Self-Managed Strata FAQ

Strata Scheme vs. Owners Corporation – what is all this?

  1. What is a Strata Scheme?
  2. What is an Owners Corporation?
  3. How does a body corporate raise its funds?
  4. Who makes management decisions in a strata community?

Buying into a Strata Scheme

  1. What should I do before signing a contract?
  2. How do I get a Section 109 Certificate?
  3. Any advice on buying into a Strata Scheme in NSW?
  4. Any advice on buying into a Strata Scheme in VIC? 

Managing your Strata

  1. What is a Committee?
  2. How does a self-managed strata committee operate?
  3. Can you manage your strata yourself?
  4. What responsibilities do the members of the executive have?
  5. What if we need to remove committee members?
  6. What is a Sub-Committee?
  7. What are the duties and responsibilities of committee members?
  8. Any tips for Committees?
  9. What is a professional Strata Manager?
  10. What are the specific duties of a strata manager?
  11. Do we need to employ a professional strata manager?
  12. What is a Common Seal?
  13. What are resident managers?
  14. How do we deal with contracts and terminations?
  15. What’s the difference between strata managers and resident managers?
  16. Who should I contact for more info?

By-Laws

  1. What are by-laws and are they important?
  2. What if I can’t find my by-laws?
  3. What are the by-laws in Queensland?
  4. What are the by-laws in Victoria?
  5. What are the by-laws in New South Wales?
  6. What are the by-laws in Western Australia?

What are Sinking Funds and Levies?

  1. What are levies and sinking funds?
  2. What if members of my strata community don’t pay?

Meetings

  1. What’s involved in a strata meeting?
  2. What’s the process of holding a meeting?
  3. What do I need to know about voting?
  4. What are ‘proxies’ and how do they work?
  5. Do you have proxy form templates for my state/territory?

Disputes

  1. How can we avoid disputes in self-managed strata communities?
  2. What can we do to solve them?
  3. What are some tips for successful strata living?

Audits

  1. Why should we have an audit done?
  2. How long does an audit take?
  3. How much will an audit cost?
  4. What information do we need to provide for an audit to be done?

Pets

  1. Can I keep a pet?
  2. Do you have any info for property owners?
  3. What about info for tenants?
  4. What are ‘pet application and agreement’ forms?
  5. What’s the advantage of using them?
  6. Do you have any templates we can use?
  7. Any tips about pets for neighbours and strata managers?
  8. Any tips for dog owners?
  9. Any tips for cat owners?
  10. Where to get behavioural help for my pet?
  11. Any tips for neighbours and strata managers on pet waste?
  12. What should I do about my dog’s waste?
  13. What should I do about my cat’s waste?
  14. Where can I get help with pet waste?
  15. How do strata laws impact pet owners?
  16. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in NSW?
  17. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in VIC?
  18. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in SA?
  19. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in QLD?
  20. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in WA?
  21. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in ACT?
  22. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in TAS?
  23. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in NT?

Pools

  1. How can my strata community maintain a safe pool?
  2. What are our pool fencing options?
  3. Are there state/territory legislations?
  4. What about “Keep Watch” messages?

Noise

  1. Do I need to be aware of my noise level?
  2. What is a ‘mechanical noise’?
  3. How do we resolve noise-related disputes?
  4. What if the noise continues?
  5. How do I deal with noisy neighbours in NSW?

Car parking

  1. Parking

Maintenance and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)

  1. How does a body corporate deal with building maintenance issues?
  2. Who’s responsible for building inspections?
  3. What common issues arise around maintenance in strata communities?
  4. How do we deal with defects?
  5. What challenges are there for strata owners?
  6. What about elevator maintenance and upgrades?
  7. What are our funding options for strata improvements?
  8. How do sinking fund contributions and special levies work?
  9. What about ‘strata improvement loans’?
  10. What is ‘supplier finance’?
  11. Any more advice on building maintenance?
  12. What’s the difference between an independent contractor and an employee?
  13. What is the National Broadband Network (NBN)?
  14. What’s the installation process?
  15. How can owners corporations assist with it?
  16. What about safety and emergency measures?
  17. What are our responsibilities around fire precautions?
  18. The new asbestos regime – how do we comply?
  19. Which strata buildings must comply?
  20. What are the asbestos survey requirements?
  21. What are the best steps to compliance?
  22. Any important asbestos info for strata and community scheme managers?
  23. How often must an AMP audit be updated?

Renovating your Unit?

  1. What if I want to carry out renovations?
  2. Do I need a copy of my plan of subdivision?
  3. What are some notable common property items in strata communities?
  4. Do I need to get consent from my self-managed strata community before carrying out renovations?
  5. What shared services should I be aware of effecting?

New properties and building faults

  1. How do we deal with defects?
  2. What challenge will defects pose to our strata community?

Sub-Division Plans / Titles

  1. How do I get a copy of my sub-division plan or title?

Gardens

  1. What is the value of a well maintained garden?

Children in Strata

  1. Can I raise my children in a self-managed strata community?
  2. Are there any by-laws affecting kids in strata communities?
  3. What if my kids make noise?
  4. Are there any risks to raising kids in strata communities?
  5. How do I ensure my apartment complex is child-safe?
  6. What about the risk of falls?
  7. Are fly screens an issue?
  8. My property has a balcony. How can I keep it child-safe?
  9. What about pools and ponds?

Insurance

  1. Do strata schemes need to take out Office Bearers’ Insurance?
  2. Property Valuations and Insurance
  3. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Strata Insurance

Sustainability

  1. Making your complex sustainable
  2. Government Assistance
  3. Building Sustainability Ratings
  4. Green Star Ratings
  5. Energy Efficient Windows
  6. Performance Measures
  7. The Right Glass
  8. Standards
  9. Water saving tips
  10. Leaks
  11. Cooling towers
  12. Shower heads
  13. Rainwater Tanks
  14. Inside Units
  15. Water Pressure

Your State’s and Territory’s Legislation

  1. Regulators
  2. Queensland
  3. South Australia
  4. New South Wales
  5. Victoria
  6. Tasmania
  7. Western Australia
  8. ACT
  9. Northern Territory

Glossary

  1. Strata terms explained
  2. Terminology – Comparison between States and Territories

Helpful Links and Documents

  1. Cheatsheets for each State and Territory
  2. Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions

If your question hasn’t been answered here, send an email to support@ourbodycorp.com.au

Strata Scheme vs Owners Corporation – what is all this?

1. What is a Strata Scheme?
Strata is an Australian innovation in property law that has been copied around the globe. It allows individual ownership of part of a property (called a ‘lot’ and generally an apartment or townhouse), combined with shared ownership in the remainder (called ‘Common Property’ e.g. foyers, driveways, gardens) through a legal entity called the owners corporation — or body corporate, strata company or community association, depending on your state or territory of residence and the type of scheme. The concept only came into being 50 years ago and there are now more than 270,000 such schemes encompassing more than two million individual lots across Australia. In Sydney strata now accounts for more than half of all residential sales and leases because of its popularity with investors. An increasing number of commercial and retail properties are also strata titled. In Western Australia there are even strata-titled vineyards. Developments that can exist under strata plans can be:

  • residential
  • commercial
  • retail
  • mixed use – i.e. retail and/or commercial and/or residential
  • serviced apartments
  • retirement villages
  • caravan parks
  • resorts

Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

2. What is an Owners Corporation?
An owners corporation is the legal entity that combines all the lot owners in a strata scheme. Owners corporations (also called strata corporations, corporations, body corporates and strata companies, depending on the state or territory) are automatically created when a plan of subdivision contains common property. Common property may include driveways, paths, foyers, stairs, lifts, and common garden areas. Every strata scheme has an owners corporation. All owners are automatically members of the corporation, but tenants are not. In large subdivisions, more than one owners corporation may be created. An owners corporation operates like any other business. It can make rules that are binding on the corporation, owners and tenants regarding the use of common property and the lots, providing that the rules do not contravene legislation governing strata titles or other laws. Responsibilities Owners corporations have a legal responsibility to:

  • Maintain all common property including the structure of any buildings on the land
  • Insure the whole of the property for the full replacement value
  • Administer the finances and common funds of the group of owners
  • Administer the secretarial functions including the conduct of meetings of members, documentation of minutes, and dealing with all correspondence
  • Resolve disputes involving members of the owners corporation and enforce the owners corporation rules.

The owners corporation also has a responsibility to maintain proper records, including financial records, orders served, and minutes of meetings. Back to top

3. How does a body corporate raise its funds?
The corporation raises funds by levying contributions against all lot owners. The amount that each lot owner contributes to maintenance funds is calculated according to the ‘lot entitlement’ accompanying the strata plan. Back to top

4. Who makes management decisions in a strata community?
All owners can vote on management decisions at an Annual General Meeting (AGM), but decisions are usually made on behalf of the owners corporation by a committee of owners who are elected at the AGM. However, some small strata schemes do not have committees. Some strata schemes also manage the day-to-day financial, maintenance, and other administrative duties themselves, but given these are complex, most choose to use the services of a professional strata manager. Ref: Strata Community Aust Back to top

Buying into a Strata Scheme

1. What should I do before signing a contract?
You should get professional advice about the complexities involved in buying property. If you are interested in buying a strata unit, it is essential you look at the records of the owners corporation and know as much as you can about the maintenance of the building. Particularly, you should consider how much it may cost and whether there are signs that money may need to be spent soon. Sometimes your solicitor will arrange this for you, but not always. There are companies that specialise in inspecting the books and they know what to look for. You can inspect the records yourself (upon payment of the necessary fees) and the owners corporation must make these records available:

    1. the strata roll (shows: who owns each unit, mortgagees and others who have an interest in lots, general information about the strata scheme, the name of the managing agent, insurance details, the by-laws and the unit entitlements for the scheme and each lot)
    2. general records, such as notices served about disputes or required by legislation, orders, minutes of meetings, accounting records, financial statements, correspondence received and sent, notices of meetings, details of proxies, voting papers
    3. plans, specifications, certificates, diagrams and other documents if supplied by the original builder at the first annual general meeting
    4. the certificate of title for the common property
    5. the last financial statements
    6. current insurance policies and the receipt for the last premium paid other records held by the owners corporation, and records or books of account kept by a strata managing agent.

Back to top

2. How do I get a Section 109 Certificate?
If you are an owner, or you have an owner’s, mortgagee’s or covenant chargee’s written permission, you may write to the owners’ corporation and ask for a Certificate under Section 109 NSW. The Treasurer of the owners’ corporation must give the certificate under owners corporation seal. The certificate must be on the set form used in the Strata Scheme Management Regulation 2010 – Schedule 8. There is a fee payable. A Section 109 Certificate will give information about the strata scheme including:

  1. the names and addresses of the executive committee members, the managing agent and caretaker (if applicable)
  2. the levies to be paid by the owners
  3. any outstanding levies
  4. the address where the records and financial statements can be viewed, and any special by-laws made by the owners corporation in the past two years.

If a levy is outstanding before the certificate is given and it is not shown on the certificate, the purchaser is not responsible for the payment. Ref: Fair Trading. Back to top

3. Any advice on buying into a Strata Scheme in NSW
There are lots of questions to ask when buying into a strata scheme in NSW. Fortunately most of your queries are covered by the Certificate under Section 109 NSW search form so get this completed. Back to top

4. Any advice on buying into a Strata Scheme in VIC
Sample Owners Corp Certificate VICBack to top

Managing your Strata

1. What is a Committee?
The administration of an owners corporation may be undertaken on behalf of all the lot owners by a committee. This consists of a small group of lot owners who are elected at the Annual General Meeting of lot owners. Depending on the state or territory, the committee is called an executive committee, managing committee, committee of management, the committee, or council. A committee must ensure state strata law and its own by-laws are adhered to. It also has the ability to change existing by-laws and make new ones, and is charged with making decisions on all matters that confront the owners corporation. Back to top

2. How does a self-managed strata committee operate?
A committee is generally elected yearly at the Annual General Meeting of the owners corporation. But the way committees work, their size, and the degree of third party involvement differs. Some, but not all states limit the size of committees (minimum and maximum), with the permissible maximum sizes varying from seven persons to an unlimited number. In most states committees can make most scheme decisions but can be overruled by owners in general meetings. In the ACT the committee must approve a variety of scheme documents and actions before they proceed. Back to top

2. Can you manage your strata yourself?
Absolutely. There is no legal requirement for you to engage a strata manager. It’s called self-managed strata, diy strata or diy body corporate. Thousands of strata schemes self-manage their strata schemes. Of course some owners think that self-managing their stratas means not managing. A poorly managed strata scheme devalues a property. With more and more people becoming educated on living in an owners corporation, savvy owners check the state of the body corporate’s finances, record keeing and the harmony of a strata community before they buy. Back to top

3. What responsibilities do the members of the executive have?
General duties of the committee members include:

  • Attending all the committee meetings. These meetings are called as required and are usually quarterly.
  • Reading the meeting notices prior to attending the
  • Attending to various jobs (e.g. obtaining quotes for painting or gardening)

As representatives of all owners, not just themselves, committee members must be selfless in the way they go about their duties. They must take a long-term view to ensure their management decisions have the most beneficial long-term impact on the owners corporation. They must also disqualify themselves from voting on any issue where they have a direct pecuniary financial interest. Generally, committee members are not entitled to payments for their services nor to reimburse their expenses unless such a payment is approved by ordinary resolution at a general meeting. Back to top

4. What if we need to remove committee members?
Lot owners can remove a committee, or committee member, by ordinary resolution at a general meeting. An owners corporation can also have sub-committees. SCA (NSW) offers a simple online training course for committee members. While it was developed in NSW, there’s very little in the course that doesn’t apply right around Australia. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

5. What is a Sub-Committee?
An owners corporation committee can form sub-committees that can include people who aren’t on the management committee, to advise on specific issues, such as landscaping or building sustainability. Apart from giving people with a specific interest a voice, having a sub-committee pursue a specific task allows information to be gathered and digested and presented to the owners committee in a form where members don’t face the usual choice of either doing the hard yards themselves or voting on issues about which they know nothing.

