R U OK? Day – 2021

It’s been a year like never before in the Australian strata sector. Due to lockdowns creating social isolation and other social pressures, national R U OK? Day is more important than ever before.

Today is national R U OK? Day, a powerful day of action to connect with your family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. This year, the message is “Are they really okay?”.

In these challenging and uncertain times, which has seen extended lockdowns in Sydney and other areas of New South Wales, it’s more important than ever to ask the question: “Are you really okay?”.

The charity R U OK?, which was founded on the belief that a conversation can change a life, has developed tons of helpful resources to empower you to have meaningful conversations with others this R U OK? Day.

They advocate four simple steps to have a connected conversation:

  1. Ask “R U OK?”
  2. Listen
  3. Encourage action
  4. Check in

For those who wish to get involved in this year’s R U OK? Day, there are a range of ways that you can offer your support to your loved ones and share the organisation’s message.

Have a conversation

Finding a way to connect with others may require you to get a little creative under lockdown conditions! If you can’t connect face to face, use a video call, phone call, text message, email, or e-card to reach out.

Acts of kindness

A small act of kindness can truly brighten someone’s day. There are so many ways to show others that you’re thinking of them – from sending flowers to helping a neighbour, or simply wishing someone a good day.    

Watch the webinar

R U OK? is hosting a free webinar today at 12:30pm AEST to teach you how to start a conversation. Speakers include Sam Mac, Sunrise weatherman and R U OK? Ambassador, and Katherine Newton, CEO of R U OK?. To find out more and to register, click here.

Host an event

A face to face or online event is a fun way to bring people together and celebrate R U OK? Day. Events can involve your nearest and dearest, your neighbours, your colleagues, a sporting, or community group. To register your event and spread some positivity, click here.

Wear yellow

And perhaps one of the easiest ways you can show your support this R U OK? Day is to wear yellow. Bright and bold fluorescent or subdued hues – whatever takes your fancy! You can also support the organisation directly by buying some R U OK? official merchandise here

For more resources on having a conversation that can change a life, visit: www.ruok.org.au. We encourage you to share this article with those you care about to share this year’s important message: “Are you really okay?”.

 

Changes to laws on the keeping of animals in strata

New laws governing the keeping of animals in a strata scheme started on 25 August 2021. Under the new laws, keeping an animal in a strata scheme can’t be prohibited unless the animal unreasonably interferes with another resident’s use and enjoyment of their lot or the common property. 

The laws were informed by public feedback received from the pets in strata survey. The survey was conducted earlier this year as part of the strata schemes statutory review. 

The NSW Government has developed the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Pets) Regulation 2021, which sets out circumstances in which keeping an animal causes an unreasonable interference. 

We have also produced a report that sets out the public feedback received from the pets in strata survey and how the list of circumstances was developed.

Under the new laws, an owners corporation:

  • can only refuse to allow an animal into the scheme if that animal unreasonably interferes with another resident’s use and enjoyment of their lot or the common property
  • may still require residents to apply for approval from the owners corporation to keep an animal on their lot
  • may still set reasonable conditions in their by-laws to manage the keeping of animals in the scheme. Strata by-laws that set a blanket ban on the keeping of any animals within a scheme are not valid.

The laws also include a list of circumstances where an animal causes an unreasonable interference to residents in a scheme. The owners corporation can take steps to prohibit an animal that is being kept in the scheme if the animal causes a nuisance, hazard or unreasonable interference.

Visit the Fair Trading website (https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/housing-and-property/strata-and-community-living/strata-schemes/by-laws-in-your-strata-scheme) for more information.

The new laws are available on the NSW Legislation website: 

  • section 137B of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015
  • clause 36A of the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016

FAQs

What do the pets reforms change?
Under the new laws, a strata scheme’s owners corporation can only refuse to allow an animal into the scheme if that animal unreasonably interferes with another resident’s use and enjoyment of their lot or the common property.  An owners corporation can also take steps to prohibit an animal that is being kept in the scheme if the animal causes a nuisance, hazard or unreasonable interference.

What if my scheme has a no animals by-law?
A by-law that sets a blanket ban on animals is considered invalid. 

