New HomeBuilder Scheme

The new HomeBuilder Scheme will provide eligible owner-occupiers (including first home buyers) with a grant of $25,000 to build a new home or substantially renovate an existing home where the contract is signed between 4 June 2020 and 31 December 2020.

What is the HomeBuilder scheme?

The $688-million HomeBuilder package was launched to drive economic activity across the residential construction sector.

The HomeBuilder package will offer $25,000 grants to Australians who wish to build a new house up to $750,000 or undertake a major renovation that costs a minimum of $150,000.

The renovations need to be valued between $150,000 and $750,000, and the dwelling value cannot exceed $1.5 million before the new work commences.

Who Is Eligible?

To be eligible for the scheme, you need to be an owner-occupier, building or renovating a home and meet the following criteria:

  • You are an Australian citizen aged 18 or over, you can’t access it through a company or trust
  • Your annual income needs to be less than $125,000 for individual applicants, or less than $200,000 for a couple based on your 2018-19 tax returns or later.

What can be done? Does my project qualify?

For renovations:

  • If you are renovating, you need to be spending more than $150,000.
  • If you are renovating an existing property it needs to be valued at less than the national price cap of $1.5 million.

The works must be completed by a currently registered or licensed builder – so you will not be able to get a friend or individually employ tradespeople to complete the renovations

The building works must improve the liveability, accessibility or safety of your home. Things such as pools, outdoor spas and saunas, tennis courts, sheds or garages are not eligible for the grant.

There are three types of categorised renovations for strata homes:

  • Cosmetic work
  • Minor renovations, or
  • Major renovations.

Cosmetic work:

Owners can do cosmetic work without approval. This includes day-to-day work such as:

  • Installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings or other things on walls
  • Installing or replacing handrails within your lot
  • Interior painting
  • Filling minor holes and cracks in internal walls.

The owners corporation can declare other types of work as ‘cosmetic’ if they pass a by-law.

Minor renovations:

Owners need approval, over 50 percent of the votes in favour, before doing any minor renovations.

Minor renovations include:

  • Renovating a kitchen
  • Changing recessed light fittings
  • Installing or replacing wood or other hard floors
  • Changing internal walls
  • Sustainability measures (such as a clothesline or reverse cycle air conditioner). However, these cannot involve changing the outside appearance of a lot or structural changes.

The approval process may need the owner to give details of the work. This may include:

  • Any plans of the work
  • When the work will be carried out (times and dates)
  • Qualifications and details of the tradespeople who will do the work.

Speeding up the approval process:

The owners corporation can pass a by-law which allows the strata committee to approve minor renovations.

The owners corporation can also pass a by-law to define other kinds of work as minor renovations.

Major renovations:

Major renovations include:

  • Structural changes
  • Waterproofing
  • Changes affecting the outside appearance of the property, such as an access ramp
  • Work that needs approval under other laws (for example, council approval).

Approval for major renovations:

The work needs a special resolution vote. Then the owner must give the owners corporation at least 14 days written notice before the work starts. This should describe the proposed alteration.

The owners corporation cannot delegate approval for major renovations to the strata committee.

If you’re wondering whether you can take advantage of the government’s HomeBuilder renovation grant to improve your property, you will need to be contracting work costing between $150,000 and $750,000 – so only ‘major’ renovations will seem to count in this instance.

How can I access HomeBuilder?

To be eligible for the $25,000 grant you must enter into a building contract between June 4, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

The acceptance date of applications will be backdated to June 4.

What documents will I need?

To apply you will need the following:

  • Proof of identity.
  • A copy of the contract dated and signed by the applicant and the nominated registered or licensed builder.
  • A copy of your builder’s registration or license, depending on state or territory requirements.
  • A copy of your 2018-19 tax return or later to illustrate your eligibility under the income cap.
  • Documents such as council development approvals, building contracts, occupation certificates and evidence of land value.

Can I combine HomeBuilder with other Government grants?

Yes, you can.

Revenue NSW is working to open the HomeBuilder grant for eligible NSW owner-occupiers as soon as possible.

Strata Property Issues

Renovating in a strata scheme:

The HomeBuilder grant is available to strata property owners wishing to undertake renovations that cost a minimum of $150,000.