Obviously, the sub-committee needs at least one member of the management committee on it, if only to present its findings to the management committee as a whole. And obviously it can only ever have an advisory role. Tapping into the energy and enthusiasm that may exist amongst some owners on a particular subject via a sub-committee is a great way to be more inclusive and more informed. Sub-committees are also a good proving ground for future potential management committee members. To create sub-committees, it helps to provide owners with a simple explanation of how the process can work. Doing so can help those who want to make a difference but have previously felt they lacked the time, energy and knowledge to do anything about it. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

6. What are the duties and responsibilities of committee Members?
The Chairperson must chair every meeting (in the absence of the committee Chairperson another member may chair the meeting with agreement of the voting members). The chairperson also:

  • authorises the minutes of the previous Committee/General Meeting
  • has the authority to rule a motion “Out of Order” at General Meetings
  • must be aware of the committee’s spending limit and authorisations imposed on the committee
  • approves annual building insurance quotes and renewals.

The Secretary generally calls and advises owners of committee meetings, takes the minutes in the absence of a body corporate manager and maintains records of the outcome of any decision taken outside of a meeting. The secretary also:

  • accepts from owners quotes and tenders for proposed major work (in conjunction with the body corporate manager)
  • obtains quotes or tenders for major expenditure when the project is proposed by the committee
  • prepares any correspondence required of the committee.

The Treasurer pays authorised remuneration, allowances or expenses to a committee member, approves budget drafts and reviews monthly financials, approves payment of invoices and, if authorised by the body corporate, borrows funds. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

7. Any tips for Committees?
To avoid potential pitfalls, owners committees should practice the following:

  • know the correct rules and processes and follow them – doing this can avoid problems and disputes
  • keep common property well maintained and carry out repairs before the problem gets worse (and more expensive to fix)
  • take action quickly if an owner falls behind with their make sure the building insurance cover is always up to date
  • support community living by following and enforcing the by-laws (never make by-laws seem optional by not enforcing them)
  • try not to have the same people in the same Executive Committee positions year after year. Rotating members lets others gain experience, brings fresh ideas and helps to stop cliques from forming
  • read contracts carefully before signing and get legal advice if needed, especially if the contract is complex, long-term or involves large sums of money. Spending a small amount on legal advice up-front is better than facing expensive court action down the track. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

8. What is a professional Strata Manager?
Strata managers are professionals who are responsible for the administration of owners corporations. Depending on the state and territory, they are also called owners corporation managers, body corporate managers, strata managing agents, managers, and agents. It is their task to ensure buildings and common areas within a strata-titled or community-titled scheme are properly maintained. Strata managers are specialists in their field, possessing the knowledge and skill to administer the body corporate in accordance with the complex requirements of the particular state-based legislation. They also work to achieve consensus in decision making by the lot owners, and to otherwise assist the lot owners by assuming onerous responsibilities. Their functions are not those of real estate agents or resident managers. Back to top

9. What are the specific duties of a strata manager?
Strata managers are involved in coordinating the affairs of lot owners including conducting meetings, collecting and banking levies, arranging property maintenance, advising on asset management, placing insurance and keeping financial accounts. Incidental duties include:

  • preparation and distribution of notices, agendas and minutes
  • attending to correspondence
  • arranging quotations and repairs for building maintenance
  • maintaining the owners corporation register
  • payment of all invoices
  • preparation and distribution of financial statements and budgets
  • preparation and distribution of contribution notices
  • attending to orders, submissions and appeals.

Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

10. Do we need to employ a professional strata manager?
No. There is no legal requirement for you to engage a professional strata manager. You can do-it-yourself with support from an online program such as OurBodyCorp.com.au. Remember that in every scheme it is the owners who are responsible for its management. This is the case even if you have a strata manager. There are certain owners corporation functions that cannot be delegated to the strata manager, such as setting levies, electing the committee or changing the by-laws. (Strata Community Aust). Back to top

11. What is a Common Seal?
A strata scheme’s common seal is its legal signature, so it’s important the use of the common seal is properly controlled. All states require a strata and community title scheme to have a common seal and most states require it to be used only according to strict procedures. Some, but not all, states require a resolution before the seal can be used although this is the usual practice around Australia. The use of the common seal must be witnessed. The number of required witnesses varies from 1 to 3 from state to state, depending on how many owners there are in the scheme. The identity of witnesses also varies from state to state. Most states permit the use of the common seal to be delegated to the manager (although the Australian Capital Territory does not specifically cover the issue). Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

12. What are resident managers?
In some (usually larger) strata properties, particularly Queensland, the caretaking and exclusive leasing rights to the complex are contracted out to a resident manager, who can be a company or individual, for an agreed management fee and time period. The fee is paid from owner levies. As well as owning this business under contract with the owners corporation, the resident manager (also called the caretaker) owns a lot in the complex which is attached to their title, and they or their employee (also called a Residential Letting Agent) generally reside in the building and conduct business from it. The leasing agreement can apply to short term letting, which includes holiday letting, corporate letting, groups, conferences, and also to long term letting, which includes residential tenancies and student accommodation. In new complexes the resident manager rights are generally sold by the developer. Back to top

13. How do we deal with contracts and terminations?
In New South Wales, resident management agreements expire at the conclusion of the first annual general meeting. In Queensland the standard length of resident management agreements is 10 years, although they can be up to 25 years. In cases where lot owners have been dissatisfied with the performance of the resident manager or their leasing commissions or fees, the length of terms has been a point of contention, and there have been calls for shorter term management agreements to allow more regular contractual review. Where a caretaker has been found to be in breach of their contracts, courts have found that owners corporations have the right to terminate them. In New South Wales, a caretaker agreement may be terminated in accordance with its terms if authorised by a resolution at a general meeting. Back to top

14. What’s the difference between strata managers and resident managers? 
It’s important to understand that the resident manager is quite different entity from strata managers, who are a firms/individuals appointed by the owners corporation to administer its functions in accordance with the law, and coordinate the affairs of lot owners. Read more about the duties of strata managers. Back to top

15. Who should I contact for more info?
The Australian Resident Accommodation Managers Association (ARAMA) is the peak industry body representing those involved in management rights. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

By-Laws

1. What are by-laws and are they important?
By-laws are the rules governing issues that impact your block of units such as: • administering, managing and controlling common property and assets • regulating the use and enjoyment of lots, common property, assets, services and amenities They are also called articles, rules or memorandum. They can include specific items such as whether you can own a pet, do you get charged a penalty for late strata fees and where can you park your car. Yes, they are very important! If your By-Laws are clear and up to date, everyone knows the rules and it can save angst down the track. And owners, don’t forget to give a copy of the By-Laws to tenants. Back to top

2. What if I can’t find my by-laws?
Your management committee should have a copy of your By-Laws. Your strata manager will definitely have a copy (if you have a strata manager). Or, if all else fails go to the relevant agency in your State with the name and number of your strata scheme. Your By-Laws (and subsequent updates) must be registered with this government agency. This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Back to top

3. What are the by-laws in Queensland?
In most states you adopt standard By-Laws and then add additional rules that best suit your property. Remember your By-Laws must not be inconsistent with the Act governing strata schemes and body corporates in your State or any law. To get assistance, consult a solicitor. By-Laws can be changed by “Special Resolution” at a general meeting of the body corporate. The group of owners agrees to adopt a new Community Management Statement (CMS), which identifies the changes to the By-Laws. The new approved By-Laws must then be registered with the Registrar of Titles. Back to top

4. What are the by-laws in Victoria?
In most states you adopt standard By-Laws and then add additional rules that best suit your property. Remember your By-Laws must not be inconsistent with the Act governing strata schemes and body corporates in your State or any law. To get assistance, consult a solicitor. In Victoria By-Laws can be changed by “Special Resolution” at a general meeting or postal ballot of the owners’ corporation. Make sure your notice calling the meeting or postal ballot is sent out at least 14 days in advance and includes agenda items covering. A Special Resolution requires 75% or more to vote in favour. The postal ballot is counted at a specially convened Committee Meeting. If at least 50 per cent of votes were in favour of the new rules, an interim special resolution is passed. A notice of interim special resolution and minutes of the meeting must be sent to all lot owners within 14 days of the close of the ballot. The decision can only be acted on after 29 days, if no petition representing more than 25 per cent of lot entitlements has been received. If the secretary receives a petition before the deadline, the special resolution fails and the rules are not adopted. Your owners’ corporation must lodge a copy of the consolidated rules with Land Victoria together with a completed Land Victoria form (signed by the owners’ corporation secretary) and a fee. If the rules are not registered with Land Victoria, the rules are void and not enforceable. Back to top

5. What are the by-laws in New South Wales?
In most states you adopt standard By-Laws and then add additional rules that best suit your property. Remember your By-Laws must not be inconsistent with the Act governing strata schemes and body corporates in your State or any law. To get assistance, consult a solicitor. In NSW By-Laws can be changed by “Special Resolution” at a general meeting of the owners’ corporation. A Special Resolution requires 75% or more to vote in favour. Once passed the new approved By-Laws must be registered with the Land & Property Management Authority. There is no ‘mandatory’ set of By-Laws. Some model by-laws are set out in legislation, others are set by the original developer of the scheme. By-laws can be made or changed to meet the needs of all owners and to assist with the running of the scheme. The NSW government has suggested some model By-Laws for owners to consider and they’re really good. Back to top

6. What are the by-laws in Western Australia?
In most states you adopt standard By-Laws and then add additional rules that best suit your property. Remember your By-Laws must not be inconsistent with the Act governing strata schemes and body corporates in your State or any law. To get assistance, consult a solicitor. In Western Australia By Laws can be changed by “Special Resolution” at a general meeting of the strata company. A Special Resolution requires 75% or more to vote in favour. Once passed the new approved By Laws must be registered with the Registrar of Titles at Landgate within three months of the date of the meeting by lodging a “Notification of Change of By-Laws” form. Back to top

Sinking Funds and Levies

1. What are levies and sinking funds?
The primary source of funding for most strata schemes is from owners through levies. To enable owners to properly plan their finances and for scheme cash flow to meet expenditure, planning and money management by owners committees and managers is critical. Almost all states regulate budgeting (at least for day-to-day expenses) on an annual basis. The extent of regulation and control varies, and the level of disclosure and approval ranges from none to all-owner approval at a general meeting. In some states, longer term planning or estimating for sinking funds is also required.

Audits must be considered annually in some states, while for others they are only required for larger or more active schemes. Reporting the actual financial position of a strata and community title scheme is another important aspect of scheme management. It is also generally well regulated and controlled. In most states annual accounts are required to be presented to owners at annual general meetings. Small schemes have exceptions from some accounting requirements in South Australian, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales. More state-based detail coming soon. Back to top

2. What if members of my strata community don’t pay?
Levies must be paid by the due date. Lot owners cannot object to a levy by not paying it. Only some states make owners automatically responsible for interest if levies and fees are overdue and where interest is applied it is different from state to state. In some states schemes can reduce or waive interest. While most states allow legal action to recover levies and fees in the civil court system, Victoria requires those actions to be in VCAT and in Tasmania the Recorder of Titles can order payment. Only some states expressly make owners liable to pay the scheme’s recovery costs so that the scheme is not out of pocket from chasing overdue levies and fees. Back to top

Meetings

1. What’s involved in a strata meeting?
Almost all scheme decisions are ultimately made by owners or owners’ representatives in meetings. Owners need to know meetings are being held and what is to be considered so that they can decide what they want to do (and how). The integrity of meetings and the decisions made at them affects the reliable operation of schemes. So, meetings are one of the more critical scheme activities.