If you live in a scheme with this type of by-law, you should raise the issue with the owners corporation. You can add ‘updating the by-law’ to the agenda for the next general meeting of your owners corporation, or you can call for an extraordinary general meeting to be held. 

If the owners corporation has reconsidered their by-law and the result is inconsistent with the new laws, you can lodge an application for mediation with NSW Fair Trading. If unresolved, you can lodge an application at NCAT. 

Are owners corporations still able to require approval for pets coming into the scheme?
Yes.  An owners corporation can choose to set up an approval process for all animals that enter the scheme. However, they can only refuse to allow an animal if the animal causes an unreasonable interference to others living in the scheme. To help evaluate the animal, and for identification purposes, owners corporations can ask for information about the animal, such as: 

  • the animal’s age, breed, name or photo 
  • evidence of vaccination or microchipping (for animals like cats and dogs) 

COVID-19: What the New Public Health Orders mean for Strata

Over the weekend, the NSW Premier made the tough decision to introduce even further restrictions in the face of persistent community transmission of COVID-19.

CHANGES TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

New changes to restrictions for Greater Sydney Area include the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour have been announced

All other restrictions currently in place will remain in place.

Some clarity, particularly surrounding the servicing of common property in Strata Schemes was provided by the gazetted public health orders that were issued by the Government on Saturday evening.

Please note the following advice is based on our understanding as of today and further clarification or new rules may be introduced at any time. We shall continue to closely communicate with NSW Health, NSW Fair Trading as well the Minister’s office and update our members when information comes to hand.  

CLEANING & WASTE MANAGEMENT

Clause 22A of the orders states the following;

Clause 22A Directions of Minister about visitors to places of residence
Insert after clause 22A(4)-

(4A) Despite subclause (4), a person is not authorised to visit a place of residence in Greater Sydney to engage in work that is cleaning or carrying out repairs, maintenance, alterations, additional or other trades at the place of residence.
(4B) Subclause (4A) does not apply if the work is urgently required –
a. to ensure the health, safety or security of the place of residence or the members of the household, or
b. because of an emergency

Example: Commercial cleaning and waste management is permitted within common property of strata buildings. Cleaning within individual lots is not permitted.

GARDENING 
Due to no exemption to the contrary, landscaping and gardening works are to be deferred unless for an emergency i.e potential damage to property or safety risk.

FIRE SERVICES
We have sought clarity from the Fire Protection Association of Australia (FPA) and according to their latest member advice, fire protection maintenance is urgent to maintain the health, safety  and security of premises for residents and for attending emergency services, with the exception of non-urgent work within residential units.

An excerpt of their advice relating to permissible works in below, and full details can be found in the following link http://www.fpaa.com.au/news/news/routine-service-work.aspx

  1. the following work must continue on fire safety systems and features during the lockdown period:
    • routine service work;
    • annual assessment; and
    • rectification maintenance; 
  2. all work must be carried out using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety procedures; 
  3. base building fire systems should be assessed, but common sense and health considerations should be taken with respect to servicing single occupancy units (SOUs); and 
  4. where access cannot be obtained practitioners should work out alternative arrangements in the short term to satisfy themselves that systems are performing, and arrange to reinspect at a later time

CONSTRUCTION WORK, REPAIRS, AND NON-ESSENTIAL MAINTENANCE
Construction works, repairs and non-essential maintenance to be deferred. Emergency works and essential reactive repairs are permitted, however a pause on preventative and non-essential maintenance and remedial/upgrade construction work is in place.

Example: Lift outage, garage door malfunctions, or hot water / pump repairs are permitted. 

Special Health Orders for the Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool (LGA’s)

Persons living in the Liverpool, Fairfield or Canterbury Bankstown LGA’s cannot leave their residence for work unless they are an authorised worker

For a full copy of the most recent health orders and a list of the workers that have been permitted to work in the Bankstown, Canterbury and Liverpool LGA’s see the links below.

•    Link to Health Order
•    Link to Exempted Workers

NSW CONSUMERS THE BIG WINNERS UNDER PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS SCHEME

The New South Wales Strata Sector is now leading the way for the Property Industry with the highest form of consumer protection regulation approved by the Government to commence 1 July 2021.