However, before you start work on that new bathroom or kitchen, strata property owners need to understand their rights and responsibilities regarding renovating their lot.

Many owners corporations will have similar by-laws in relation to “alterations to a lot”. The by-laws generally require an owner to submit a written request to the owners corporation for approval.

Always check the by-laws in your strata scheme for any mention of needing to seek permission for improvements or renovations and consider whether your changes are structural or could affect common property.

Improvements such as putting in a hard floor (timber or tiling) is often subject to by-laws, and realistically any renovations exceeding costs of $150,000 will most likely need approval.

If you are unsure about the need to apply for approval you should contact your building manager.

In any case you should also notify the committee and other residents to notify them of potential noise issues during renovations and the ongoing presence (including parking or access required) of tradespeople on the property.

All substantial changes or upgrades to a lot or to the common property should be recorded for insurance purposes.

Proper communication that keeps everyone up-to-date and informed will promote greater cooperation between resident and ultimately a stronger and happier strata community

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Covid-19 coming out of isolation

As our communities become more active and we continue getting back to business, we wanted to emphasise the importance of following Public Health Orders as we phase back into normality.

We’d like to reiterate government advice and procedures for what you can and can’t do under the current rules for our members, as restrictions start to lift.

As restrictions lift, it’s important that we:

  • follow the rules about gatherings, self-isolation and quarantine
  • maintain a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres from others
  • practice good hand hygiene
  • stay active and healthy
  • take extra care if you’re around vulnerable people
  • get tested if you have any symptoms, even if they are only mild
  • follow NSW Health advice about staying home while you are waiting for test results.

What has changed:

  • On compassionate grounds, restrictions on funerals have eased to allow more than 50 mourners to attend a service subject to the four square metre rule.
  • Up to 20 visitors will be allowed to visit another household at any one time.
  • Up to 20 people will be allowed to gather in a public place.
  • Food and drink premises such as pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants – Capacity must not exceed 50 customers or one customer per 4 square metres (excluding staff) per existing separate seated food or drink area, whichever is the lesser. Venues may have multiple existing seated areas.
  • Any class or organised event at community centres, places of worship or indoor recreation facilities (excluding indoor pools) can have 20 or less participants, excluding any person conducting the classes or events and parents, guardians or carers of participants.
  • Betting agencies will be allowed to have the lesser of 20 customers (up from 10) or the total number allowed as calculated by the 4 square metre rule.
  • Community centres will be able to be opened generally, subject to restrictions.
  • Food courts can open with a maximum of 50 customers per existing separate seated food or drink area, or the total permitted under the 4 square metre rule.
  • Holiday homes and holiday rentals – the current limit of 10 will increase to 20 persons.
  • Markets such as artisan, clothing and craft markets can reopen with restrictions.
  • Tattoo and massage parlours can reopen with restrictions and have up to 20 customers.
  • Nail, beauty, waxing and tanning salons will now be allowed the lesser of 20 customers (up from 10) or the total number allowed as calculated by the 4 square metre rule.
  • Indoor and outdoor swimming pools can open and must follow the 4 square metre rule.
  • Gyms and other recreation facilities can open with class sizes limited to 20 participants. Operators must follow the 4 square metre rule and have a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Major recreation facilities can have the lesser of 20 people or the number of people allowed applying the 4 square metre rule. Operators must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Vessels used for scuba diving and snorkelling tours or for commercial whale, dolphin or marine animal watching tours must have no more than 50 customers and a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Vessels used for hosting functions or for commercial tours (excluding those above) must have no more than the lesser of 50 customers, or the total number of people allowed under the 4 square metre rule (including crew members).

Upcoming changes:

  • Community sport will be allowed from Wednesday 1 July.
  • The number of people allowed inside indoor venues that can open will be determined by the one person per 4 square metre rule, with no upper limit. This includes function centres. All activity must be seated only.
  • Cultural and sporting events at outdoor venues with a maximum capacity of 40,000 will be allowed up to 25% of their normal capacity. Events must be ticketed and seated and follow strict guidelines.

The SCA (NSW), Board is urging members to heed government advice and to be patient with the increased easing of restrictions to help protect members and consumers in strata titled complexes during these times.

If you haven’t seen them, we recommend you read the full list of COVID-19 restrictions, and what you can and can’t do currently. Please also visit our dedicated COVID-19 page which we are updating on a regular basis.

