CHU Strata Community Awards 2019: Belinda Claffey, Support Team Member

From the moment Belinda joined Bright and Duggan three years ago, she was committed and focused on the projects which drove innovation and business transformation to add value for both external clients and internal customers of the company.

Her previous professional experiences in customer service and business transformation have enabled Belinda to develop a customer-centric approach as well as stepping into her clients’ shoes to understand what their needs and expectations are.

As someone new to working in the industry I understood living in strata from a client’s perspective,” Belinda says.

On a professional daily basis, this helps her to create and maintain solutions that support this customer-centric ideals of the organisation.

“My number one goal has always been to improve the customer experience and to ensure that the experience is consistent regardless of who or which channel the customer chooses to interact with, while ensuring the achievement of business objectives successfully”, Belinda says.

To achieve this, she has introduced a number of initiatives to drive best practice through better utilisation of existing tools:

  1. Design & Implementation of DocMax work queues: this has provided visible work volumes and a way to track and easily action customer requests in a consistent manner across the various customer touchpoints. It has enabled the business to resource appropriately to meet the desired customer service levels and in turn, improve the overall customer experience.
  2. Owners Portal: to improve access and quality of information available to their owners, she has identified an opportunity to utilise the StrataMax Owners Portal better. As a result, the owners portal was redesigned entirely in terms of layout and content with over 20,000 documents uploaded and moved into key subject groups. This allows owners and committee members to access information and reports about their building at their convenience at any time.

Belinda has also been committed to adding a positive change in her company’s internal business: “I initiated and managed the delivery of the implementation of “Skype for Business” across the organisation.”

This software has not only replaced a very aging existing phone system it has enabled interaction and communication across various channels and locations.

We had a challenging work environment with team members based at 10+ branches spread over three states. This was a barrier to effective communication and team collaboration, people tended to work in silos and did not leverage the expertise and breadth of experience that we had nationwide”, Belinda recalls.

From a career perspective and as an example to follow, “informal learning and coaching opportunities” have played a significant role in Belinda’s development and career growth.

I’m fortunate to work with many different stakeholders, suppliers and functional teams, and this has enabled me to continually learn daily both in the areas of soft skills and more strata specific technical skills.”

 

Director profile: Nick Whiley

Nick Whiley represents the Strata Owners Chapter on the SCA (NSW) Board and has done so since 2017 when he was asked to fill a casual vacancy. Nick was officially elected to the NSW Board at the 2019 AGM.

He is well-qualified to represent strata owners being an owner himself and having sat on or chaired strata committees since the early 1990s. Nick has likely experienced most of the highs and lows of strata from a strata owners perspective.

One of Nick’s first recollections of those early days on strata was that the strata manager held the authority as they held the expertise and chaired the meetings, which put them in a position of authority.

This is still a common attitude amongst strata owners and committee members, so Nick’s challenge is to help strata committees to understand the role of the strata manager (as a service-provider to the committee) and also to understand their own roles. To do this he says that strata committees need to have access to educational resources and good information, so that their participation in strata is more professional. Moving away from pure self-interest towards a sense of community is crucial to creating better strata experiences and owners and strata managers need to come on board with this concept of community.

He says that the strata laws need to support and recognise the personal impact of the decisions made by strata committees and that the NCAT also has to be understanding of the role of committee members.

Nick will most certainly advocate for owners and wants owners to also promote SCA (NSW) connections so that owners understand that they do have a voice and are connected to the strata industry and with government.

To do this he wants to see an increase in strata owners membership. The stronger the numbers the more effective the voice. By joining SCA (NSW), every member, regardless of the Chapter they come from, benefits from being a part of a truly representative organisation that has the ear of government.

Looks like the next two years for Nick are going to be busy and exciting not just for him but for the strata owners of NSW.

Dealing with property damage? Here’s who’s responsible

If your apartment or the entire building has been damaged by recent storms you may be a little confused by what is your property, and therefore your responsibility to repair, and what is common property.

SCA (NSW) understands that the issue of what’s yours and what is considered to be part of the common property can be tricky and confusing but has developed a great solution specifically to sort through this issue.

First launched in 2010, the Who’s responsible: a guide to common property guide is available for download from the SCA (NSW) website.

It’s had a few updates along the way and provides a comprehensive list of items found within a building that could generally be considered common property. It aims to give some guidance on who usually would be responsible for giving that item attention.

For example, generally the owners are responsible for the repair and maintenance of balcony sliding doors if the complex was registered before 1st July 1974. However, for buildings built after that date, the responsibility then falls on the owners corporation.

Owners are responsible for internal doors, carpets and paintwork except where damaged by the owners corporation when affecting common property repairs.

Depending on the history of a building, past renovations and current by-laws, determining what is and isn’t common property is a complex matter.