All states require schemes to have at least one meeting per year for owners – the annual general meeting, but the notice period varies. And, if special or unanimous resolutions are involved the notice period is usually longer. Some states prescribe the things that must be considered at annual general meetings. And, there are limits in most states as to how far apart annual general meetings can be held. But, only Queensland requires schemes to let owners know that the operational year has ended and an annual general meeting will be held so that they can submit motions. Usually less strict provisions apply to representative committee meetings. Back to top

2. What’s the process of holding a meeting?
All states have detailed mechanisms about quorums, voting processes, chairing meetings and adjournment but they vary considerably. Two states (South Australia and Queensland) have controls about where meetings can be held. While managers routinely chair meetings not all states permit it. And, only some states recognise the role of onsite managers. Back to top

3. What do I need to know about voting?
The lot owners run strata schemes by exercising their right to vote on decisions in meetings. So, the right to vote, the extent of their vote and the kinds of decisions made are a key feature of lot ownership. Every state gives each lot one equal vote on basic decisions (if no poll is called or required). But some states limit the maximum number of votes a person can hold or the maximum number of proxies a person can hold. Usually it does not matter who holds the proxies but in Queensland letting managers are prevented from holding proxies and in New South Wales some kinds of proxies cannot be used by developers. Back to top

4. What are ‘proxies’ and how do they work?
When a lot owner cannot attend meetings, they have the option of appointing a substitute representative by proxy. This allows owners to have their say in all circumstances. But proxies need controls to ensure that the representation is valid and accurate. In most states there is a prescribed proxy form. Some states also require the form to be given to lot owners with the meeting notice. In most states the proxy can be submitted anytime up to the start of the meeting (and even at the meeting). But, in some states (Queensland) and in some circumstances (large schemes in New South Wales) proxies need to be delivered before the meeting date. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

5. Do you have proxy form templates for my state/territory?
NSW: Proxy Appointment Form NSW
Queensland: Proxy Form Body Corporate Qld
Victoria: Owners__Corporation_Proxy_Form_VIC
Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and the ACTProxy_Form. Back to top

Disputes

1. How can we avoid disputes in self-managed strata communities?
Strata schemes are a microcosm of society. Disputes occasionally occur because of divergent owner views, complex rules that apply, the substantial property and monetary interests that exist and the close living arrangements in medium and high-density living. So finding ways to resolve disputes is important to preserve harmony and co-operation.
The top five reasons for disputes are:

  • Use of common property
  • Parking
  • Noise
  • Breaking of by-laws
  • Lot renovations

More local contacts for dispute resolution in each state/territory coming soon. Back to top

2. What can we do to solve them?
In most states conciliation or mediation is required in strata disputes. A few states require the scheme to undertake an internal dispute resolution process in some circumstances. All states provide for disputes in strata schemes to be handled by specified tribunals or courts. Some states have very sophisticated specialist dispute processes and venues, but a number have limitations on whether or not damages can be ordered and whether or not costs orders can be made. For specific information for your locality, visit the website of your state or territory government strata scheme regulator. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

3. What are some tips for successful strata living?
Be aware: know the strata rules for your state, and your scheme’s by-laws so you’re fully informed of your rights and your responsibilities. If you’re buying into a scheme, review the records of the owners committee so you know the finances and any issues they may be facing.

Be involved: take an active interest in what goes on in your scheme. Attend owners committee meetings where decisions are made, and make your vote count. Use your proxy if you can’t attend. Ensure that insurance is adequate, and that the sinking fund matches the long term maintenance planned for the next few years.

If you don’t like it, change it: if you believe the by-laws for your strata scheme aren’t working, change them. You do this by putting a motion with the new by-law to a general meeting, getting over 75 per cent to vote for it. If you’re not happy with the performance of a strata manager, put a motion to hold a meeting to instruct them on how you want them to manage your scheme.

Budget for levies: each quarter it’s likely you’ll need to pay levies to fund your share of the annual running costs of the owners corporation and maintenance. Occasionally, additional special levies may need to be imposed to fund unexpected or especially expensive maintenance, or for other reasons. So ensure you make allowance for these in your personal budgeting.

Protect your investment: maintain common property. If it’s getting run down, put up a motion at a meeting for specific works to be done.

Be respectful: seek approval before altering common property. It doesn’t matter that it’s your courtyard, if it’s common property, it’s owned by everyone.

Be empathetic: understand that your neighbour may be on the other side of your living room or bedroom wall, so be mindful of others. Noise is annoying – as is taking up visitor parking with your vehicles.

Talk first: talk to your neighbours if there’s a problem. They may not realise their actions are causing a nuisance.

Don’t let it fester: pursue by-law breaches. If talking has not resolved a by-law breach, contact your owners committee or strata manager to issue a Notice to Comply with a by-law. You may also want to apply for mediation.

Be flexible: there may be times you need to give a little more leeway to accommodate different personalities. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

Audits

1. Why should we have an audit done?

A strata audit provides peace of mind and assurance to the owners and managers of the strata corporation on the financial management of the strata corporation.

An audit involves testing and reviewing selected transactions of monies received and expended throughout the financial year. At the end of the audit we issue an Audit Report to the strata corporation.  Our Body Corp recommends ASF Audits because they provide a quality service online and an affordable price to our customers. (And we don’t get any incentive fee for recommending them, we just think that they’re good operators.) Back to top

2. How long does an audit take?

Assuming all documentation has been kept in line with Our Body Corp’s guidelines we estimate an audit of the corporation’s financial statements to take no longer than five business days. Back to top

3. How much will an audit cost?

The cost of having a financial statement audit completed through our partner ASF Audits is $10 per strata unit with a base fee of $80. For example a six unit strata would pay $80 and a ten unit strata would pay $100. All amounts are GST inclusive. To book your online audit send an email to strata@asfaudits.com.au Back to top

4. What information do we need to provide for an audit to be done?

In order to complete an effective and efficient audit we will need access to the following documents:

  • Income and Expenditure Statement
  • Balance Sheet
  • Invoices paid throughout the audit year
  • Bank statements throughout the course of the audit year
  • Insurance statement for the property being audited
  • Minutes of all meetings held throughout the audit year
  • Budgets for the audit year.

Back to top

Pets

1. Can I keep a pet?
The issue of keeping of animals in strata schemes is a common area of dispute, usually involving an owners corporation’s refusal to allow animals even though allowing pets is not specifically prohibited in the by-laws of the strata scheme in question. If an owners corporation does not want animals it needs to make that position very clear by passing a by-law that prohibits all animals except the keeping of companion animals (as they are generally allowed by law, e.g. guide dogs). Back to top

2. Do you have any info for property owners?
Whether you can keep a pet in your strata scheme depends on the by-laws made or adopted by its owners corporation. It is therefore important to obtain a copy of the by-laws when considering whether to keep a pet or purchase or rent in the scheme. You may need to obtain prior written consent from the owners corporation in order to keep your pet in the scheme, depending upon the by-laws which apply. Consent may be sought by writing a letter to the secretary of the owners corporation. Back to top

3. What about info for tenants?
Your landlord or the landlord’s real estate agent should provide you with a copy of the lease and the by-laws pertaining to the strata scheme. You will need to obtain the permission of your landlord or their real estate agent. Depending on the by-laws for the scheme, even if they agree, they may have to obtain the consent of the owners corporation, so you should not sign the lease until written consent has been granted, or ensure the lease is made conditional upon owners corporation consent being granted, and that if it’s not, you’ll be able to terminate the lease without penalty. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

4. What are ‘pet application and agreement’ forms?
Well thought out pet-friendly policies can help ensure that the needs of pet owners and non-pet owners are taken into consideration, with companion animals properly managed and everyone aware of their obligations and responsibilities. One of the best ways to achieve this is to have a formal process where pets can be approved or disapproved on a case-by-case basis and the rules around pet ownership are clearly communicated. Pet application and agreement forms make this quick and easy to do. These forms can include a photo and description of the pet as well as information such as breed, age, vaccination and microchip details as well as references from previous landlords, building managers or veterinarians. Pet agreement forms can also detail the way the pet will be kept. This can include requirements to ensure the pet doesn’t unreasonably disturb neighbours, as well as keeping the lot clean and the pet free of parasites. Back to top

5. What’s the advantage of using them?
A pet application form provides an opportunity for pet owners to present relevant and specific information relating to individual animals. It not only makes it easier for potential pet owners to apply to the owners corporation, but also for the owner’s corporation to have all the information they need to make a decision. Assessing pets on their individual merits is a fairer system than some commonly used practices such as weight or size restrictions. A pet application form will reveal whether the animal is responsibly cared for. This information will help the owner’s corporation to assess pets on a case-by-case basis. A pet agreement form enables the owner’s corporation to clearly detail their expectation of how pets will be kept and managed once they are approved. Such an agreement helps to ensure good communication by having the owner read, understand and agree to a specific set of behaviours around common property, noise and waste management. Pet application and agreement forms help to enforce the rules. The agreement may cover noise and disturbance and liability for damage. It might also include a clause that states that in the event of a breach of the agreement, the owner’s corporation may withdraw consent for the keeping of the pet. It is a good idea to have a system in place to review new applications quickly, as time can be a critical issue for people keen to purchase or secure rental accommodation. Back to top

6. Do you have any templates we can use?
PIASStrata Community Australia in conjunction with the Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) has developed pet application and agreement forms. These forms can be modified to suit the specific needs of individual strata communities. Download the Pet Application Form or the editable Word document. This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

7. Any tips about pets for neighbours and strata managers?
If your neighbour’s pet is making too much noise, you should let them know. Owners may not even be aware of the problem. Keep a log of when the noise nuisance occurs, how long it lasts and when it happens. It will help the owner understand and resolve the problem. If the noise continues and owner doesn’t inform you they’re taking action, you can make a formal complaint to your local council or owners corporation. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

8. Any tips for dog owners?
If the noise is only made in your absence, a complaint about dog noise may come as a surprise. Stay positive and thank the complainant for letting you know so you can work on a solution. Barking is one of the most common reasons for dog-related complaints to councils. Dogs tend to bark because of boredom, territory guarding and reactivity to noise, separation anxiety or fearfulness. A recent survey of medium to high-density dwelling pet owners revealed that the key strategies to reduce noise were training (34%) followed by providing more company for the pet (19%) providing more toys (14%), seeking advice from a professional such as an animal behaviourist (4%) using a citronella collar (3%) or “other” (5%). The most common “other” strategy was simply to keep the dog indoors.

Try to work out why your dog barks. If you can identify the trigger, you may be able to remove it e.g. fence or boundary guarding may be resolved by simply keeping your dog inside. Increased exercise can solve many dog problems. If you don’t have time for extra walks, hire a dog walker or ask a neighbour to help out. Make separation less of a “big deal” for your dog. Don’t make a fuss of your dog when you come and go. Provide distractions such as treat toys, a radio or television. Pet stores and vet clinics often stock a wide range of engaging toys. If you think your dog has a serious case of separation anxiety, you should speak to a veterinary behaviourist about intensive desensitisation and medication. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

9. Any tips for cat owners?
Keeping cats indoors prevents noisy fights, extends their lifespan and protects local wildlife. But indoor cats will cry to be let out if you don’t enrich their environment. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep indoor cats amused. An outdoor enclosure or window cats can see out of can make all the difference. You can also provide climbing platforms and scratching posts, crumpled up paper balls, paper bags with the handles cut off – or the ever popular cardboard box. When you adopt a kitten, consider adopting two – they can keep each other entertained. Cats need exercise too! Some cats can be entertained for hours by a laser pointer cat toy. Some can even be trained to walk on leash. Back to top

10. Where to get behavioural help for my pet?
Pet owners and other residents are subject to local laws regarding pet noise. Call your local council for more information. Veterinary behaviourists are listed on the Delta Society Australia website. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers APDT Australia is an association of pet trainers. Find a professional trainer in your area. For more information on common problems and how to solve them visit Pets in the City. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

11. Any tips for neighbours and strata managers on pet waste?
Have clear and positive policies written into your pet keeping agreement requiring all owners to immediately clean up and dispose of waste in all private and common areas. Have it signed by all pet owners and body corporate/strata managers. One of the most common reasons people fail to pick up dog poo is “not having a bag.” Making bags and bins available in areas where dogs are exercised can make all the difference. Peer pressure works! It’s appropriate to politely remind anyone you see failing to pick up after their pet. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

12. What should I do about my dog’s waste?
Dog poo should never be left on the ground. It can carry disease and worms that can be transmitted to humans. It also has the potential to pollute waterways. If you have no yard, you can either train your dog to use a pet toilet at home or visit a nearby grassy spot two or three times a day. Carry a plastic bag with you to scoop up and dispose of the waste hygienically – it only takes a few dogs to degrade the grass of a small park if this isn’t done. 19% of surveyed dog owners toilet their dogs before and after work, and 6% use artificial grass or some form of pet loo. Most dogs can become quite regular in their toileting habits. The key is to have a reliable routine and an absorbent toileting spot that your dog is happy to use. A healthy, adult dog should only need two or three toileting opportunities per day. If you’re planning to toilet your dog outside, your dog must learn to “go” on lead so you can go for toilet breaks quickly. Have poo bags attached to your leash to help you remember to pick up.