Posted in Uncategorized

By Laws – Pets

Despite the much anticipated “pet-friendly” amendments to the new strata legislation, animals are still not automatically permitted in strata schemes even if they are kept wholly within the boundaries of an individual’s apartment.

Last month, two of Sydney’s biggest apartment towers won their battle to ban owners’ pets from their buildings in a verdict that will have far-reaching repercussions for NSW strata residents.

The 260-apartment Horizon in Darlinghurst and the 280-unit Elan in Kings Cross had lost the right in previous cases before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), to enforce their bylaws to keep their premises animal free. However, now both buildings have won on appeal to NCAT in a decision announced on Wednesday.

So, can you keep pets in your apartment or not?

To determine what the keeping of animals position and pet rules for strata is in relation to any particular scheme you must refer to all the by-laws registered on the certificate of title for the common property.

By-Laws:

Owners corporations can choose to adopt the sample model by-laws or make changes to them to manage issues in strata like overcrowding, pets, parking, and smoke drift. Schemes are not required to adopt or adapt any of the model by-laws, they are available to assist schemes in reviewing and making by-laws to suit their scheme.

Model by-laws need to be approved by the owners corporation and registered with NSW Land Registry Services.

The model by-laws include options for:

  • permitting pets
  • dealing with nuisance or hazardous smoking
  • helping owners corporations address noise and short-term letting
  • measures to prevent overcrowding

 

Pets:

The model by-laws provide owners corporations with options to control whether pets are allowed, and on what terms. For example, the owners corporation may choose to have a by-law which:

  • bans pets on the property altogether (other than assistance animals)
  • allows owners to keep a pet and simply provide 14 days’ notice from when the pet has started living on the lot owner’s property, or
  • allows a pet with the written permission of the owners corporation. This particular model by-law states that the owners corporation cannot unreasonably refuse the request. If they do refuse, they must give the owner written reasons outlining why the pet is not being permitted.

In all cases if pets are allowed, the lot owner must still supervise their pet, clean any common property that is soiled, and ensure their pet is not noisy or negatively impacting on other residents.

Even if a strata scheme allows pets, a tenant always needs their landlord’s permission first.

If your scheme proposes changes to the by-laws, these must be put to a special resolution vote at a owners corporation meeting.

The new by-laws also need to be registered with NSW Land Registry Services within six months after the special resolution has been passed. This can be done by lodging a Consolidation/Change of By-Laws form. Tenants must also be notified of any change in by-laws.

We recommend doing your research before deciding to move into a strata scheme with any animal.

If you’d like to review more information, Fair Trading outlines By-laws in strata schemes.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Wipes and Drains Do Not Mix


 

The strata sector is supporting Sydney Water’s warning not to flush disposable wipes down drains or other forms of plumbing over concerns of the wipes being linked to fatbergs; despite a high profile court case deeming certain wipes ‘can’ be sold as flushable.

Sydney Water and consumer advocates have warned against flushing wet wipes down the toilet, after an appeal court ruled the consumer watchdog had not proven it was misleading for Kleenex products to be marketed as “flushable”.

Even though wet wipes might state that they are flushable on their packaging, the reality is that they don’t break down and cause blockages in Sydney Water’s wastewater pipes and plumbing as a result.

Over the last three months, there has been a major spike in blocked drains in apartment buildings in NSW as people turn to toilet paper alternatives, like wipes, which are causing drains to clog.

Blocked drains lead to raw sewage overflows which pose a public health problem and which in apartments and units are costly to fix because of access issues.

We support the warning from Sydney Water that the continued use of disposable wipes could turn into a major public health issue, very quickly.

Apartment buildings are designed differently to residential standalone homes and getting access to drains and sewerage lines is problematic in many apartments. If toilet plumbing lines get clogged with newspapers, disposable wipes, and nappies, it is a difficult and expensive issue to fix.

If more and more people are confined to self-isolation, the prospect of clogged plumbing increases and the problem of raw sewage spills also increases. And because it is hard to find those responsible, the costs typically have to be shared by all owners.

We support the warnings from Sydney Water that strata residents should refrain from flushing disposable wipes; they should be binned instead.

