needed and meaningful reforms to the community."
The government also agreed to a Greens proposal to force landlords and owners to disclose if their property was accessible or adaptable to wheelchair users at the time of sale or lease.
Owners Corporation Network president Gary Petherbridge welcomed the changes, in particular the introduction of so-called building management statements [BMS].
The statement would bind all lease holders - commercial and residential - to be involved in, and contribute to, the maintenance of the building.
"The BMS is the key one. Up until now, there has been no way of getting fairness," Mr Petherbridge said.