Observation, patience and positive reinforcement are the keys to toilet training a dog. Puppies generally need to toilet whenever they wake, after playtime, after eating or drinking, and whenever you see toileting behaviour such as sniffing, circling or squatting. At these times, take the puppy to his or her toilet spot and reward the puppy for toileting properly. Use a command word such as “toilet”, the pup will soon learn to toilet when you give the command – this can be very handy. Don’t punish your dog for toileting in the wrong place – it can teach dogs that going in front of you is “bad” and lead to secretive toileting. Clean up accidents quickly with an enzymatic washing powder or cleaner. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

13. What should I do about my cat’s waste?
Cat faeces can carry toxoplasmosis – a disease that is can be dangerous to pregnant women. Fortunately, cats are seen as very clean by owners and need very little toilet training. If your cat needs to be kept entirely indoors it must learn to use kitty litter trays. Start by introducing several trays with different kinds of litter until you find one your cat will use. If all else fails, most cats will toilet in garden soil. Start with 90% soil and 10% commercial litter until your cat is regularly using the tray, then slowly increase the ratio to 100% commercial litter. Have as many litter trays as you have cats, plus one extra. Litter trays need to be one and a half times the size of your largest cat, and deep enough to absorb all your cat’s waste. Litter tray avoidance, misfires, mishaps and misuse are signs your cat is trying to tell you something. Ask yourself “is the tray clean?” Nobody likes a dirty toilet! Keep litter trays in a private place well away from feeding areas. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

14. Where can I get help with pet waste?
The Selectapet questionnaire at Pet Net is a great place to find the perfect dog or cat breeds for you. Pets in the City has more information on choosing a suitable dog breed or cat breed to suit your lifestyle. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

15. How do strata laws impact pet owners?
As a strata resident, you are subject to the rules or by-laws (sometimes also known as articles or memorandums) of your strata scheme. Likewise, your strata scheme is subject to the strata laws of your state or territory government. So as a pet owner, you are impacted by both your strata community’s by-laws and your state legislation. You should never keep a pet in strata accommodation without being sure the by-laws permit pets and you have any necessary approvals. When you need information, your first step should be to get a copy of your strata by-laws from the owners corporation. Should a dispute arise you may need to contact your relevant state government department for further help or information. Please note that in accordance with various federal and state legislation strata by-laws cannot exclude or restrict guide, hearing and assistance dogs. If you are renting in a strata development and experience difficulties you may need to contact the relevant residential tenancy department as well as – or instead of – the government department that covers strata legislation. Back to top

16. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in NSW?
NSW strata communities are governed by the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996. The Act includes a model by-law regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

“Schedule 1 – By-laws 16 Keeping of animals (1) Subject to section 49 (4), an owner or occupier of a lot must not, without the approval in writing of the owners corporation, keep any animal on the lot or the common property. (2) The owners corporation must not unreasonably withhold its approval of the keeping of an animal on a lot or the common property.”

This model by-law means that a resident must have permission in writing from their owners corporation to keep an animal, and the owners corporation can’t unreasonably refuse permission. An owners corporation can choose to adopt this model by-law or they can create their own by-law. This means that in NSW by-laws can vary widely – from accepting pets without the need for approval through to not permitting pets at all. If your by-law allows for pets with the approval of the owners corporation, then you should make a written request to the owners corporation and include any information to support your request, such as a description of the pet and a description of how the pet will be responsibly managed.

NSW strata by-laws are subject to section 49(4) of the Strata Titles Act which states that by-laws cannot prohibit or prevent the keeping or use of a guide or hearing dog on a lot or common property.

Contact: NSW Office of Fair Trading – Tel 13 32 20 See under ‘Tenants and Home Owners’/Strata Schemes/Frequently Asked Questions/I Want to get a Dog, do I need the Owners Corporation’s Permission? This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

17. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in VIC?
Victorian strata schemes are governed by the Owners Corporation Act 2006. The Owners Corporations Regulations 2007 include a model rule regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

“3.1 Use of the common property Sch.2 (4) If the owners corporation has resolved that an animal is a danger or is causing a nuisance to the common property, it must give reasonable notice of this resolution to the owner or occupier who is keeping the animal. (5) An owner or occupier of a lot who is keeping an animal that is the subject of a notice under subrule (4) must remove that animal. (6) Subrules (4) and (5) do not apply to an animal that assists a person with an impairment or disability.”

This model rule means that pets are allowed unless it has been resolved not to allow the animal because it is a nuisance or poses a danger. Owners corporations can also make their own pet-related rules by special resolution. The rules must be approved by Land Victoria. Pet owners should check with their owners corporation to see what rules apply to their strata development.

Contact: Consumer Affairs Victoria – Tel 1300 55 8181. See under Owners Corporations. This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

18. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in SA?
South Australian Bodies Corporate are subject to two Acts. Corporations created before 1996 are subject to the Strata Titles Act 1988. Corporations created after 1996 are subject to the Community Titles Act 1996. The Strata Titles Act 1988 prescribes a default ruling regarding the keeping of animals. The Community Titles Act 1996 requires that by-laws specific to each group are created and these by-laws may or may not include rulings in relation to the keeping of animals. The clause relating to the keeping of animals in the Strata Titles Act 1988 is as follows:

Schedule 3—Articles of strata corporation “4. Subject to the Strata Titles Act 1988, a person bound by these articles must not, without the strata corporation’s consent, keep any animal in, or in the vicinity of, a unit.”

This default ruling applies to Strata Corporations and means that a resident must have the approval of the Corporation to keep an animal. According to the Strata Titles Act 1988, Corporations may adopt Schedule 3 of the Act as the Articles of their Corporation or, subject to the appropriate approval processes, may make changes to these Articles to suit their Corporation. Community Corporations can use the by- laws lodged at inception of the Corporation, or they can modify them or make their own rulings specific to the keeping of animals by Special Resolution. Articles or by-Laws cannot prevent an occupier or visitor to a Corporation from having a disability assistance animal at the premises.

Contact: South Australia Departments of the Attorney-General, Legal Services Commission – Tel 1300 366 424. See under handbook/housing/strata titles. This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

19. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in QLD?
Queensland strata communities are covered by The Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997. The Act provides a by-law regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

Schedule 4 By-laws “11 Keeping of animals (1) The occupier of a lot must not, without the body corporate’s written approval— (a) bring or keep an animal on the lot or the common property; or (b) permit an invitee to bring or keep an animal on the lot or the common property. (2) The occupier must obtain the body corporate’s written approval before bringing, or permitting an invitee to bring, an animal onto the lot or the common property.”

This standard by-law means that a resident must have written approval from the body corporate before they bring an animal onto the property. Body corporates can use standard by-laws or create their own. They should not, however, have a blanket “no pets” by-law as it is deemed to be too restrictive. Owner’s corporations are entitled to impose conditions on the keeping of pets, however many of those conditions may not stand up if they are unreasonable or restrictive. Recent legal cases indicate that conditions restricting the number of animals or placing a restriction on the weight of animals are unreasonable. This means that the type, breed and nature of the animal are all relevant factors in determining whether a pet should be approved.

Contact: Office for the Commissioner of Body Corporate and Community Management – Tel 1800 060 119 (call back service). This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

20. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in WA?
West Australian strata communities are subject to the Strata Titles Act 1985. The Act includes a standard by-law relating to animals as follows:

“By-law 12 A proprietor, occupier or other resident shall not – (c) subject to section 42(15) of the Act, keep any animals on the lot that he owns, occupies or resides in or the common property after notice in that behalf given to him by the council.”

This standard by-law means that residents must not keep an animal if they have received notice from the strata council. The keeping of pets is therefore at the discretion of the strata council. The standard by-laws provided by the Act apply to all strata schemes unless they have created and registered their own by-laws. WA strata by-laws are subject to section 42(15) of the Strata Titles Act which states that by-laws cannot prohibit or restrict the keeping or use of a guide dog on a lot or common property by a completely or partially blind person.

Contact: Landgate Strata Advisory Service – Tel 08 9273 7044. See under quicklinks/Landgate practice manuals/A Guide to Strata Titles This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

21. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in ACT?
ACT strata communities are subject to the Unit Titles Act 2001. The Act includes a by-law relating to the keeping of animals as follows:

“51A Animals—owners corporation’s consent (1) A unit owner may keep an animal, or allow an animal to be kept, within the unit or the common property only with the consent of the owners corporation. (2) The owners corporation may give consent under this section with or without conditions. (3) However, the owners corporation’s consent must not be unreasonably withheld. Note: An owner or occupier of a unit may apply to the ACAT to resolve a dispute with the owners corporation about keeping an animal, or allowing an animal to be kept (4) In this section: animal includes— (a) an amphibian; and (b) a bird; and (c) a fish; and (d) a mammal (other than a human being); and (e) a reptile.”

This standard by-law means that residents may only keep a pet with the consent of the owners corporation. The owners corporation can give its consent with or without conditions, but they must not withhold consent unreasonably. Further, an owners corporation cannot amend its articles (by-laws) to preclude any right of any unit owner to keep an animal, that is to say they must not introduce a blanket “no pets” by-law. Where a resident is in dispute with an owners corporation they can apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the dispute resolved.

Contact: ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal – Tel (02) 6207 1740 Justice and Community Safety – Tel 13 22 81. See quick links/unit titles/fact sheet/FS6 Changed Rules about Keeping of Animals. This information is provided as a guide only, it is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

22. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in TAS?
Tasmanian strata communities are subject to the Strata Titles Act 1998. The Act provides a clause regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

Schedule 1 “7. Keeping of animals (1) Subject to subclause (2), the occupier of a lot must not, without the body corporate’s written approval: (a) bring an animal onto, or keep an animal on, the lot or the common property; or (b) permit an invitee to bring an animal onto, or keep an animal on, the lot or the common property. (2) If a person reasonably requires the assistance of a guide-dog by reason of impairment of sight or hearing, the person is entitled to be accompanied by a guide-dog while on a lot or the common property and, if the person is the owner or occupier of a lot, is entitled to keep a guide-dog on the lot.”

This standard by-law means that a resident must have written approval from the body corporate before they bring an animal onto the property. Body corporates can make use of the standard by-law or they can register their own by-laws with the Recorder of Titles. This means that Tasmanian by-laws can vary widely. Pet owners should check with their body corporate to see what rules apply to their strata development.

Contact: Land Titles Office – Tel 6233 3659. See under strata schemes/Strata Living in Tasmania. This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

23. What are the strata laws impacting pet owners in NT?
Northern Territory strata communities are subject to the Unit Titles Act. There is a clause in the Act relating to animals as follows:

Schedule 1 Articles “2. (4) A member of the corporation shall not: (f) Except in accordance with the permission given by a majority resolution of the corporation, keep any animals or birds in or on his unit or the common property.”   This clause means that residents can only keep pets if they have the permission of a majority vote of the owners corporation. It is possible for strata schemes to change this clause by creating and registering their own house rules or articles (by-laws).

Contact: Department of Justice – Tel 08 8935 7777. This information is provided as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

Pools

1. How can my strata community maintain a safe pool?
Almost 300 children under five have drowned in the past nine years, many losing their lives in swimming pools. As strata living becomes more attractive to families, how can you make sure no child drowns in your strata’s pool? Back to top

2. What are our pool fencing options?
In most strata properties, pool fences are usually the thing least likely to cause complaint. You’re most likely to hear from residents about things like keeping the pool clear of leaves and making sure none of the residents break the pump when they are playing with the controls. But when was the last time anyone really looked at the pool fence? Or checked whether the latch still works? If you were on site would you know what you should be looking for to make sure your strata pool was safe for small children whether they’re residents or visitors the property?

Strata pools have specific risks just because of the potential numbers of children who can access them. Some of the risks are obvious: a gate propped open or palings missing from a fence are easy to see. But you have to test the gate to see if the gate is self-closing and self-latching first time, every time. If you put a bit of weight on the bottom rung of the gate, does it give way? Are any of the palings or posts in the fence loose, or are the screws getting rusty? If you aren’t sure where to start, The Royal Life Saving Society Australia offers a free Home Pool Safety checklist. Back to top

3. Are there state/territory legislations?
In all States and Territories, strata pools are required to meet the requirements set down in their State or Territory legislation for home pools. Typically home pool fencing legislation comes under the Department of Local Government. Currently, there are some significant variations in the different jurisdictions. Strata has the ability through the introduction of bylaws to make sure that the pools in their properties meet that best practice standard regardless of where they are located.

The first thing to do is to make sure the pool fence is compliant with the updated Australian Standard 1926. You should get the pool area audited at least every two years to make sure it is compliant. Your local Royal Life Saving branch does these audits regularly. Commercial companies also provide this service. This is important because the legislation was introduced more than 10 years ago and, with the exception of Western Australia where it was compulsory, it’s unlikely the fence has been checked for compliance since then. Children have drowned because they were able to get through a faulty segment of the fence that wasn’t obvious on first glance.