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SCA (NSW) CPD TRAINING UNDER THE NEW CPD GUIDELINES

 

 

SCA (NSW) CPD TRAINING UNDER THE NEW CPD GUIDELINES

Important Changes

Licence Renewal Dates

Please be advised that CPD is no longer linked to your renewal date.

CPD must be completed in the CPD Year which is 23 March to 22 March of the following year.

So, if your licence renewal date is after 23 March 2020, you have until 22 March 2021 to complete all your CPD hours.

CPD is now based on Hours

CPD in NSW has moved away from a points-based system to a system based on Hours.

COR holders now Assistant Agents

The new licencing system includes three (3) licence levels. These are determined by an applicant’s qualifications and experience in the strata sector:

 

 

 

 

If you held a Certificate of Registration you are now deemed an Assistant Agent  and MUST actively work towards your licence qualification.

You have until 22 March 2024 to complete the CPP40516 – Certificate IV in Strata Community Management.  

To retain your Assistant level each year you have to complete a minimum of (3) Units of Competency from the qualification.

Please ensure you apply the relevant code to obtain your SCA member discount:

  • Assistant Agent (Entry) Course – SCACOR20
  • Certificate IV in Strata Community Management – SCALIC20

CPD for Class 1 & Class 2 Agents

SCA(NSW) remain to provide educational experience tailored to the needs of every Strata Manager, their roles and experience. Our webinars, Masterclasses are informative and practical, providing you with information that you can use in your Day-to day operations. SCA(NSW) takes a multi- faceted approach to offering CPD. Our sessions can be accessed live online, our E-Learning platform, through which you can obtain CPD seminars wherever and whenever you like.

We are pleased to announce our CPD offerings in our 2020 Education Calendar.

PLEASE NOTE: With COVID-19 social-distancing measures, SCA (NSW) has temporarily ceased face-to-face Education & Training sessions, and proactively converted CPD materials to be delivered as Webinars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are offering members a CPD Bundle of six (6) CPD topics equivalent to six (6) CPD hours. This provides you with all your required CPD Hours for the CPD Year.

The CPD Bundle is made up of the following:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The six (6) CPD hours of Compulsory and Elective Topics need to be completed by 22 March 2021.

Please be advised that all individuals that participate in Compulsory CPD webinars will be required to complete a short online assessment and CPD hours will only be awarded upon successful completion of this assessment. The assessment will be sent upon the conclusion of your training session.

How to purchase the CPD Bundle

To take up this offer, please click here.

If you prefer to register for CPD sessions individually and not in a bundle, please refer to our Education Calendar.

To obtain your login details, please contact our Membership Team for assistance.

For further information please refer to the links below:

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NSW Land Registry Services – Regulatory Changes

 

NSW Land Registry Services – Regulatory Changes

NSW Land Registry Services (NSW LRS) has put in place measures to assist customers and lodging parties unable to attend our Queens Square Lodgement Office due to COVID-19 disruptions.

Restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19 have made it difficult to prepare, sign and witness paper land instruments. Regulatory changes have been announced to assist customers during this challenging time. The Registrar General has published a Guidance Note for land dealings which can be accessed here.

NSW LRS have received several queries from customers regarding the use of electronic signatures during the COVID-19 disruptions.

NSW LRS have been working with the Office of the Registrar General to find a solution during this time. We are pleased to confirm that regulatory changes have now been made to allow customers to electronically sign land dealings, plans and other associated plans documents should they need to do so.

To assist with the lodgement of plans and associated documents during this period, the interactive Administration Sheet, Section 88B instrument and plan lodgement checklist have all been updated to support electronic signing (available here).

These documents include embedded user guides and execution templates.

For more information, please head to the Land Registry Services’ announcement page here.

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Regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes

Building Standards, Building Quality and Building Disputes 

The final report of the Public Accountability Committee, entitled Regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes: Final report, was published yesterday.

The report was tabled with the Clerk of the Parliaments on 30 April 2020 – following an inquiry which was established on 4 July 2019 to inquire into and report on the regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes.

The report is available on the Government’s website, along with submissions, transcripts of evidence and other inquiry documents here.

SCA (NSW) were very vocal on this issue, appearing before the inquiry to present our submission and table our 7-point plan, which was formulated to restore confidence in the market and deal with the retrospective failures of  builders and certifiers.

