It’s on! The state’s much-anticipated and long-overdue strata reforms have a definite start date. November 30 is the big day so it’s an early Christmas present for some apartment residents – although some of the “gifts” may be less than gratefully received.


Among more than 90 changes to strata legislation, the most controversial means that 75 per cent of owners in apartment blocks will be able to sell the entire building to developers, regardless of objections from the other 25 per cent.

However, strata residents will have to wait until July next year to see the building defects bond that will force developers to set aside 2 per cent of the cost of buildings to pay for faults that may be uncovered in the first two years of unit blocks’ lives.

It will have taken five years, three false starts, and 3000 public and professional submissions but the new Strata Management Act means standard bylaws will include a default option that allows pets unless they are excluded, rather than excludes pets unless they are allowed – a subtle but significant change.

  • “These once-in-a-generation reforms are modern, flexible and reflect 21st-century strata living,”
  • Spokesperson for Victor Dominello 

However, pet haters need not fear. Generally only applicable to new buildings, the new bylaws would have to be adopted by existing strata schemes to have any effect there.

Under other changes, owners corporations will be able to invite local council parking inspector into their car parks, in response to commuter parking thieves who clog up strata car parks near railway stations. Underground and enclosed car parks are, however, likely to be exempt for safety and security reasons.

Cigarette smoke will, for the first time, be defined as a “nuisance”, meaning that even people who smoke only inside their own units can be ordered to stop if it affects other residents. The days of balcony “fireflies” and even barbecues may be numbered.

Proxy farming – power-hungry executive committee members collecting fistfuls of proxy votes so they can overrule any and every other owner – will be a thing of the past with limits on the number of proxy votes any one person can hold.

Instead, electronic voting, meeting “attendance” by Skype or via the phone and online debate and decision-making will restore democracy in those buildings that truly want it.

Strata professionals who are not owners will not be allowed to join executive committees – currently rental agents with stacks of the aforementioned proxies from investors can run whole buildings to suit their businesses – and strata managers will be required to disclose commissions they receive from insurers.

Tenants in blocks that have more than 50 per cent occupancy of registered renters will be able to elect a tenants’ rep to the executive committee, although they won’t be able to vote and can be excluded from discussions of a sensitive or financial nature.

In response to comments that most strata tenants in NSW are not actually registered as such, Fair Trading, which also covers residential tenancies, is looking at using the rental bond database to bypass the widely ignored legal requirement to notify owners corporations of new tenancies.

Minor alterations to apartments that don’t affect common property will be allowed by default and owners corporations will be able to set occupancy limits on apartments, provided there are no fewer than two adults a bedroom.

“It is estimated that by 2040 half of the people in NSW will either be living or working in strata. These once-in-a-generation reforms are modern, flexible and reflect 21st-century strata living,” a spokesman for Better Regulation and Innovation Minister Victor Dominello told Domain.

“About 90 changes have been made to the existing laws. A key challenge will be ensuring owners, tenants and strata managers are brought up to speed with the all the changes in the new act.”

However, the building defects bond scheme won’t come in until July 1, 2017, to “ensure that builders, developers and the strata community have sufficient time to prepare for the changes and comply with requirements of the act and its supporting regulations,” according to a press release.

Final regulations – the nuts and bolts of the new laws – will be published in the coming weeks, according to reports.

“The last major reform to strata was back in 1973, and parts of the legislation are no longer relevant in this day and age,” Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said.

“The number of submissions from the public and major stakeholders indicates a substantial level of engagement and interest in bringing strata legislation into the 21st century.”

SOURCE: Jimmy Thomson writes about strata every week in Domain. There’s more on the strata law reforms on flat-chat.com.au.

 

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