Check the pool has an easily visible and legible CPR chart. The Australian Resuscitation Council updated the CPR Chart in early 2011. A quick way of checking whether the sign is up-to-date is to look for the “S” step – send for help. If it isn’t there, the sign needs replacing.

Make sure whoever provides gardening services keeps any plants near the pool fence cut back. Children will use plants as a toe-hold to get over the fence. Get the members of the strata scheme who are onsite to keep an eye on the area around the pool. Has anyone dragged over a wheelie bin, a BBQ, or outdoor furniture? Again children are resourceful and items that are easy to move can be used to help them climb over the fence. Keeping a central register of which properties have pools and when they were last subject to a safety audit is a good way of keeping track. Back to top

4. What about “Keep Watch” messages?
Ultimately strata managers can’t be onsite at every property all the time. Residents need to be empowered to protect their own families. Strata managers can help them by putting safety notices up in common areas. Include in those notices the four key Keep Watch messages:

  1. Active supervision – When around the pool keep young children within arms reach at all times, don’t just watch from a distance.
  2. Restrict access to danger areas – Don’t prop the pool gate open.
  3. Water awareness – Teach children basic water familiarisation; and
  4. Know how to resuscitate if necessary. Encourage residents to do a CPR or First Aid course. Royal Life Saving can assist with all aspects of pool safety.

Renters with children should ask the real estate agent or landlord for a recent certificate of compliance for the swimming pool before signing a rental agreement.

Find out more:
Home Pool Safety
Royal Life Saving
Kids Health NSW
Samuel Morris Foundation

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Noise

1. Do I need to be aware of my noise level?
Most strata schemes have by-laws governing noise and the behaviour of visitors. Owners and must be considerate of neighbours, and respectful of the right of everyone to enjoy their own homes without disturbance. You should also ensure that your visitors do not disturb others, especially when, for example, you hold a party. Common noise problems range from music played too loudly (including subwoofers, which emit low-frequency sound and cause vibration), to loud conversation usually due to drinking, poor parenting, the barking of dogs, slammed doors, noisy wooden floors, and renovations. Back to top

2. What is a ‘mechanical noise’?
Washing machines, dryers, and exercise equipment such as treadmills, can sometimes can annoyances for neighbours sharing walls or floors. Placing these on vibration isolators, which absorb some of the machine’s activity, can help reduce noise. Back to top

3. How do we resolve noise-related disputes?
The best answer to resolving noise from neighbours is to first talk to them. If you are angry, before speaking to them you will need to cool down and collect your thoughts – because the worst possible thing is picking a fight with neighbours! Remember, you have to live next to them, and an escalating conflict can be the cause of far deeper and prolonged stress than the incident that caused it. So, your approach should always be calm, rational, and polite. Most people are reasonable. It often happens that offenders are completely unaware of how distressing their noise is, and welcome being told so they can moderate their behaviour. If you suspect the noise is due to drinking, you may wish to consider postponing your visit until the following day when the offenders can soberly comprehend what you have to say. In cases of exceptional noise the offenders should always be contacted to ensure they understand it is unacceptable, and lest it set a precedent. Back to top

4. What if the noise continues?
If your first or second approach doesn’t work, or you feel intimidated, you have two choices. You can ask the owners corporation to issue them with a breach notice. Or you can apply for mediation through the relevant government authority in your state or territory. Because noise is such a subjective matter, it can be difficult to prove that someone is truly disturbing others. If the noise is regular, keeping a diary of incidents, and even recording some of them with a mobile phone’s audio or video app can help provide helpful evidence. Also keep a copy of any correspondence you have regarding the issue. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

5. How do I deal with noisy neighbours in NSW?
So, the owner or tenant in the unit next door is making too much noise. First, take the polite approach and try to resolve the matter in person. If you don’t feel comfortable ask a friend to join you. Still no luck? Request the owners’ corporation (which can be delegated to the strata manager) to issue a Notice to Comply with a By-Law available through Fair Trading. Instructions for how to issue this notice are noted on the form. The owner of the offending unit receives this form but make sure the real estate agent is also copied on this form (if the matter involves a tenant).

Still no luck? Seek a fine under the provisions of the Notice to Comply with a By-Law process. Now what? Apply for mediation through Fair Trading to have a mediator assist you to discuss the issue with the owner/tenant. Remember it’s illegal to make noise at certain hours. Consult this Dealing with Neighbourhood Noise fact sheet to see if you’re entitled to phone the police. While this is all happening, make sure you keep a log of the noise, eg. volume, times, duration, type. This will assist your argument for pursuing the steps noted above. Back to top

Car parking 

1. What should my strata community be aware of around car parking?
Owners and residents cannot park on the common property without the permission of the owners corporation. Visitors can only park in designated visitors parking spaces. So for example, if an owner invites friends to visit they can’t park wherever they choose – such as in the parking spaces of other residents, or on the lawn at the front of the building. If there are insufficient visitors car spaces available, they have to park in the street. Owners cannot give permission for people to use common property for parking, as this is a matter for the owners corporation. With regard to rogue parking, the laws relating to the towing and clamping of cars vary from state to state. For example, in New South Wales your options are very limited: if someone parks in your parking space, or on common property, legally you can’t tow them, clamp them, or block them. Ref: Strata Community Aust Back to top

Maintenance and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)

1. How does a body corporate deal with building maintenance issues?
Administering maintenance and upgrades is a continuous process for strata schemes. Apart from practical matters, some of the more interesting issues involve who can arrange it and what controls apply. In all states (except Queensland), strata managers can arrange repairs and maintenance. In some states, monetary limits on spending of various kinds exist so that larger expenditures need general meeting decisions and/or special resolutions. In some cases, large strata schemes or special kinds of strata schemes need multiple quotes for larger expenditures. And, in some states smaller schemes enjoy some exemptions. Every quality strata maintenance program is based on regular professional building inspections. Back to top

2. Who’s responsible for building inspections?
Carrying out a regular building inspection on a strata property is the best way to maintain the fabric of the building. Regularly attending to the upkeep of this major asset ensures the value of the building is protected for its owners and it ensures the owners corporation fulfils its statutory obligations to keep the property in a reasonable state of repair. The priority for many strata-title property owners is understandably their own domain and the four walls of their own apartment, with few noting the exterior or the common areas until something goes wrong or starts to look unsightly.

However protecting the investment made in a strata property doesn’t stop at the owner’s front door, it starts at the property boundary. This is where a building inspection is a valuable tool, which when performed regularly can identify any areas that could result in costly problems down the track. Ideally an inspection should be carried out at least every three years, and the inspection and reporting should always be undertaken by a specialist professional. Seek out a specialist in strata and make sure they have a certified Quality Assurance system in place. That way you’ll get a professional who really knows what they are doing. A building inspector will look to ensure that the building fabric is adequately protected. This means checking that the exterior paint, protective coatings and sealants are in good condition, he or she will then be guided by what they discover. Back to top

3. What common issues arise around maintenance in strata communities?
The external elements are often the things that the inspectors may look at first. For example if the property is near a beach, the inspector will look to see what corrosion may have occurred from the effects of the salt and sand. They’ll also look at the age of building and the type of materials used in its construction. The most common issues inspectors find are cracking brickwork, displacement of gutters and timberwork andcorrosion on elements such as window and doorframes, as well as concrete balustrades.

The item that needs the most regular maintenance is often the paint and protective coatings. The harsh Australian sun is a paint manufacturers dream, and it’s not just marketing hype from the painting industry, those claims on the damage our climate can wreak are real. Once all the issues have been identified and documented by a building inspector then the undertaking of any required remedial work can be properly costed. The bottom line in all this is the willingness of the owners corporation to proactively look after its asset. Regular maintenance ensures the value of the asset is protected, and while they may be concerned about special levies and sinking funds, the return on investment in maintenance much better than not doing the work at all. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

4. How do we deal with defects?
Building defects — faults that have existed since construction or are triggered later on by faulty original construction — are widespread problem. They can impact on the quality and liveability of both private and common areas; affect property values and rental incomes; and can result in ongoing damage to the building. Defects can result from inadequate workmanship going unnoticed and/or the quality of component parts of the building: building component manufacturers provide their own certifications and don’t always clarify limitations on application and capacity. Owners can also face many difficulties in having defects fixed once they are discovered. Strata scheme operating costs can increase to cover emergency and other repairs, investigations and legal actions; owners, committees and managers are distracted from usual management when dealing with defects; and conflicts can arise between owners, committees, managers, developers and others over how to deal with defects. Back to top

5. What challenges are there for strata owners?
It is also much more difficult for strata owners to get defects fixed than it is for owners detached houses. In part, this is because strata schemes are made up of multiple owners, which can lead to delays in discovering defects, deciding on the best (technical and legal) solution, making decisions and implementing actions. The contract to build the strata scheme is between the developer and builder. The owners corporation is not a party to it and cannot use it to get the builder to rectify the problems. Instead, strata schemes have to rely on statutory rights or negligence claims. Home Warranty Insurance is no longer compulsory for the construction of buildings over 3 stories. Because defects in buildings can worsen and cause further problems, they should be addressed as promptly as possible. If there is not sufficient money in the sinking fund to cover immediate repairs, a special levy may have to be imposed. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

6. What about elevator maintenance and upgrades?
All strata managers know that maintenance of a building’s plant and equipment is something they must do, but owners are sometimes reluctant because it means spending money. There is also nothing worse for a strata scheme than to be confronted with unbudgeted costs. This can be a real problem for strata schemes with elevators that are ageing. It is vital that executive committees are aware of the risks and lifecycle of each elevator in their building as elevator repairs and upgrades are generally more costly when not part of the planned maintenance program. While paying a service provider to provide maintenance is one thing, they can offer so much more. Having a good relationship with your service provider is important. By working together you both ensure that the client – the owners corporation – gets equipment that is kept in top order. By doing this problems can be detected before they occur and ultimately costs can be kept in-check. Few things are more annoying than a poorly maintained elevator that is constantly breaking down, especially as this can easily be avoided with some forward planning. A good provider should be able to do two things for you:

a) Provide a comprehensive risk and hazard assessment in line with Australian Elevator Association guidelines:
this assessment outlines the risks in terms of high, medium and low levels across your elevators, and indicates what solutions should be put in place to reduce the potential for harm to owners, tenants, visitors and workers, and reduce exposure to potential claims.

b) Undertake a comprehensive lifecycle report, so its findings can be factored in to the sinking fund forecast:
this report should detail all of the equipment and its condition, along with a timeline and budget showing what the replacement costs are. These two reports are essential for any strata scheme and should be undertaken and updated regularly. Some schemes choose to use a third party to help them, which can cost. That cost may be better directed towards the actual works themselves. If you have a good relationship with your lift service provider there is no reason why they couldn’t perform these reports for you and it will generally cost nothing. After all, you are paying the lift company for their expertise. Back to top

7. What are our funding options for strata improvements?
Strata improvements are almost always on the agenda for owners corporations. If it’s not mechanical or structural improvements, such as lift refurbishments or roofing repairs, it is aesthetic improvements such as painting or rendering. No sooner is one improvement addressed than another invariably crops up. This raises the question of funding, with the default option often being to save funds through regular sinking fund contributions or through raising a special levy. There are however other funding options that owners corporations may also consider. Back to top

8. How do sinking fund contributions and special levies work?
Saving funds through regular sinking fund contributions or raising a special levy carry with them the comfort and perceived security of familiarity. They also provide flexibility and freedom for owners corporations to choose their ongoing suppliers or contractors without third party restrictions. However, what owners corporations must also consider is the funds currently available in their sinking fund and the time it may take to raise sufficient additional funds to carry out the necessary improvements. Waiting to build adequate funds in their sinking fund can lead to a delay in works and potentially increased costs. The opportunity cost to some lot owners of paying a special levy alongside their capacity to pay the levy, are also key considerations for this type of funding. Back to top

9. What about ‘strata improvement loans’?
Borrowing is an alternative option, with some funders offering loans specifically tailored for owners corporations to address strata improvements. Such loans reduce the financial dependence on existing lot owners and their levy contributions, spreading the cost of any capital works over a longer and potentially more manageable timeframe. Improvement works can commence immediately and in some cases there may be reduced disruption for lot owners / tenants by funding and supporting the coordination of a variety of improvements at the same time. Strata improvement loans also maintain the lot owners’ flexibility to freely choose their service providers. Conversely, owners corporations are required to pass a resolution to borrow funding, which means that a majority or potentially all lot owners must be comfortable with the concept of borrowing. Strata improvement loans generally have a term of five years, and there will often also be an increase in strata levies during the term of the loan to meet principal and interest repayments. Back to top

10. What is ‘supplier finance’?
While supplier finance means improvement works can commence quickly and the immediate financial dependence on lot owners and their strata contributions is reduced, not all suppliers offer finance which may lead to a more limited choice of contractors. Owners corporations should also be aware that some supplier finance can include contracts for longer term maintenance, again potentially limiting the freedom to choose and review suppliers in the future. Supplier finance can involve a combination of up-front and ongoing payments, with strata levies often needing to be increased to meet the costs of the works as well as any additional charges or margins. Back to top

11. Any more advice on building maintenance?
Whatever the nature of improvements, owners corporations should be armed with a clear picture of all options available and the pros and cons of each, so they can make an informed decision in the best interests of lot owners. Before acting on this information you must consider its appropriateness having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should obtain financial, legal and taxation advice before making any decision. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

12. What’s the difference between an independent contractor and an employee?
Owners corporations regularly engage independent contractors to carry out tasks such as maintenance and repairs and also employ persons as facility or building managers. It is important therefore that owners committees and strata managers appreciate the difference between a contractor and an employee, particularly in the context of responsibility for deduction of taxation instalments, the superannuation guarantee and Workcover. There can be penalties for misrepresenting the nature of the work relationship or the superannuation guarantee charge, and the owners corporation could be ordered to make back payment of unpaid wages or superannuation. Both a contractor and an employee provide their labour for financial remuneration.