The report and its recommendations are now with the government for consideration. The government is required to respond to the recommendations within six months.

We will advise our members of the government response when it has been received.

On behalf of SCA (NSW), we’d like to take this opportunity to thank our members and stakeholders for any contribution to the inquiry.

The recommendations for the government’s consideration are outlined below:

Recommendation 1

That the NSW Government introduce and debate the powers bill granting the NSW Building Commissioner new powers to ensure building standards as a matter of urgency when the NSW Parliament is reconvened in May 2020, with prompt circulation of the proposed bill to members of Parliament.

Recommendation 2

That the NSW Government resume debate on the Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019 as a matter of urgency when the NSW Parliament is reconvened in May 2020.

Recommendation 3

That the NSW Government empower the NSW Building Commissioner to oversee all licencing inspections, within the newly created Building Commission. Further, that the Building Commission hire additional, specialised inspectors to create a more robust inspection regime for building, electrical and plumbing work in New South Wales.

Recommendation 4

That the NSW Government release and act immediately on the advice of the NSW Building Commissioner in relation to flammable cladding, or alternatively explain why it prefers an alternative approach.

Recommendation 5

That the NSW Government establish a separate division in the Building Commission, modelled on Cladding Safety Victoria, to lead the response to flammable cladding on New South Wales buildings. The cladding division should sit within the Building Commission, as recommended in the first report of this inquiry, and be responsible to the NSW Building Commissioner.

Recommendation 6

That the NSW Government require property owners, landlords and real estate agents to disclose whether a building contains flammable cladding, and the progress of any rectification measures, to prospective buyers and tenants within a reasonable timeframe prior to signing contracts and when a property is open for inspection.

Recommendation 7

That the NSW Government ensure that all buildings designed for public use such as cinemas, shopping centres, universities, hotels, entertainment centres, childcare centres and hospitals that are assessed as high-risk for flammable cladding are remediated as a priority. Additionally, members of the public entering those buildings should be made aware that a building is high-risk. This might take the form of the compulsory display of a notice to this effect and compulsory notification at the time of booking where possible.

Recommendation 8

That the NSW Government publish the specific criteria used to classify buildings as no, low or high-risk in regards to flammable cladding.

Recommendation 9

That the NSW Government provide significant further resources to Fire and Rescue NSW to enable the Fire Safety Branch to respond to the issue of flammable cladding in a timely and comprehensive manner.

Recommendation 10

That the NSW Government urgently establish an expert panel or panels, similar to the panel established in Victoria, to assess and provide advice free of charge on cladding rectification plans, including what materials homeowners can use to replace flammable cladding.

Recommendation 11

That the NSW Government adopt a practice where genuine purchasers and potential tenants are able to access information from the cladding register or similar database to clarify the cladding status of their potential future home.

Recommendation 12

That the NSW Government provide a substantial funding package, proportionate to the Victorian Government’s $600 million package, to fund the rectification of buildings containing aluminium composite panels and building products that may be banned in future. The package should be available to homeowners who have already commenced remediation work.

Recommendation 13

That the NSW Government take a proactive role in identifying other potentially flammable cladding products on the market and move to ban them or otherwise prevent their unsafe use in the construction industry.

Recommendation 14

That the NSW Government, through the Building Ministers’ Forum, seek to amend the National Construction Code to require that building materials do not create a risk of debris falling from a building during fire conditions, including for composite products.

Recommendation 15

That the NSW Government, through the Building Ministers’ Forum, seek to ensure mandatory accreditation by the National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia (NATA) for all entities that test building materials.

Recommendation 16

That the NSW Government undertake a review of the mandatory critical stage inspection regime under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 with a view to expanding the number and scope of required inspections undertaken by accredited certifiers.

Recommendation 17

That the NSW Government consider amending the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to require a mandatory inspection two years after a development consent has been issued to ensure that construction is consistent with the approved development application plan and the construction certificate.

