Prior to buying into a strata scheme you should engage a professional strata inspector to conduct a strata search (your solicitor or conveyancer should be able to recommend someone or engage someone on your behalf). A strata inspector will attend the office of the strata manager managing the building you are interested in and examine all the relevant documents relating to the lot and the building. The inspector will then collate a report, outlining important information. Whilst the strata inspector will have a standard check list on the information they provide clients, if there is a specific item you would like checked that isn’t on the strata inspectors list you will need to specify this.
As a guide, a strata search report should confirm the building levies, insurances, valuations, provide insight to the running of the scheme and confirm whether there is harmony within the building or not.
You should always try to resolve the problem yourself first by calmly approaching them. If you don’t notice any change, or feel intimidated, you can escalate the issue by asking your owners corporation/body corporate to issue them with the relevant notice to comply, then seek a fine if they continue to make noise. If this does not resolve the issue you can apply for mediation/conciliation through the relevant state party:
The first step is to discuss the idea with your neighbours and committee members. If there is an interest, then put it on the agenda at the next meeting where it can be discussed and a plan can then be suggested by your strata manager. For other tips to promote sustainability, visit picagroup.com.au/sustainability-residents.
For matters only affecting the committee, a general or special committee meeting can be called. Any amendments that affect all owners will need to be recorded and distributed via a notice. The notice needs to set out the proposed changes to the rules so there is transparency to all owners.
All committee members must make a decision that is in the best interests of the property overall. A committee decision is a decision of the owners corporation, unless there is a disagreement between the owners corporation and the committee, in which case the decision of the owners corporation takes precedent. A majority vote (more than 50%) would be required to overturn any decision.
Garbage should be stored in a designated garbage room. If another resident is not disposing of their garbage properly, raise the issue with your building or strata manager who can seek instruction from the committee to send a circular to residents about the correct disposal process.
There are three office bearing roles on a strata committee chairperson, secretary and treasurer. These roles can all be held by the same person or can be held by three different individuals. In New South Wales and Queensland, it is compulsory for all strata properties to have a committee.
In Victoria, an owners corporation with 13 or less lots is not obligated to elect a committee, only a chairperson. Strata properties with more than 13 lots must elect a committee. PICA Group highly recommends all strata properties elect a committee.
The chairperson ensures the smooth running of meetings and determines issues relating to voting and procedures. The secretary calls and advises owners of upcoming meetings, prepares and distributes the minutes, maintains the attendance lists and attends to administrative tasks. The treasurer prepares budgets, manages funds and send levy/fee notices to owners and also ensures the financial health of the property by providing annual reports of income and expenses to owners. These positions can be held by property owners or can be delegated to the strata manager.
While Queensland is the only state that has a legislative code of conduct for committee members, property owners in other states can decide to put in place a code of conduct that stipulates the expected levels of service and professionalism from members. It would be the responsibility of the chairperson to make it known that anyone wishing to be on the committee would have to abide by the code of conduct and upon election sign a copy of the document. While this may not be a legally binding document it helps owners and committee members understand what is required of the role.
Additionally, at the AGM the chairperson can ask that individuals putting their name forward to be on the committee introduce themselves to the owners corporation and outline why they would like to be on the committee and what they think the committee should aim to achieve over the next year.
Management agreement limits vary depending on the type of property. If the strata scheme’s first annual general meeting has been held, then the maximum limit an agreement can be held for is three years.
Normally agreements are signed for a period of one, two or three years. However there is no prevention for an agreement to be held for “x months” (i.e. 17 months) provided that the owners and strata manager mutually agree to the terms.
This decision must be made by the owners Corporation at a general meeting (not by the strata committee at a committee meeting alone).
The legislation governing owners corporations and the compliance requirements are quite complex. Self-managed owners corporations are expected to perform the role of a property manager, with the expertise of a lawyer, valuer, insurance broker and accountant on tap.
In addition, owners corporations are well advised to make short and long term plans for ongoing, periodic, routine and urgent maintenance management. For owners who may have other jobs, getting to grips with all this can be daunting. That’s why many owners corporations are moving away from self management and turning to professional strata managers to assist with finances, insurance, administration, meetings and maintenance functions. Occasionally they are appointed to solve intractable problems, including those involving relationship breakdowns between lot owners.
Strata managers are experts and knowledgeable in the administration of all aspects of owners corporations. They work to ensure owners corporations are compliant with their legal responsibilities, enhance community living and strive to protect owner assets.
Each property’s by-laws or rules will deal with this slightly differently, so it’s best to refer to the by-laws specific for your building. The storage of items in car spaces can be a fire risk so most by-laws or rules advise that garages or car spaces are for vehicles only, not other items.
If you are a tenant and the matter relates to an issue within your apartment, you may be able to apply to the tribunal in your state for a ruling requiring that your landlord/property manager complies. If the matter relates to common property, your building or strata manager may be able to assist.
Whether a lot can operate short-term letting is determined by the local council and the requirements that were imposed at the time of registering the building. This is dependant on the development consent and the local environmental plan. Some councils require that any tenant is subject to a residential tenancy agreement (lease) for a minimum duration.
Every year, the owners corporation must hold a meeting of all owners. This is called the annual general meeting (AGM). This is the main opportunity for owners to participate in major decisions, discuss issues relating to their property and elect the committee and office bearers for the next year. Some of the meeting points will include:
• Going over the minutes from last year’s meeting • Look over last year’s financial statement, and plan the building’s finances for the upcoming year • Electing your committee • Discuss the administrative fees and the maintenance fund
The rules and requirements regarding installing air-conditioning varies from property to property. There may be a by-law in place as there will likely be the need to alter common property and because the condenser may be visible from outside your lot. The by-laws may have criteria considering decibel volume, when a tradespersons can be on site, where an air conditioner can be installed and restrictions around what companies can be used to install the unit. If your building does not have a by-law in place one may need to be introduced. Further approval from council may be required to meet environmental protection laws. To determine the most appropriate course of action check with the strata and/or building manager of the property.
The NSW strata legislation requires that by March 2018 windows that are less than 1.7m above the floor inside and 2m or more above the ground on the outside, need a child-proof/safety lock in place. As most windows are common property, the owners corporation will arrange this and the cost will be part of the levies. If the owners corporation does not have funds available, a special levy may need to be raised.
Most fences fall under the Dividing Fences Act in New South Wales (there is similar legislation in other states), so it’s best to refer directly to the legislation. The objection process can be complicated depending on where the fence (or proposed fence) is to be located.
At the committee’s request, your strata manager can assist in providing quotes from accredited and reputable suppliers. Determining if pricing and determination is fair, is at the discretion of the committee.