So how is an employee providing personal services for hire to be distinguished from a contractor, and particularly an independent contractor, who also provides personal services for hire? Unfortunately, there is no simple or clear definition that explains the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor. It makes no difference whether that person is considered by the owners corporation to be an employee or a contractor, or has an ABN. A court will look to the real substance of the relationship with the owners corporation, the person’s role and function, the nature and interaction between the person and the owners corporation. The court uses what’s known as the “smell test” or its intuition to consider the following factors:

  • is the person providing services to the owners corporation
  • as an owner who operates the business; and
  • in providing the services, is the person working in and for that person’s business as a representative of that business, and of the business receiving the work?

However, this exercise may be complicated by the difficulty in distinguishing between a contractor and a casual employee. The person’s entitlement to pick and choose tasks or assignments or work for or provide services to other owners corporation’s and the inability of an owners corporation, beyond not offering further work, to sanction the person, are characteristics of casual employment as well as a contractor. The distinction between time and results – employees are paid for their time and contractors for their results – is also not determinative of the classification, except in obvious cases.

So, what should a manager advise the owners corporation? Firstly, the language in a contract between the owners corporation and the person is not determinative of whether the person is an employee or a contractor. It is not sufficient to simply state the parties to the contract agree that the person engaged is an independent contractor; the contract must appropriately and adequately reflect the true nature of the relationship. Secondly, do not assume that a service provider is an independent contractor; if the person is not running his/her own business, then he/she is not. Before engaging a person as an independent contractor, undertake an ABN (or company) search of the person or company. Each relationship needs to be reviewed in the light of the “smell test”. Getting it wrong and inadvertently treating an employee as a contractor may be expensive. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

13. What is the National Broadband Network (NBN)?
The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s first national open access broadband network for all Australians. Consisting of 93% fibre, 4% wireless and 3% satellite it delivers high-speed broadband to enable not only improved and faster internet access, but better services from all facets of government and commercial organisations.

The NBN is being rolled out simultaneously in metropolitan, regional and rural areas over approximately 10 years by NBN Co, which is a Government Business Enterprise like Australia Post. The fibre is expected to pass 13 million premises when the rollout is complete. A vast number of these will be apartments and townhouse complexes – multi-dwelling units (MDUs). NBN Co does not charge for standard in-building cabling within participating MDUs during the local network construction. Detailed cabling designs for each MDU are created using NBN Co’s standard methods. Most MDUs will be internally cabled to a suitable point outside each unit. Some MDUs can be cabled as if they were single dwelling units. Back to top

14. What’s the installation process?
Prior to any street network fibre construction, NBN Co undertakes the following:

  • Identifies all the MDUs, the number of end user premises in each, and their addresses.
  • Identifies the owners corporations (or equivalent) and gains their consent to survey the MDUs including gaining access to existing floor plans where practical.
  • Using the survey results produces a detailed design of each MDU and selects the right combination materials to suit it in line with NBN’s defined standards.
  • Presents a detailed standard design, cabling plan and sample list of materials to the owners corporations (or equivalent) to gain either their consent to cable, or to refine the planned approach and resubmit to them.
  • Once consent has been obtained, NBN produces a ‘job pack’ for the cabling contractor to successfully complete the MDU cabling as per the agreed design. Back to top

15. How can owners corporations assist with it?
Owners’ Corporations have the opportunity to assist their members understand what’s involved. They can:

  • act as a central portal for information and enquiries about NBN and providing members with links to this article and/or the explanatory videos and brochures on the NBN Co website.
  • arrange with NBN to have information sessions with guest speakers for their members.
  • provide the initial approval to conduct the cabling survey and design of the property.
  • pre-register their interest with NBN Co at NBNco.com.au.

For more details about the National Broadband Network initiative visit: NBNco.com.auBack to top

16. What about safety and emergency measures?
Building maintenance doesn’t just stop at the condition of the paint, windows or bricks and mortar. Ongoing maintenance should also include a discussion by the owners committee and strata manager of the emergency procedures as well as the occupational health and safety issues that may exist in the building. A lot of newer builds are offering mixed use – that is residential, commercial and retail – and this can complicate matters, but professional maintenance companies can offer assistance and solutions. Some offer a complete health check of a building from the condition of the structure to health and safety assessments, risk assessments and so on. Regular checks for potential safety hazards are essential and if minor issues are discovered early and immediately rectified they can save the owners corporations a great deal of money. Back to top

17. What are our responsibilities around fire precautions?
All strata-titled properties including residential buildings are required to carry out a fire safety inspection of the common property. This should be carried out at least annually to identify issues relating to the fire services within the building. A thorough inspection involves ensuring evacuation routes are clear of obstructions, all fire safety installations are tested at regular intervals and a log of these tests is kept (in commercial buildings), checking that exit doors have the correct hardware, documentation is complete and available, staff are trained, a Fire and Evacuation Co-ordinator is appointed for the site and the certificate of classification is displayed on the building.

Typical safety measures in a commercial building include evacuation signage, fire and emergency evacuation plans, emergency safety plans and staff training. This can be applied to a residential building as well if the owners committee believes it’s a good idea and that it would get co-operation from the lot owners. A fire and evacuation plan lays out the roles, responsibilities and required actions for a building’s key personnel, employees and tenants. It should be simple, effective and generic in nature. The intent of the plan is to provide co-ordinated and key emergency services but it is not a be all for every emergency. Situations can arise that are often unforeseen but at least being prepared for a disaster can provide a focus and some direction should one occur. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

18. The new asbestos regime – how do we comply?
The new as 1 January 2012 there were new requirements for asbestos that lift the depth and breadth of inspection, signage, planning and documentation. All states have pre-existing asbestos requirements: therefore in most states there is an expectation of immediate compliance. While Victoria and Western Australia have not immediately adopted the new Workplace Health and Safety laws, this national code will be the expected national standard to which risk asbestos is handled. Back to top

19. Which strata buildings must comply?
All strata buildings that contain a common property workplace built before 1st January 2004 must comply. Why this date? It may surprise you to know that while asbestos in the form of Crocidolite was phased out from 1967 asbestos in the forms including Amosite were used until late 2003 and not fully banned from use until 31st December 2003. Back to top

20. What are the asbestos survey requirements?
There is a requirement to survey the building area and identify all loose and friable asbestos as well as stable kinds found in building materials called Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM). ACM is found in all kinds of building materials. Back to top

21. What are the best steps to compliance?
Step 1. Get a survey done: go through your portfolio and ascertain which buildings were completed before 1st January 2004 (be aware of the buildings completed before 2004 and then strata titled at a later date) once you have the list gain permission to order an asbestos survey as necessary.

Step 2. Act on survey results: all surveys whether asbestos or ACM are found, must be kept onsite and available. If asbestos or ACM are found you need to ensure a new compliant onsite asbestos register and Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) is provided and made available to those who might be at risk. A quality AMP will tell you all you need to know. Back to top

22. Any important asbestos info for strata and community scheme managers?
The most at-risk people you deal with are your contractors. So ensure your engagement system accounts for this. Here are a few tips:

  1. Inform the contractor that there is an asbestos register onsite that they must consult before conducting any work. This can be best done by including this in the engagement documentation.
  2. Provide the asbestos register and AMP onsite – most people are choosing a document box with a 003 key lock. Back to top

23. How often must an AMP audit be updated?
If asbestos is found then the building needs to be regularly audited if the decision is to leave the ACM onsite in a stable encapsulated state rather than to remove it. Asbestos is a serious health risk that must be managed. Immediate action to comply with the legislative changes is prudent. All pre-2004 buildings with common property workplaces need to comply. Compliance is simple with good quality properly experienced and trained advisors. Thank you to Strata Community Australia and James Freestun, Managing Director of Solutions In Engineering for this article. His company has been conducting asbestos surveys for over 15 years and is the largest provider of compliance reports in Australasia. Back to top

Renovating your Unit?

1. What if I want to carry out renovations?
Legislation that affects renovations is different in every state and territory. However, there are some basic principals you should adhere to so that your renovation not only goes smoothly, but that relations with your fellow owners remain friendly. They are: know the laws, understand what is yours and what is common property, and seek permission. Naturally all renovations must comply with building regulations. If your renovation involves major demolition and wall rearrangements, a structural integrity assessment of your building may also be required. You should familiarise yourself with the relevant strata legislation for your state or territory, your plan of subdivision, and also contract your local council’s planning department to determine their approval requirements. Back to top

2. Do I need a copy of my plan of subdivision?
Having a copy of the plan of subdivision is essential because you need to be absolutely clear on the precise boundaries of your lot, and what is common property – for which the owners corporation is responsible. You should never solely rely on what you’ve been told by the real estate agent or other owners in your strata scheme. Plans can often be confusing, so to interpret them correctly it’s wise to seek the expert assistance of a solicitor or conveyancer, as renovations involving mistaken boundaries can end up being extremely expensive! Property Boundaries:

    1. Inner Line: The most prevailing dividing line between an owners lot and common property is the inner line of the walls, floor and ceiling. It means you only own the airspace, not the dividing or external walls. So if your apartment was a cardboard box, you wouldn’t own the cardboard. If the plan of subdivision states “Interior Face: All Boundaries” or “All structural walls, slabs, beams, columns and ducts are deemed to be part of common property”, common property inside a lot would include:
    2. All lot perimeter walls, floors, ceilings, perimeter windows, perimeter doors.
    3. All lot structural walls, slabs, beams, columns and ducts.
    4. All surfaces within a lot that have been fixed to perimeter walls, floors or ceilings.
    5. Mid-line: The boundary division “mid-line of boundary walls” can apply where there’s a common or party wall.
    6. Exterior-edge: This applies where the boundaries are set from the exterior edge.
    7. Survey Markers: Where lots such as townhouses have individual gardens, the boundaries are sometimes set through survey markers on the ground. In this case the lot owner is generally responsible for the structures and grounds including exterior walls and roof, but not for services which pass through the lot and are to the benefit of more than one lot, such as sewer or water supply, or possibly even guttering which overlaps unit boundaries.

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3. What are some notable common property items in strata communities?
In Queensland a front door belongs to the owners corporation in a Building Format Plan, but belongs to the lot owner if in a Standard Format Plan. However, a door leading to a balcony in a Building Format Plan belongs to the lot owner. In New South Wales balcony doors are common property if the strata plan was registered after July 1, 1974; parquetry flooring and timber floorboards are common property if they were originally installed in the apartment, but not necessarily if added later. These are just some of the examples drawn from the mass of state and territory legislation, so it’s important you’re fully aware of who owns what under the laws covering your locality. Back to top

4. Do I need to get consent from my self-managed strata community before carrying out renovations?
Before undertaking major renovations you must notify the owners corporation. Most renovations impact on common property in some way, and the corporation is responsible for its good management. In New South Wales, for example, lot owners must provide the owners corporation with a detailed written notice 14 days before commencing any alteration. Seeking their consent also lessens the likelihood of misunderstandings or disagreements. You should also provide the owners corporation with notification of dates when tradesmen will be visiting, and obtain agreement on parking and bin placement. Even inside your home there may be common property that could be affected by a renovation, thereby making the owner’s committee assessment more complex. However, there are some things can generally be done without anyone’s approval, including:

    • internal painting or wallpapering
    • carpeting and using soft or noise-reducing floor coverings;
    • changing light fittings;
    • changing taps or shower heads;
    • fitting blinds and curtains;
    • attaching fixtures to an internal wall;
    • locks and insect screens.