Recommendation 18

That the NSW Government implement the recommendations, where practical, put forward in this report by Mr Michael Lambert to improve the certification system as soon as possible and no later than within two years. Specifically, the recommendations made by Mr Lambert to:

  • provide practice guides for building certifiers and each other class of certifier of building work, setting out the role and responsibilities to which certifiers are held to account
  • undertake a regular audit program of the work of building certifiers
  • provide support for certifiers in the form of a help desk and a panel of experts on which they can draw for advice and a Reference Panel for mandatory reviews of select designated complex and higher risk developments
  • put in place controls to mitigate conflicts of interest and increase the independence and transparency of engagement of building certifiers and building practitioners
  • provide building certifiers with enhanced supervisory powers and mandatory
  • reporting obligations in respect to building non-compliance
  • establish and maintain a program of Continuing Professional Development for all building certifiers
  • require building certifiers to be members of an approved professional association which is subject to a full professionalisation process oversighted by the Professional Standards Authority
  • establish a requirement for councils and building certifiers to work together, including a requirement for mandatory reporting to councils by building certifiers of non-compliance and for councils to act on such notices and keep the building certifier informed of developments.

Recommendation 19

That the Legislative Council’s Public Accountability Committee as part of its foreshadowed inquiry to review the NSW Governments’ reforms into the building and construction industry consider as one of its terms of reference the strengthening of public control of certification, such as returning certification to local councils.

Recommendation 20

That the NSW Government review the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal dispute resolution process for disputes relating to strata buildings to ensure the tribunal has sufficient enforcement powers and to simplify and streamline the dispute resolution process, and to ensure that tribunal members have the relevant expertise.

Recommendation 21

That the NSW Government appoint a Strata Commissioner, to sit within the Building Commission that was recommended in the first report of this inquiry. Once established, the Strata Commissioner should undertake an initial project to scope their specific responsibilities. These may include:

  • providing training, support and advice to strata committees, particularly on rectifying building defects and flammable cladding and dealing with strata disputes
  • monitoring and recommending any necessary changes to the policy settings that govern disputes between homeowners and builders and developers
  • appointing a buildings’ initial strata manager to be in place until the first Annual General Meeting.

Recommendation 22

That the NSW Government explore additional financial assistance measures for strata homeowners who have major defects in their buildings and who are unable to claim under the statutory warranties scheme or the Home Building Compensation scheme, noting that the committee will further consider this matter in its foreshadowed inquiry to review the NSW Government’s reforms into the building and construction industry.

We look forward to positive change to building standards and regulation in NSW.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blog Series: New Residential Tenancies Laws – Changes of a ‘Minor Nature’

A new section 66(2A) has been inserted into the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW), setting out that certain alterations, additions, renovations and fixtures may be prescribed as of a “minor nature” and that the landlord is not able to unreasonably withhold consent.

Further, with respect to certain prescribed minor changes, the landlord may give consent on the condition that an appropriately qualified person makes the change.

On and from 23 March 2020, Tenants can install fixtures or make alterations, additions or renovations if they have the landlord’s written consent, or if the tenancy agreement permits it.

The tenant must pay for the fixture they install or for any alteration, renovation or addition to the property that they make unless the landlord agrees otherwise.

The new Regulation lists the kinds of fixtures or alterations, additions or renovations that are minor where it would be unreasonable for the landlord to say no:

  • Securing furniture to a non-tiled wall for safety reasons
  • Fitting a childproof latch to an outdoor gate of a single dwelling
  • Inserting fly screens on windows
  • Installing or replacing an internal window covering e.g. curtains and removable blinds
  • Installing cleats or cord guides to secure blind or curtain cords
  • Installing child safety gates inside the property
  • Installing window safety devices for child safety
  • Installing hand-held showerheads or lever-style taps to assist elderly or disabled occupants
  • Installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings, picture frames and other similar items
  • Installing phone line or internet connection
  • Planting vegetables, flowers, herbs or shrubs (shrubs that don’t grow more than two meters) in the garden if existing vegetation or plants do not need to be removed
  • Installing a wireless removable outdoor security camera
  • Applying shatter-resistant film to window or glass doors
  • Making modifications that don’t penetrate a surface, or permanently modify a surface, fixture or structure of the property.

The new Regulation also specifies that a landlord may require that the following changes be carried out by a qualified person:

  • Installing hand-held showerheads or lever-style taps to assist elderly or disabled occupants
  • Installing a phone line or internet connection

The changes do not apply if a property is listed on the loose-fill asbestos insulation register, or if the property is a heritage item.