The guide is not meant to be a definitive answer to some of the more complex questions although it can be used as a start. SCA (NSW) recommends that in more complex cases the guide should be used in conjunction with the strata plan and by-laws to determine who is responsible for repairs and maintenance.

Strata building renewal

One of the most controversial changes to the strata laws in 2016 was the introduction of the 75 percent rule. This changed the voting dynamics within the owners corporation so that for building owners wanting to terminate their strata scheme in favour of redeveloping it, they no longer had to get 100 percent agreement from all owners.

Before the changes, it only took one person to object to the termination of a strata scheme which was hugely unfair and inequitable. The main reason most people want to knock down and rebuild is that the cost of maintaining their old, crumbling building is beyond the value of the building and so replacing it is a sensible option.

To accommodate the population growth that is predicted over the next 20 to 50 years within the Sydney metropolitan area the NSW Government has to find ways to make high-density living work. One of the solutions is to build on brownfield sites, better use of utilities and renewal of aging building stock.

Renewing old buildings has a number of benefits for the community including better environmental efficiency, improved safety and savings in building maintenance.

Many of the buildings from the 1970s and 1980s are not energy efficient and not up-to-date with the current building code and safety standards. Owners simply do not have the money required to make them more efficient and safer. Building renewal achieves this.

A recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald Transformation champions: Meet a new breed of apartment owners remodelling their old blocks provides some excellent examples of how this has worked well on older buildings. The changes are well considered and the way they have been funded is innovative. In one case they unlocked potential to create a few additional units and used the sale of those to fund some of the project.

Consider whether this is something your building might benefit from and how it could work for all owners. To assist you, NSW Fair Trading has set out the steps for collective sale and renewal for owners interested in this process.

Residential tenancies new laws

From 23 March 2020, new residential tenancies laws commence which are aimed at improving tenants’ renting experience while ensuring that landlords can effectively manage their properties.

According to NSW Fair Trading, the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and the new Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 will reduce disputes over repairs and maintenance, increase protection and certainty for tenants, clarify the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords and improve transparency between these two parties.

Key changes include:

  • NSW landlords must ensure that their rental property meets 7 minimum standards to be ‘fit for habitation’
  • new and improved disclosure obligations on landlords and their agents, including disclosure of material facts, and strengthening the remedies for tenants when these obligations aren’t met
  • landlords must ensure that smoke alarms are in working order. A penalty will apply for landlords who don’t comply
  • making it easier for tenants to install fixtures or make alterations, additions or renovations that are minor
  • mandatory set fees when a tenant breaks their lease will apply to all new fixed-term agreements that are 3 years or less
  • limiting rent increases to once every 12 months for periodic (continuing) leases
  • new powers for NSW Fair Trading to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords. This includes powers to investigate and issue rectification orders to require landlords to carry out repairs and maintenance, or tenants to fix damage.

More information is available on the NSW Fair Trading website www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

Environmental initiatives

Earth Hour 2020 is on again this year. Or should we say “off”, as in lights are off on 28 March 2020 from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.

By joining in the Earth Hour movement you’re being a part of the global action on climate change. This activity is one where people can make a positive change and not have to rely on governments to do it for us.

The Earth Hour website tells us that, “At least 5 major international conferences on biodiversity, climate, and sustainable development will take place, where world leaders will make decisions that will impact our world for years to come. Earth Hour is our opportunity to put the environment at the top of the agenda, to protect the future of the one home we all share.”

It’s easy and something you can do at home, simply switch off your lights for one hour. Maybe even take the opportunity to switch off other devices as well. You never know what difference it makes until you give it a go.

Secure your balcony belongings

A tragedy last week in which a person was killed by a gas cylinder falling from a balcony in Sydney’s CBD during wild weather, has prompted SCA (NSW) to encourage strata residents to secure their belongings especially when storms are forecast.

Sadly, the gas bottle that struck and subsequently killed a 37-year-old man is suspected to have fallen from ‘great height’. It has been reported that witnesses nearby saw furniture falling from an apartment block during the storm.

This resulted in the apartment complex issuing a notice indicating that “balconies are exposed to extreme wind conditions… Items can blow off… this can pose a real threat to life and has legal recourse”.

SCA (NSW) asks strata residents to be aware of what they have on their balconies and to ensure that they’re properly secured for when wild weather and strong winds hit.

If something on a balcony isn’t tied down or properly secured, there’s a good chance it can become dislodged and flung over the edge during wild weather and strong winds.

It’s recommended that residents take the time to inspect their balconies, properly secure loose items and put items inside where it’s not feasible to secure them if storms are forecast.

It only takes a few minutes and could prevent serious injury or death.