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5. What shared services should I be aware of affecting?
Another consideration for the owners committee will be if your renovation affects services that are shared by other owners. These can include electricity, water, gas, sewage, drainage, TV and internet cable, and fire sprinkler systems. The lot owner becomes responsible once these services emerge from the walls/ceiling/floor of their unit or where the service within the common property is solely for the benefit of that single lot owner. The precise point may be disputed, so it’s critical the owners committee is consulted. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

New properties and building faults

1. How do we deal with defects?
Building defects — faults that have existed since construction or are triggered later on by faulty original construction — are widespread problem. They can impact on the quality and liveability of both private and common areas; affect property values and rental incomes; and can result in ongoing damage to the building. Defects can result from inadequate workmanship going unnoticed and/or the quality of component parts of the building: building component manufacturers provide their own certifications and don’t always clarify limitations on application and capacity. Back to top

2. What challenge will defects pose to our strata community?
Owners can also face many difficulties in having defects fixed once they are discovered. Strata scheme operating costs can increase to cover emergency and other repairs, investigations and legal actions; owners, committees and managers are distracted from usual management when dealing with defects; and conflicts can arise between owners, committees, managers, developers and others over how to deal with defects. It is also much more difficult for strata owners to get defects fixed than it is for owners of detached houses. In part, this is because strata schemes are made up of multiple owners, which can lead to delays in discovering defects, deciding on the best (technical and legal) solution, making decisions and implementing actions.

The contract to build the strata scheme is between the developer and builder. The owners corporation is not a party to it and cannot use it to get the builder to rectify the problems. Instead, strata schemes have to rely on statutory rights or negligence claims. Home Warranty Insurance is no longer compulsory for the construction of buildings over 3 stories. Because defects in buildings can worsen and cause further problems, they should be addressed as promptly as possible. If there is not sufficient money in the sinking fund to cover immediate repairs, a special levy may have to be imposed. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

Sub-Division Plans / Titles

1. How do I get a copy of my sub-division plan or title?
To obtain a copy of your sub-division plan or title contact the relevant government agency in your State.
ACT: Office of Regulatory Services
NSW: Land and Property Information
NT: Land Titles Office
QLD: Department of Environment and Resource Management
SA: Land Services Group (Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure)
TAS: Land Titles Office (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment)
VIC: Victorian Government Land Services
WA: Landgate
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Gardens 

1. What is the value of a well maintained garden?
Landscaped gardens not only make strata complexes more beautiful, more impressive and more attractive places to live – they increase property values. The initial first impression of a set of strata units is that they are significantly more appealing when the gardens compliment the building. This directly assists in keeping rental vacancies low and owners happy. Landscaped areas, which include not only gardens but driveways and pathways, should be maintained at a high level to ensure they remain a prime asset. All maintenance programs should include fertilising, weed control, pruning, plant replacement, and irrigation maintenance. A beautiful landscape garden, if planned well, only requires a little more effort and cost to prepare and maintain than a bad one. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

Children in Strata

1. Can I raise my children in a self-managed strata community?
Most children, being adaptable little people, are perfectly happy growing up in apartment environments. Many apartment complexes also provide adequate garden space and play areas to cater for their needs. Back to top

2. Are there any by-laws affecting kids in strata communities?
Many strata schemes have bylaws placing some restrictions on unsupervised children playing on common property within and outside the building. The purpose of such by-laws is to minimise harm to children, particularly in parts of the common property that may be dangerous such as driveways and car parking areas. Other than for retirement village strata schemes, by-laws are not allowed to restrict or prevent children living in a strata scheme. Back to top

3. What if my kids make noise?
Given the usual close confines of complexes, parents need to be aware and considerate of other residents and teach their children to moderate noise, and the basic and invaluable lessons of empathy. Even 6-year-olds are old enough to comprehend the concept of fairness and treating others well. However, for the happiness of all residents, body corporates need to ensure their by-laws are adequate to manage child play and noise. Back to top

4. Are there any risks to raising kids in strata communities?
It’s also important to ensure apartments and their common areas are child-safe. The most serious risks to young children are falls from windows and balconies, and for complexes with water bodies of any type, drowning. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

5. How do I ensure my apartment complex is child-safe?
There are simple measures which can enhance safety for children in apartment complexes. These days most developers incorporate them, but older unit blocks may require retro-fitting. Back to top

6. What about the risk of falls?
Living in an apartment you can’t just open the back door and tell the two-year-old to play within sight; it’s inevitable in apartments children will be playing inside. In apartments of limited size, it’s difficult for families not to have furniture pushed up against windows. Most children who fall are playing in the bedroom, climbing on the bed, or the tallboy, or chest of drawers. Children are top-heavy so when they topple they fall head-first. Around most apartments there is concrete, so when you imagine a small child going head-first onto concrete you begin to understand how serious the injuries can be. Back to top

7. Are fly screens an issue?
The biggest problem is fly screens. No fly screen can support the weight of a child. Parents don’t perceive a window with a fly screen as an open window, but unless they are specifically designed they can’t even support a baby’s weight. It costs just $10 to secure a window so it opens less than 10cm. And that can save a life. Ten centimetres is the width of a child’s head; if they can’t get their head out, they can’t fall out. Rather than having individual tenants or owners do the modification, it’s far better to have it coordinated by the strata manager so all apartments are brought up to scratch and there’s less chance of breaching water seals. Back to top

8. My property has a balcony. How can I keep it child-safe?
Another serious risk area is the balcony, particularly older-style balconies with plenty of things children can use to get a foothold for climbing. Strata managers can help by working with owners to implement low-cost solutions. Perspex panels to cover older-style, decorative, low balcony railings are one option; another is affixing shade cloth over climbable elements like balustrades. There are other solutions, but for price-sensitive owners corporations the cheaper options can still save lives. Back to top

9. What about pools and ponds?
While children love the water, it is one of Australia’s leading causes of death in young children. But if you think because your properties don’t have pools in the common area you don’t need to worry, think again. Even small bodies of water can pose a serious risk to young children. It has happened that children have drowned in the family pet’s dog bowl! So that attractive water feature that the residents love is as much of a potential risk, if not protected, as the swimming pool.

When it comes to ponds, make sure there is a barrier to prevent small children accessing the water. You can’t actively supervise all the children who come through the properties you manage, but you can make sure you remove some of the serious risks to help prevent a tragedy. By law pools need to be fenced and secured. However, the pool fence and latch should also be regularly inspected. Getting an expert in to check the health of the fence doesn’t cost much but it can alert you to problems that aren’t obvious. Small children are curious; if the gate’s self-closing and self-latching mechanism has rusted, or if a paling is loose, they’ll find it.

The other major issue is what you have around the fence. Of course owners want the property to be well landscaped, but trellis, pot plants, garden furniture and rocks can provide great footholds for children who are keen to get into the water. Just like balconies, all these items need to be moved away from near the fence. Light-weight garden furniture should be secured to the ground to make sure children can’t drag it closer. Make sure the pool has a current, legible cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) poster within easy eyesight of the water. Should the worst happen, giving people access to that information could literally make the difference between life and death.

Resources – Kids Health: the health promotion unit of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, NSW, offers brochures, fact sheets and posters on child safety in residential buildings. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

Insurance

1. Do strata schemes need to take out Officer Bearers’ Insurance?
Some people mistakenly think that if you employ a strata manager that office bearers are not liable. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you become an Office Bearer or a member of an Executive Committee (eg Presiding Officer/Chair, Treasurer or Secretary) to read this factsheet, which explains the ins and outs. This fact sheet is brought to you by our friends at CHU Insurance. Back to top

2. Property Valuations and Insurance
Bodies Corporate should be asking themselves whether their main assets are likely to be fully covered by insurance in the event of a disaster and if they are not, who would be held responsible. The keywords to note are “full replacement value”. Check out this insurance valuations factsheet, which explains all. This fact sheet is brought to you by our friends at CHU Insurance. Back to top

3. Your Strata Insurance Cheat Sheet
Strata Insurance is designed to protect you and your property as a lot owner. To find out more about Strata Insurance and why you need it, read this post on Kate’s Blog and this cheat sheet from by Whitbread LawyersBack to top

Sustainability

1. Making your complex sustainable
As well as saving energy, improving the sustainability of your strata complex can significantly reduce its running costs. It can also future proof your building against rising costs. Shared services usually make up the biggest proportion of a strata-titled building’s energy consumption, particularly in mid and high-rise apartments. Lighting, lifts, air conditioning, pools, gyms and central hot water systems use the greatest amount of power and upgrades will deliver the greatest cost and carbon savings. Owners corporations can often significantly improve the efficiency of the energy used by these systems.

Many pay for themselves in less than a year and all result in lower strata costs for many years to come. Working out where the big costs are is the first step. While some managers automatically assume solar power or motion sensors are the first steps to a more environmentally friendly strata building, you should first consider your lighting as it is an easy and affordable upgrade with immediate payoffs. Commissioning a consultant to undertake a full audit can also pay for itself. The Energy Efficiency Council maintains a list of EEC members who have experience with, and expressed an interest in working with owners corporations in delivering energy efficiency projects. Back to top

2. Government Assistance
Check to see what support your local council provides. Some councils offer information kits and free evaluation programs and even grants to assist owners corporations with upgrading the energy efficiency of their complexes. Five principles:

  • Know what your utilities cost – how much is being spent where
  • Do an energy audit to find savings
  • Invest in energy-efficient plant & equipment upgrades
  • Increase your use of renewable energy
  • Remember active maintenance saves money. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

3. Building Sustainability Ratings
Strata managers need to be familiar with language of environmental sustainability, and this includes knowing about best practice and the measures of it. The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) – is a national initiative administered by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and applies to existing buildings. This initiative rates a building’s environmental performance and can be applied to residential and commercial buildings. It measures four key areas:

  • Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Water consumption
  • Waste
  • Indoor environment

Once the building’s environmental performance has been measured it provides a benchmark and assists with setting targets. Plus, it has the advantage of providing information about the building that may be useful when it comes to marketing the property for sale, promoting environmental credentials of a business and encouraging better environmental performance. Strata managers who manage commercial properties should be aware that from 1 November 2011 the Commercial Building Disclosure scheme (CBD scheme) requires a full Building Energy Efficiency Certificate (BEEC) to be disclosed and this must be publicly accessible on the Building Efficiency Register. Back to top

4. Green Star Ratings
Complementing NABERS is the Green Star ratings system which was developed by the Green Building Council of Australia. It is a national, voluntary environmental rating system. It was initially applied to new commercial buildings but since then has been expanded, albeit using slightly different tools, to multi-unit residential dwellings. For commercial there are three ratings categories 4 star, which is the benchmark, 5 star, which is Australian excellence and 6 star, which is world leadership. The Multi Unit Residential v1 rating tool aims to give property developers and building owners an incentive to design and construct high-performance green residential developments. Many owners corporations are retrofitting existing residential buildings to make them more environmentally sustainable. While there is no current green star rating system NABERS could easily be applied. Back to top

5. Energy Efficient Windows
Windows can play a critical role in lifting a building’s energy rating. Retrofitting older apartment buildings with modern performance glass can reduce energy consumption, while creating a comfortable, light filled and secure home. Ordinary windows are an energy leak. A typical, adequately-insulated building that uses ordinary glass can lose up to 61% of heat through the windows in winter. These same windows can allow up to 86% of the solar heat gain in summer. Back to top

6. Performance Measures
When reviewing glass options, you’ll come across these standard industry measures:

  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGCw) measures how readily heat from sunlight flows through a window. The values are 0 to 1. The lower a window’s SHGC, the less solar heat it transmits. (G-value or Solar Factor is the equivalent European measure.)
  • U-Value (Uw) measures the rate of non-solar heat loss or gain through a window. It includes the effect of the window frame, glass, seals and any spacers. The values are 0 to 1. The lower the U-Value, the greater the window’s insulating value.
  • Visible transmittance (Tvw) is an optical measure of how much light comes in through a window. The values are 0 to 1. The higher the number, the more light is transmitted. Back to top

7. The Right Glass
The right choice of window glass depends on three factors: the windows orientation, how much shading they receive, and not least, your climate: Hot Climate Areas (e.g. Northern Australia, including Darwin, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast):

  • Preferred U-Value: low
  • Preferred SHGCw: low

Mixed Climate Zones (e.g. Sydney, Perth and Adelaide.):

  • Preferred U-Value: low
  • Preferred SHGCw: mid-range (adjusted for elevation)

Cold climate zones (most of Victoria, ACT, Tasmania and some Southern parts of New South Wales):

  • Preferred U-Value: low
  • Preferred SHGCw: high (adjusted for elevation)

Tinted (or toned) glass: produced by the addition of metal oxides, reduces solar heat transference and glare. As the thickness of the glass increases, so to does the intensity (or darkness) of the tint. Spectrally selective tints effectively select the visible light band from the solar spectrum (resulting in high light transmission) and filter out the UV and infra red bands.

Low E glass: glass coated with metal or metal oxide, which increases a window’s ability to insulate (low U-value and low SHGC).

Integrated Glazing Unit (IGU): two or more panels of glass separated by an air space and a spacer around the edges, providing thermal and noise insulation.

For greater performance one of the glass panels should have a low-e coating and argon gas between the panes. Smart glass: also called E-glass or switchable glass, its light transmission properties alter when an electric current is applied. Back to top

8. Standards
All glazing undertaken should comply with Australian Standard AS1288-2006 for the selection and installation of glass, and Australian Standard AS2047 for the selection and installation of windows.