Over the past years, Strata Community Association (NSW) and the NSW Government have been working in partnership to strengthen consumer protection and restore consumer confidence.

The NSW Government under the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Anderson, has approved a Professional Standards Scheme. This formal recognition by the NSW Government is first of its kind for the property services sector in Australia and an exciting time as members of the SCA (NSW).

The scheme has been approved for an initial period of 5 years commencing from 1st July 2021. This approval means Strata Manager members of SCA (NSW) must adhere to a Code of Ethics including professional standards and is monitored by Professional Standards Australia.
At the forefront of this scheme is a further commitment to consumers to ensure high professional standards across the strata industry in NSW. This is in line with various other initiatives across NSW, including the NSW Government plan to rebuild the construction sector and restore confidence and professionalism.
The Professional Standards Scheme will bring to our clients a range of benefits, including:

  • The SCA (NSW) will oversee and self-regulate the conduct of all members within a structured professional framework.
  • In addition to our internal complaints handling process, the Professional Standards Scheme brings a further robust and independent complaints handling process, ensuring clients can be assured of an independent review and response.
  • An increase in Continual Professional Development (CPD) requirements for Strata Managers and Licensee’s in Charge, ensuring the industry remains up to date, educated and aware of their on-going responsibilities to the consumer.

To help you understand what a Professional Standards Scheme is and how it will benefit you, SCA (NSW) has put together a list of useful frequently asked questions:

What is a Professional Standards Scheme (PSS)?
A Professional Standards Scheme (PSS) is a legal instrument that binds associations, such as SCA (NSW), to monitor, enforce and improve the professional standards of their members and protect consumers.

At its core, a PSS exists to help consumers, as well as governments and professionals, to distinguish between the genuinely professional and the growing field of people who are simply claiming to be professional.

Every PSS in Australia, of which there are 15, is overseen by the Professional Standards Councils, which is an independent statutory body that approves, monitors and enforces Professional Standards Schemes under three pillars:

  1. Protect consumers
  2. Improve professional standards
  3. Help associations

To protect consumers the Professional Standards Council expect associations within their regulated communities to ensure their members uphold these standards through education and guidance, monitoring and enforcement, and other measures. This plays an important role in protecting consumers.

Who will the SCA (NSW) PSS apply to?
The landmark SCA (NSW) Professional Standards Scheme will mandate that all SCA (NSW) members must meet enhanced Professional Standards, as well as abide by a Code of Ethics.

It will apply to strata management companies and individual strata managers who are members of SCA (NSW) and provide strata management services to consumers who own or live in strata title properties domiciled in New South Wales.

How does the SCA (NSW) PSS benefit consumers?
For the first time, consumers in New South Wales will have access to a formal complaint and disciplinary system under this ground-breaking new scheme.

Strata managers and strata management companies under the scheme will be required to uphold the professional standards through ongoing education and other measures to ensure you and other consumers feel confident in the advice and service you receive.

Under the SCA (NSW) Professional Standards Scheme, SCA (NSW) members will be bound:

  • By a Code of Ethics that compels them to act honestly, ethically and with a duty of care to their clients,
  • To comply with a formal complaints and discipline regime in the event they receive a consumer or industry participant complaint,
  • To comply with a continuous education regime that is double the current requirement of a strata manager licence or certificate under Fair Trading,
  • To meet certain practice standards in day-to-day operations, and
  • To agree to regular auditing to ensure compliance with the Code of Ethics.

SCA (NSW) is also obliged to report to Professional Standards Australia on member activity and adherence to the SCA (NSW) Professional Standards Scheme.

Together, all these requirements support and uplift consumer protections.

A property services commissioner to be appointed in NSW to protect consumer interests

In another major step forward to improve collaboration with the industry and protect the rights of NSW consumers in the property sector, the NSW Government and Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Anderson MP, have announced a Property Services Commissioner will be appointed in NSW.

The role of Property Services Commissioner is that of an independent industry expert who will oversee real estate agencies and professionals who provide services to the property sector, and this includes strata professionals.

The pending appointment demonstrates the commitment of the NSW Government to a comprehensive review of Fair Trading, with the Commissioner’s first priority to make recommendations directly to the Minister.