Bushfire checklist

With Summer far from over, SCA (NSW) is urging small, medium, high-rise and other strata communities in NSW – especially those with flammable cladding – to implement fire safety practices as bushfires continue to threaten built up areas.

Months of dry heat and minimal rain has led SCA (NSW) to develop a tool for building managers and strata residents in built up areas. A unique checklist has been created for strata properties to be used in case of spot fires, ember attack or, in severe cases, where a fire front caused by nearby blazes is approaching.

Bushfires have the potential to impact any property. The threat to strata-titled properties wrapped in combustible cladding is even more grave without proper fire safety precautions.

Highly flammable aluminium composite cladding has been linked to the Lacrosse and Neo200 building fires in Melbourne, and the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.

The new seven-point bushfire safety checklist aims to help strata communities stay safe this bushfire season. With hot and dry conditions expected to continue, it’s critical that managers and residents take action now to prevent loss of life and do all they can to protect their property.

SCA (NSW) bushfire safety checklist:

    1. Dispose of dry vegetation and litter: Embers can travel kilometres ahead of fire fronts, sparking spot fires or additional fire fronts. Dry vegetation and litter should be routinely cleared from rooftops, gutters, balconies and grounds. Grass should be maintained at lengths below 10cm and grass clippings disposed of.
    2. Keep evacuation points, such as stairwells and fire safety doors, clear and unobstructed: Managers and residents should also be familiar with evacuation points throughout the building. Evacuation instructions should be displayed on every floor. Illuminated exit signs must also be maintained to ensure they’re visible at all times.
    3. Develop a bushfire plan: All residents should have a bushfire plan in place in case of an emergency. A bushfire plan should detail when to leave, where to evacuate to and what you will need to take with you. Do not leave the decision to stay or leave to the last minute.
    4. Decide if you will stay or leave: This is one of the most crucial decisions to make in advance of an emergency. Building managers and residents should only make the decision to stay and defend the property if they are properly equipped and resourced to do so.
    5. Stay informed: Everyone should take responsibility for staying informed throughout bushfire season. The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) website provides regularly updated Fire Danger Ratings. You can also receive alerts via radio, social media and SMS. Save the following number into your phone for Emergency Alert Australia: 0444 444 444.
    6. Check building safety: Residential buildings wrapped in combustible cladding are at increased risk during bushfire season. A professionally registered fire engineer will be able to assess the building and work with management to establish fire safety protocols.
    7. Ensure building insurance is adequate: If you haven’t already, check the building is insured for full replacement and reinstatement value and your personal contents sums insured are adequate. While not mandatory, retrofitting the property is recommended for older buildings to minimise damage and avoid costly repairs..

SCA (NSW) advises that anyone with questions regarding bushfire safety should consult their local fire authority

SCA (NSW) – Bushfire Appeal

The SCA (NSW) community can make a difference

SCA (NSW) members have always been generous and willing to lend a helping hand. Many of us want to help those caught up in the horrendous bushfire crisis that has unfolded over the past few weeks and continues even today.

To help you take the guesswork out of which charities to support, SCA (NSW) has set up a Go Fund Me page. Funds raised will be split between the below charities to aid in the rescue and treatment of native wildlife and livestock, support firefighters and delivering crucial support to communities.

Please donate now and show your support for communities and wildlife affected by the bushfires in NSW. Go to our SCA (NSW) page to donate and for more general information about how you might be able to help in other ways.

 

Greening your apartment

No matter what your views are about climate change we can all do something to better manage the environment. This month we have found some initiatives that aim to help us as we go about our daily routines to be a little more focussed on our impact on the world around us.

If your local council is not offering residents better recycling options, then let them know what you want them to consider doing. If your council does please let us know so that we can share details of new initiatives with the wider NSW strata community.

City of Sydney is trialling a food scraps recycling program. They want apartment buildings in Glebe, Forest Lodge, Erskineville, Alexandria, Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay to get involved and build on the early success of the program. In the first month of the trial, the City collected and recycled more than 14 tonnes of food scraps from 330 houses and 53 apartment buildings.

For more information, please contact the City of Sydney food scraps recycling team on 8019 6902 or foodscrapsrecyclingtrial@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

The City is also seeking apartment buildings to be part of a 10-week collection trial of used nappies. The project will help find a long-term recycling solution for this difficult waste stream.

Nappies and incontinence products will also be collected from hospitals, aged care facilities and childcare centres in the area. Insights from the study will be used to help develop a nappy recycling facility in NSW. The trial is expected to run in March 2020. All necessary materials will be provided.

The trial is being led by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s sustainability advantage program, manufacturers of Huggies nappies Kimberly-Clark, Veolia, the City of Sydney and participating businesses.

Please register your interest by emailing Ailsa McConnachie-Folwell amcconnachiefolwel@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au