Useful links:
Glass and Glazing Assoc of Australia
Australian Window Association
Standards Australia. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

9. Water saving tips
Keeping on top of your water consumption is easy with a little know-how. Keep track of the building’s water bills to see how the usage changes over time. Sudden or regular increases may indicate a need to look more closely for possible problems. Back to top

10. Leaks
Look out for leaks. Even small leaks can add up to large water bills, as they happen all day, every day. If you are unsure, have a look at your main water meter late one night (when it is unlikely that many people are showering). If it keeps spinning around at a high and constant rate, chances are there are some leaks to be found and saved. Those buildings with a tank on the roof should check that the float valves that supply the tank are not worn – this can be a source of hidden leakage if the tanks silently overflow to drain at night. Checks to the valve can be made by pulling up on the arm, and checking to see if the water stops flowing at a level that would not allow water into the overflow drain. Back to top

11. Cooling towers
If you have cooling towers, check for wastage by looking for ‘overflow’ pipes coming out of the tower to drain, and seeing if there is any water flowing out of these. Some sites have ‘bleed water’ intermittently released through these pipes, but constant flow indicates a likely problem with the float valves shutoff height. Back to top

12. Shower heads
Showers are typically the largest single water use in apartment buildings. Executive Committees may wish to consider replacing older shower fittings to reduce flow rates to nine litres per minute or less. The good news is this is typically paid off in less than a year by the water and energy savings. The quality of the stream from the newer (high quality) low flow fittings may also surprise those who are used to more basic older designs. Back to top

13. Rainwater Tanks
While rainwater tanks are an excellent initiative, it is sometimes tempting to expect too much of them in reducing water use in apartment buildings. The small roof areas and minimal storage space available to most apartment blocks can limit the yield from rainwater tanks to a few hundred litres per day (even with large tanks). This small saving can often be outstripped by complacency with irrigation of gardens if people assume they no longer need to worry as a result of the tanks. So, rainwater tanks are normally recommended after a building has reduced water use in the ‘larger’ areas. Back to top

14. Inside Units
The largest opportunities for water use reduction are usually inside the home. While it is often assumed that pools, spas and retail tenants are to blame for large water bills, submetering shows this is rarely the case. It is common for 90% or more of water use in an apartment building to be used inside the apartments – in showers, toilets, taps, leaks, washing machines and dishwashers. Back to top

15. Water Pressure
Water pressure can also be culprit of higher consumption. Water pressure is higher for the lower levels of a building than the higher levels – due to the higher ‘head’ of water pushing down. “High pressures can cause higher water use through higher flow rates, a higher likelihood of leaks, and increased wear and tear on washers, valves and flow regulators. Some buildings have ‘pressure reduction stations’ installed on some levels to limit this effect, but many don’t. Installing pressure reduction could help to reduce water use and future maintenance in the lower levels.” Whatever the size of the strata complex, a little investigation can result in significant water savings. Ref: Strata Community Aust Back to top

Your State’s and Territory’s Legislation

1. Regulators
Across Australia a range of state and territory government departments and divisions are responsible for strata matters. Contacts are as follows:

New South Wales – Fair Trading Services
Phone: 13 32 20
Language assistance: 13 14 50
TTY for hearing impaired: 1300 723 404
Aboriginal tenancy: 1800 500 330.

Australian Capital Territory – Office of Regulatory Services
Phone: 6207 3000

ACT Planning and Land Authority (part of Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate)
Phone: 13 22 81

Victoria – 
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Phone: 1300 55 81 81

Queensland – 
The Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management
Phone: 1800 060 119

Western Australia – 
Department of Land
Phone: (08) 9273 7373, 1300 556 224

South Australia – 
Consumer and Business Services
Phone: 131 882

Tasmania – 
Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading
Phone: 1300 65 44 99

Northern Territory – 
Department of Justice
Administers the activities of unit title managers. Information concerning licensing issues can be obtained from its Deputy Registrar of Land, Business and Conveyancing Agents division.
Phone (08) 8999 1307

The Community Justice Centre Provides mediation services to help people resolve their own disputes without legal action.
Phone: (08) 8999 1999 Note: Consumer Affairs, a division of the Northern Territory Department of Justice, deals with residential tenancy issues, but unlike some states, NOT strata issues. Back to top

2. Queensland
The following is a list of legislation applicable to strata and community title management in Queensland. The legislation is complex, but consumer guides which explain it are available at the websites of the relevant state and territory government strata regulators.

Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997
Body Corporate and Community Management Act (Accommodation Module) 2008
Body Corporate and Community Management Act (Standard Module) 2008
Body Corporate and Community Management Act (Commercial Module) 2008
Body Corporate and Community Management Act (Small Schemes Module) 2008
Click here for more QLD information. Back to top

3. South Australia
Here is the SA Strata and Community Titles Act. The legislation is complex, but consumer guides that explain it are available at the websites of the relevant state and territory government strata regulators. A document detailing the changes made to the SA Strata and Community Titles Act is also available. More SA information. Back to top

4. New South Wales
The following is a list of legislation applicable to strata and community title management in NSW. The legislation is complex, but consumer guides that explain it are available at the websites of the relevant state and territory government strata regulators.
Strata Schemes (Freehold Development) Act 1973
Strata Schemes (Leasehold Development) Act 1986
Strata Schemes Legislation Amendment Act 2001
Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2005
Strata Schemes Management Amendment Act 2002
Community Land Development Act 1989
Community Land Management Act 1989 (Licensing and trust account issues etc)
Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 (as at 2008)
Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 1941
More NSW informationBack to top

5. Victoria
The following is a list of legislation applicable to strata and community title management in Victoria. The legislation is complex, but consumer guides that explain it are available at the websites of the relevant state and territory government strata regulators.
Owners Corporations Act 2006
Owners Corporation Regulations 2007
Regulations 2000 Subdivision (Procedures) (Owners Corporations Amendment)
Owners Corporation Regulations 2007
More Victorian informationBack to top

6. Tasmania
The following is a list of legislation applicable to strata and community title management in Tasmania. The legislation is complex, but consumer guides that explain it are available at the websites of the relevant state and territory government strata regulators.
Strata Titles Act 1998Back to top

7. Western Australia
The following is a list of legislation applicable to strata and community title management in Western Australia. The legislation is complex, but consumer guides that explain it are available at the websites of the relevant state and territory government strata regulators.
Strata Titles Act 1985Back to top

8. ACT
The following is a list of legislation applicable to strata and community title management in the ACT. The legislation is complex, but consumer guides that explain it are available at the websites of the relevant state and territory government strata regulators.
Unit Titles Act 2001
Unit Titles Act 2001 Regulations
Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011
Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011 – RegulationsBack to top

9. Northern Territory
The following is a list of legislation applicable to strata and community title management in the Northern Territory. The legislation is complex, but consumer guides that explain it are available at the websites of the relevant state and territory government strata regulators.
Unit Titles (Management Modules) Regulations
Unit Titles Regulations
Unit Titles Act
Unit Titles Schemes (Management Modules) Regulations
Unit Titles Schemes (General Provisions and Transitional Matters) Regulations
Unit Title Schemes Act 2009Back to top

Glossary

1. Strata Terms Explained
AGM An Annual General meeting held by the Owners Corporation.
Body Corporate Another term for Owners Corporation.
Body corporate managers Another term for strata managers.
By-laws A set of ‘rules’ that the proprietors and occupants in a strata scheme must follow. These can be changed at a general meeting of the strata company. All by-laws are not the same so you should obtain a copy of the current by-laws for your strata scheme. Also called Articles or Rules.
Committee Responsible for the administration of an owners corporation. They are a group of owners elected at each Annual General Meeting who represent all the lot owners of the strata scheme, and carry out the duties required. These include the control, maintenance and repair of the common property. The committee also has the responsibility of enforcing the bylaws. Also called an executive committee, managing committee, management committee, committee of management, or just the committee.
Council of Owners / Council of Management Other terms for an owners committee.
Common Property Common property refers to the areas of a strata building or community which every occupier or owner shares, including foyers, driveways, fences, visitors parking and gardens. The common property is the responsibility of the strata company whose obligations include maintaining and repairing the common areas.
Executive Committee Another term for Owners Committee.
Levy Levies are contributions paid by owners to the strata company to cover the proposed expenditure of the strata company. Levies are usually paid quarterly and are based on lot entitlement.
Lot A portion of a property that can be separately owned and sold. In a strata scheme, a lot is generally an apartment or townhouse.
Lot liability The proportion of the owners corporation expenses that a lot owner is required to pay.
Managing Committee/Management Committee/Committee of Management Other terms for Owners Committee.
Owner An owner is a person(s) or company that purchases a strata lot and is registered on the Certificate of Title.
Proprietor Another name for a strata owner.
Reserve Fund Another name for a Sinking Fund.
Sinking Fund Also called a Reserve Fund. Levies paid into this fund cover the costs of future capital expenses, such as painting the building, and replacing common property items like stairwell carpeting and roofing.
Strata Manager Professionals who administer owners corporations, and are responsible for maintaining their buildings and common areas. Also called body corporate managers, strata managing agents, managers, and agents, depending on the state or territory. They report to the owners committee.
Strata Scheme A strata scheme is a parcel of land with a building(s), where individuals each own a portion referred to as a lot. These buildings have common property but are not limited to areas such as driveways, pathways, fences, external walls and roof. A strata scheme can have a minimum of 2 lots and can be used for residential or commercial purposes or a mixture of both. A strata scheme can be a vertical block of units (high rise) or it can be all on the one level such as townhouses or commercial offices.
Strata managing agents Another term for owners strata managers.
Strata Plan The plan that subdivides the land and building(s) of a strata scheme into lots and common property. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

2. Terminology – Comparison between States and Territories
Strata and community title schemes around Australia use a bewildering variety of different words for the same things. Although a few words are very commonly used in different states and territories (such as ‘lot’, which means a portion of a property that can be separately owned and sold) most are not. In some cases the same word or words are used by different states but with different meanings (like ‘unanimous resolution’). This unfortunate situation is a legacy of the way strata legislation developed in different states:

  • Owners Corporation (also known as a body corporate, strata corporation, strata company or corporation)
  • Committee (also known as an executive committee, managing committee, committee of management, and council)
  • Strata Manager (also known as a owners corporation manager, body corporate manager, agent or strata managing agent, or just manager).

See Table of Comparison across States/Territories. Ref: Strata Community Aust. Back to top

Helpful Links and Documents

For great strata questions and answers, visit StrataCommunity.org.au FAQ. Back to top

1. Cheat sheets for each State and Territory

NSW: this is a brilliant summary guide for Strata Law Overview in NSW.

If you’re having trouble contact, Fair Trading Services: Phone: 13 32 20 Language assistance: 13 14 50 TTY for hearing impaired: 1300 723 404 Aboriginal tenancy: 1800 500 330

SA: this is a great Strata and Community Titles Overview for SA. The Attorney General’s Department has also compiled a number of helpful resources relating to strata management.

If you’re having trouble contact, Consumer and Business Services on 131 882

QLD: these are terrific summary guides on bodies corporate issues for owners in QLD.
Body Corporate Manager QLD.pdf
Financial Management Fact Sheet QLD.pdf
By Laws Fact Sheet QLD.pdf
The Committee Fact Sheet QLD.pdf
General Meetings Fact Sheet QLD.pdf

If you need further advice, contact the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management on 1800 060 119.

ACT: sorry, I couldn’t find a summary fact sheet on strata issues (or Unit Titles as they’re called in the ACT) compiled by the ACT government. If you find one please let me know. But this document is quite interesting: Unit Titles Factsheet ACT.

Or direct your queries to the Office of Regulatory Services on (02) 6207 3000.
ACT Planning and Land Authority (part of Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate) 13 22 81.

WA: this is a great overview guide for owning a strata property in WA.

For further information, contact Department of Land on (08) 9273 7373 or 1300 556 224.

VIC: sorry, I couldn’t find a helpful strata cheatsheet compiled by the Victorian government. If you find one, please let me know. Otherwise, go to the other articles in the Our Body Corp database for answers to your questions. Or direct your queries to Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 55 81 81.

TAS: if you own a strata property in Tasmania, this helpful overview cheatsheet should be useful. Or direct your queries to Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading on 1300 65 44 99.

NT: here’s a helpful cheatsheet for body corporate unit owners in NT in the Northern Territory (or Unit Title owners as they’re called in the NT).

Or direct your queries to the Department of Justice, which administers the activities of unit title managers.

Information concerning licensing issues can be obtained from its Deputy Registrar of Land, Business and Conveyancing Agents division. Phone (08) 8999 1307.

The Community Justice Centre provides mediation services to help people resolve their own disputes without legal action. Phone: (08) 8999 1999. Note: Consumer Affairs, a division of the Northern Territory Department of Justice, deals with residential tenancy issues, but unlike some states, NOT strata issues. Back to top

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