The Commissioner will join the Property Services Expert Panel to work in collaboration with the property industry and as Chair, I am looking forward to driving positive collaborative change towards better protecting consumers.

In a recent statement from Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Hon. Kevin Anderson MP, he said: “We are taking the same successful approach we did for the construction sector by appointing a Building Commissioner.”

The appointment of Building Commissioner, David Chandler, last year was a huge step forward for the construction sector and the beginning of a new era of stability and consumer confidence. Mr Chandler currently has five orders in place regarding major structural changes and compliance issues that need to be rectified in NSW buildings.

The Minister and the Office of Fair Trading are leading the way in Australia in providing consumer protection to the people of NSW, with the support of industry bodies like SCA (NSW).

For our part, SCA (NSW) is introducing the Professional Standards Scheme with effect of 1 July, which has the full support of the NSW Government and will serve to protect the interests of NSW consumers specifically in the strata sector.

The appointment of Commissioner Chandler, the introduction of the SCA (NSW) Professional Standards Scheme and the pending appointment of a Property Services Commissioner all support a platform of improved consumer protection in New South Wales.

Choosing the Right Painting Company

Strata Industry Expert Advice brought to you by Tony Conway, Managing Director, Premier Painting

Choosing the right painting company for your strata managed project is an important step toward achieving a positive result for all strata members and owners. Determining which company to employ to carry out your cosmetic painting requirements is a multi-step process – a process which must be agreed upon by the majority.

In order to select a painter for your project, it’s important to first understand the project objectives. This will allow you and your fellow owners to define the project requirements, scope of works and product specifications with a clear focus.

What are the project objectives?

These include the motivations behind the work that will be carried out. For example:  

  • Re-fresh or colour change
  • Repairs & General Maintenance
  • Complete update with renovations
  • Protection, Membrane, Waterproofing
  • Annual Maintenance
  • And more.

Once you have determined the project objectives, you can define the Scope of Works and Product Specifications. Scope of works refers to the areas and surfaces which must be attended to during the project. Product Specifications refers to which products will be used, the colours, and how to apply them.  

Egaging a Professional to Determine Scope of Works and Product Specifications

There are several professional services which can help you achieve your desired outcome. These include various trades and consultants. Three of the key services which may assist you in your painting endeavours include Colour and Paint Consultants as well as Structural Engineers for larger projects.

Colour Consultant

A colour consultant can advise on all colour schedules and guide you on whether your project falls within cosmetic update or colour change, interior or exterior categories.

It is recommended to engage an accredited colour consultant to produce two different colour schemes. These can then be presented to the committee with the option to vote on one or the other.

To finalise colour choices, it is recommended to have paint samples applied well before the project commences to discuss any colour concerns that may arise between owners. If colour concerns occur during the project, a variation to costs could be made for scaffold hire and product. This will also affect the project timeline.

It is recommended to make sure you have a finishes schedule signed off by the Body Corporate prior to starting.

Paint Consultant

Paint Consultants specialise in painting and minor repairs. They are typically a painting professional with a vast experience of all types of painting systems and methods. A Paint Consultant can advise you on technical requirements you may need for your painting project and can project manage these for you.  

A Paint Consultant can project manage the works for you as well as supply you with condition and quality assurance reports, scope of works and specification assessments, quotes for works required, as well as administrative progress payments.

A Paint Consultant is ideal in circumstances where the repairs are relatively minor, or the major component of the project is painting and not remedial repairs. A Paint Consultant is more cost effective than an Engineer for smaller projects and budgets.

Structural Engineers

For larger projects such as complete exterior re-paints or structural repairs it is advisable to engage an engineer to carry out a complete inspection of your building and issue a condition report documenting any identifiable repairs and existing coatings conditions.

A condition report can also specify which products, systems and methods should be used to carry out repairs and repainting to comply with the building code of Australia. This report may also include your WHS responsibilities along with the proposed contractor’s obligations. It may also comprise of a contract of works to make sure your Strata Plan is protected by the Home Building Act.

A Structural Engineer can also carry out the tender process for you by recommending reliable trade companies that are suitable for your project. Once a suitable painting company has been procured, the engineer can also provide a project management service whereby they will run the project for you and carry out all checks to ensure all is completed as per specification.

How to source a reputable painting company

One of the key traits to look for in a panting company is their ability to communicate with and project manage any works or involvement with external Engineers, consultants, third party trades, and Strata managers.

Look for the following benefits:

  • Positive online reviews
  • Well established teams who are experienced in the Strata industry
  • A track record of working across multi-story buildings, which require abseiling and scaffolding
  • Ask to review company accreditations, licenses, ABN, and insurance
  • Check with industry associations such as the SCA NSW and Master Painters NSW

What to Avoid:

  • Cheaper quotes which may save costs on low quality brands of paints and preparation materials
  • Preparation levels (ensure the painting process includes the necessary preparation: washing down, sanding certain areas, applying undercoats)
  • Paint film thickness levels
  • WHS shortcuts

It is recommended to request a schedule of costs listed which may include details such as day rate per painter, m2 rate for render repair, scaffold cost per day etc. This will allow for a high level comparison between quotes. It will also allow you to budget for variations which may occur during the project.

Compliance Onboarding Checklist

Once you have qualified your painters, the Strata Committee can review quotes and select a painter. At this point it is imperative to assess timeframes, budget and expectations.

As a final step it is important to work through an onboarding checklist.

A Compliance Onboarding includes:

  • License
  • Public Liability Insurance
  • Workers Comp Insurance
  • Home Building Compensation Scheme (Jobs over $20,000)
  • SWMS along with a Risk Assessment
  • Signed Contract (Preferably SCA Strata Works Agreement)

Premier Painting is a leader in painting services since 1997 with the experience and qualifications to manage complete end to end painting and maintenance services for Strata Owners. Award winning and accredited, our services are highly regarded for Strata Projects of all scopes.

 

To engage Premier Painting for a quote, please contact us on 1300 91 62 91 or email us at enquiry@premierpainting.com.au. To view the quality of our work please visit our website https://www.premierpainting.com.au/.

 

The most common security issues in strata buildings (and how to avoid them)

Strata Industry Expert Advice brought to you by Jeff Shawcross, Director, QUATRIX Security & Intercoms

For all Australians, your home is the place where you expect to feel the most comfort and safety. This is no different when living in a strata building. Everyone wants to return to their home knowing that their unit, car and storage area in the garage is nice and safe. 

 

While it’s almost impossible to guarantee this, there are certainly measures your strata building can put in place to provide peace of mind for your residents.  An appropriate electronic security system and an actively engaged Committee, Building Manager and Security Company, can make all the difference in creating a sense of security for your building. 

 

All buildings are different and depending on the location, type of residents and design of the building, security needs will vary. But for fifteen years, Quatrix has been installing security systems in common areas of strata buildings, so we’ve seen a thing or two when it comes to the main safety issues that repeatedly come up. 

Vulnerable Areas of the Common Property in a building

Common property is one of the beauties of strata living, by creating a wonderful, shared space for residents to enjoy and spend time. A place where neighbours can bond, kids can play, and group BBQs can be enjoyed.

But it’s also the area most likely to be abused by inconsiderate tenants and is often seen as an easy target for theft and damage. These issues can create plenty of headaches for Owners Corporations, because lots of money is often spent fixing up these issues.

What are the main risks to be managed?

  • Theft from the garages.
  • Damage to cars in the garage.
  • Damage to foyers, lifts and garage doors.
  • Garbage bins not being used correctly
  • Furniture dumping by relocating residents
  • Mailbox theft
  • WH&S slips and falls by residents (wet floor etc)
  • Graffiti

Want to reduce your building’s risk? Technology is here to help

  • CCTV cameras
  • Access Control on the front door and in the lift
  • Intercom with WIFI APP to allow easy access for home deliveries

Quatrix has created a blog series which will be published in the next four editions of the Strata Owners newsletter. Providing you with relevant and up-to-date information on how electronic systems can help you manage your common areas effectively. 

  1. The vulnerable areas of the common property and how a Security system can help manage them
  2. Common points of failure in strata security
  3. The new generation of technology in strata security
  4. What to ask for when planning a security system upgrade

Make sure you check into the next edition of the Strata Owners Newsletter for tips on the most vulnerable areas and how to best protect them. 

Selecting Your Strata Committee

Selecting Your Strata Committee

Your strata committee serves a number of important functions.

Representing owners or owners’ nominees, as well as responsible for the day-to-day running of the strata scheme, it’s important the right people are placed in the right roles for a well-functioning strata committee.

We share the top 10 considerations when selecting your strata committee.

1. Strata Committee Members

Strata committees range from 1-9 members, depending on the size of the strata scheme. The number of strata committee members is decided at each annual general meeting (AGM).

In a two-lot scheme, both lot owners must be members of the strata committee and in larger schemes, a minimum of three members are required to hold the three office-bearer positions. These are:

  • Chairperson
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer

2. Who Can Be Elected

According to NSW Fair Trading, an individual is eligible for election to the strata committee if they are:

  • An owner,
  • A company nominee of a corporation that is an owner, or
  • A person who is not an owner but is nominated by an owner who is not standing for election.

3. Who Cannot Be Elected

The following individuals are ineligible for election to the strata committee:

  • Tenants
  • Building managers
  • Strata managers
  • Property managers
  • Financiers connected to the strata scheme
  • Unfinancial members of the owners’ corporation

4. Disclosure Requirements

Before nomination, all individuals must disclose any financial, business or family connections to the developer or building manager.

Following nomination, all individuals must disclose any direct or indirect financial interest or possible conflict of interest in any matter being discussed.

The individual may be excluded from decision-making unless decided otherwise by the strata committee.

5. Strata Committee Meetings

There is no legislation that governs how often strata committees should meet. However, the following legal requirements do apply to strata committees:

  • The Secretary has the authority to organise a meeting at any time.
  • One-third of members can compel the Secretary to call a meeting.
  • If the Secretary is absent, any other member can be asked.

6. Voting

Votes cast by the Treasurer and Secretary are counted, whereas votes cast by the Chairperson are not. All decisions made by the strata committee must be made collectively and not by a single person.

7. Decision-Making

Any decision made by the strata committee is treated as a decision of the owners’ corporation. Should a dispute arise between the owners’ corporation and its committee, the owners’ corporation has more authority.

8. Restrictions

An owners’ corporation can also restrict the powers of its committee.

One of the major restrictions on strata committees relates to obtaining legal services. Strata committees must have approval from the owners’ corporation except in the following circumstances:

  • The cost is no more than $15,000 for urgent action.
  • The cost is no more than $3,000 for non-urgent action.

9. Removing Members

In NSW, there are two avenues to remove a strata committee member:

  1. A member may be terminated by a special resolution requiring a 75% vote in favour at a general meeting.
  2. A member may be removed by order of the Tribunal if they have failed to comply with the Act or engaged in serious misconduct.

10.Vacancies

Should a vacancy arise, the strata committee may ask the owners’ corporation for nominations at the next general meeting.

Vacancies don’t need to be filled if there are three or more existing members to fill the office-bearer positions.

For more information please visit the NSW Fair Trading website  

 

Levies and Capital Works Funds

Levies and Capital Works Funds

Living or investing in a strata scheme imposes some additional financial obligations on lot owners than other forms of property in New South Wales.

If you’re considering buying into a strata scheme or want to learn more about how levies impact you, we outline everything you need to know.

Levies

Let’s start with the basics – what is a levy?

NSW Fair Trading defines levies as “a fee or ‘contribution’ paid by all lot owners in a scheme to cover any projected costs and expenses. All levies must be worked out in proportion to the unit entitlements of each lot.”

Levies are calculated at an annual general meeting (AGM) of the owners’ corporation and must be approved by majority vote.

They are calculated based on a budget, tabled before voting, which outlines the current financial situation of the strata scheme and estimates of any future payments to be made or received.

Types of Levies

There are two types of levies, including:

  • Capital fund levies
  • Special levies

Both levies are calculated based on the unit entitlements of each lot owner.

Capital Works Fund

Capital fund levies are collected for the capital works fund of the strata scheme, previously known as a sinking fund, which enables an owners’ corporation to pay for repairs and maintenance.

A capital works fund is used for capital expenditure and non-recurrent items, such as:

  • Repair works to common property
  • Painting or repainting common property
  • Renewing or replacing common property fittings, such as lobby carpet
  • Renewing or replacing personal property for the strata scheme, such as pool furniture

Special Levies

An owners’ corporation can vote to introduce a special levy when there are insufficient funds available to cover large or unforeseen capital works. This is called a special levy.

Administrative Fund

In addition to a capital works fund, owners’ corporations are also required to raise an administrative fund, which is used to pay for recurrent expenses that are part of the day-to-day management of the strata scheme. These include:

  • Common property maintenance, including cleaning, gardening and lawn mowing services.
  • Monthly or quarterly expenses, such as insurance, electricity and water.
  • Administrative expenses, including secretarial fees and postage.

The 10 Year Capital Works Fund Plan

By law, all strata schemes in NSW must have a 10 year capital works fund plan in place which commences from the first AGM and must be reviewed at least every five years.

The purpose of a 10 year capital works fund plan is to ensure sufficient financial reserves are built up to avoid lot owners having to pay large, one-off levies that may cause financial strain.

Managing Levy Obligations

It is recommended that anyone considering buying into a strata scheme conducts their own research into the administrative and capital works funds of the scheme first.

This information is available from the section 184 certificate and can also be found through other searches conducted by a lawyer or conveyancer.

Next, we outline some important financial considerations for lot owners when managing their levy obligations.

Payment Frequency of Levies

The timing of when levies are due can vary from scheme to scheme. An owners’ corporation may require that levies are paid by lot owners on a yearly, half-yearly, quarterly or monthly basis.

Interest on Unpaid Levies

Typically, interest on unpaid levies is charged at 10% simple interest per year. However, an owners’ corporation may make a special resolution to charge no interest on unpaid levies.

Discounts on Levies

To incentivise early payment of levies by lot owners, an owners’ corporation may make a special resolution to provide a 10% discount on payments made before the due date.

Reimbursement of Levies

If an owners’ corporation determines that money collected for the capital works fund is not needed, they may decide by unanimous resolution to distribute the money to lot owners.

Payment Plans for Unpaid Levies

Finally, an owners’ corporation may enter into payment plans with a non-paying lot owner. In the event that levies remain outstanding, the owners’ corporation may take recovery action through their Local Court.

For more information about levies, click here.

Smart Meters in Strata Scheme: Frequently Asked Questions

Smart Meters in Strata Scheme: Frequently Asked Questions

In recent years, the options for electricity supply in strata schemes, including installation and how costs are divided, have changed significantly.

Since late 2017, the Australian Government has implemented electricity industry-wide reforms enabling energy suppliers to install their own meters, which previously could only be done by Ausgrid.

Now, energy suppliers Australia-wide are calling for the installation of smart meters. To help you understand what this change could mean for your strata scheme, we answer some frequently asked questions about smart meters.

 

The ‘Power of Choice’

So, what’s changed? The ‘Power of Choice’ reforms were introduced by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) on 1 December 2017.

The reforms were first initiated in Victoria and strata schemes throughout New South Wales can expect them to become more common here.

The major change that we’re discussing today is the push by industry to smart meters, which have pro’s and con’s for strata schemes.

What is a Smart Meter?

A smart meter is an electricity meter that has improved wireless capabilities over old-style electricity meters.

Smart meters send the following usage information wirelessly to the supplier:

  • How much electricity is used and when in an individual property,
  • What is using the electricity in an individual property, and
  • Notification of any faults.

They also allow the supplier to switch the electricity supply on and off remotely. All the above removes the need for on-site reads, saving money.

Smart meters are being progressively rolled out to replace old-style meters until they are uniformly used across Australia.

How Will the Reforms Impact My Strata Scheme?

There are additional costs for lot owners which need to be considered when installing smart meters in strata schemes.

In most cases, smart meters will be installed as and when old-style meters become faulty.

However, identifying a faulty meter is a complex task as many NSW strata schemes have service fuses that connect several meters and sometimes all of them within the building.

The solution for lot owners is to engage a Level 2 Electrician to install a meter protection device (MPD) to their own meter at their own cost

What is a Meter Protection Device (MPD)?

According to Real Electrical Solutions, a meter protection device is a fuse device which is located on the un-metered side of the meter installation.

“The primary function of an MPD is to provide an authorised individual point of isolation, meter protection and to facilitate the safe replacement of metering equipment.”

What Does Switching to a Smart Meter Cost?

The cost to install or upgrade to a smart meter is worn by the energy supplier. However, in situations where an individual meter needs to be isolated, there are significant costs which are passed on to lot owners.

Lot owners can expect charges between $500-600 per MPD installation. In strata schemes, the power needs to be switched off for the entire complex to complete one installation, causing added disruption.

Unfortunately, the Federal Legislation mandating the switch to smart meters for any new or replacement electricity meters means that strata schemes, including those in NSW, have little recourse but to upgrade.

It is recommended that NSW strata schemes consider having all works completed at once to minimise costs and disruptions.  

Where Can I Find More Information?

There are a number of resources that you can access online, including:

Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 – 5 ways to prepare

Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020

Get ready for 1 July: 5 ways to prepare for the DBP Act

From 1 July 2021, many practitioners working on class 2 buildings will have new obligations under the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020.

You may need to:

With just one month to go until registrations open, find out how you can prepare now.

These changes apply to Professional Engineers, Design Practitioners and Building Practitioners working on class 2 buildings or buildings with a class 2 part. The NSW Fair Trading website has detailed eligibility criteria for individuals and organisations.

Find information for designers and builders and engineers

 

 

Got 5 minutes to spare?

Watch our videos explaining the changes, including information on eligibility, registration and your new obligations.

Watch the videos for Design and Building Practitioners

Watch the video for Engineers

Before registering, Design and Building Practitioners must complete and pass two online learning modules:

The modules aren’t mandatory for Professional Engineers, but you can complete them to learn more about the changes.

Tip: Make sure to keep your module certificates as proof of completion – you’ll need these when you register.

Complete the modules online

To register online from 1 July, you’ll need to submit documents including:

  • Proof of identity
  • A police check
  • A copy of your degree or other qualifications

You’ll also need to provide evidence of your recent and relevant work experience.

Read registration information for Design and Building Practitioners

Read registration information for Engineers

Once registered, Design and Building Practitioners will have new obligations for declaring and lodging designs on the NSW Planning Portal.

Visit our website to learn more about these new requirements.

Design and Building Practitioner obligations

Traineeships are subsidised by the NSW government

Looking for Talent?

It becomes increasingly challenging to find experienced strata managers. There is no denying that our industry needs a constant flow of new talent. So why not employ a trainee with great subsidies?

Traineeships are a great and cost-effective way to attract new employees who could become tomorrow’s superstars. Businesses are rewarded with committed employees who are trained to apply skills, tailored to their business needs.

Certain government incentives can be easily applied. However, new entrants must be registered into a course to receive the funding. By enrolling trainees in Certificate IV in Strata Community Management (CPP40516) with the help of agencies like Apprenticeship Support Australia, companies may be eligible for the following funding:

Any company that engages an Australian apprentice or trainee on or after 5 October 2020 may be entitled to a subsidy of 50 per cent of the wages paid to a trainee between 5 October 2020 and 31 March 2022, to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter (generally for 12 months).

There are limited places in this scheme and the funding will not be forever, so if you are considering the recruitment of a new trainee, you will have to act quickly. To put this into perspective, if an employer engages a trainee for about $60,000 per year, he may receive $28,000 (4 payments of $7,000 over a 12-month period). 

Depending on the qualifications held by a trainee, the government may provide funding to cover the course fee. Enrolling in Certificate IV in the Strata Community Management Course can save about $2,500 to $3,500 depending on the course and the Registered Training Organization (RTO). 

Employers may be entitled to additional funding to support recruitment and training when enrolling new trainees in the Certificate IV of the Strata Community Management course. A $1,500 commencement incentive followed by a further $2,500 upon completion of the course may be available, an additional $750 on commencement and a further $750 upon completion may also be offered where the trainee is considered to be a mature aged worker.

To activate these incentives for your business, contact Apprenticeship Support Australia on 1300 363 831 or visit its website for more information – www.apprenticeshipsupport.com.au