Some restrictions and exclusions also apply to property in a strata scheme, residential land lease community, or to social housing properties.

Even if the fixture, alteration, addition or renovation is included in the above list, tenants must still get the landlord’s written permission. However, for changes that are on the list and not covered by an exemption, it is unreasonable for the landlord to refuse consent or place conditions on the consent.

Our next topic will cover the limiting of rent increases to once every 12 months for periodic (continuing) leases

Stay tuned.

SCA (NSW), are here to help our members transition to the new laws.

If you would like to read about all the changes for tenants and landlords alike, please visit the Department of Fair Trading’s website here.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Blog Series: New Residential Tenancies Laws – New Information to be Disclosed to Prospective Strata Tenants

A new section 26(2A) will be inserted into the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW), setting out that certain information must be disclosed to tenants where the property is in a strata scheme.

From 23 March 2020, NSW landlords are required to provide new information disclosed to prospective strata tenants:

  • Before a tenancy agreement is signed, a landlord or agent needs to give a tenant a copy of the strata scheme’s by-laws.
  • They also need to inform the tenant if a strata renewal committee is currently established for the scheme.

These changes provide greater protection for prospective strata tenants and are additional requirements to the general disclosure obligations.

Both disclosures must occur before the tenant enters into the residential tenancy agreement.

 

The amendment in practice:

Property managers will need to plan so that, prior to the tenant signing a residential tenancy agreement, they have a copy of the latest by-laws and knowledge of whether a strata renewal committee has been established.

Property managers will need to allow enough time, so they can be proactive in seeking and obtaining this information from strata managers to ensure compliance with the new section 26(2A).

Property managers should install appropriate processes to ensure the leasing process isn’t slowed down.

Our next topic will cover changes of a ‘minor nature’

Stay tuned.

SCA (NSW), are here to help our members transition to the new laws.

If you would like to read about all the changes for tenants and landlords alike, please visit the Department of Fair Trading’s website here.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Cyber Security Warnings and Advice during the COVID-19 Pandemic

As lockdown and isolation measures continue across the nation, an exponential increase of workers fulfilling their commitments from a home environment has created unique opportunity for cybercriminals.

New cybersecurity risks have emerged, and established risks escalated.

Cybercriminals continue to target Australians through a range of COVID-19 themed scams, fraud attempts and deceptive email schemes.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), notes thousands of COVID-19-related websites have been registered in the last few weeks, many of them delivering ransomware to unsuspecting users; also observing an increase in COVID-19 themed malicious cyber activity.

Since 10 March 2020, the ACSC has:

  • received more than 95 cybercrime reports about Australians losing money or personal information to COVID-19 themed scams and online frauds,
  • responded to 20 cybersecurity incidents affecting COVID-19 response services and/or major national suppliers in the current climate, and
  • disrupted over 150 malicious COVID-19 themed websites, with assistance from Australia’s major telecommunications providers, as well as Google and Microsoft.

Working from home has specific cybersecurity risks, including targeted cybercrime. When compromised, unauthorised access to your stored information can have a devastating effect on your emotional, financial and working life.

SCA (NSW) are conscious of our members’ security and urge everyone to implement safe digital practices when working from home.

Here are nine things you can implement in your new working environment to protect your work and your household’s cyber security:

Beware of scams

Cybercriminals see a crisis as an opportunity. Major change brings disruption, and businesses transitioning to working from home arrangements can be an attractive target.

Be aware that the COVID-19 pandemic will be used by cybercriminals to try to scam people out of their money, data and to gain access to systems. While working from home you should:

    • Exercise critical thinking and vigilance when you receive phone calls, messages and emails.
    • Exercise caution in opening messages, attachments, or clicking on links from unknown senders.
    • Be wary of any requests for personal details, passwords or bank details, particularly if the message conveys a sense of urgency.
    • If in any doubt of the communicator’s identity, delay any immediate action. Re-establish communication later using contact methods that you have sourced yourself.

For more ACSC information on how to identify and protect yourself from scams see:

Use strong and unique passphrases

Strong passphrases are your first line of defence. Enable a strong and unique passphrase on portable devices such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets.

Use a different passphrase for each website and app, particularly those that store your credit card details or personal information. To use the same username (such as an email address) and passphrase for multiple accounts means that if one is compromised, they are all at risk.

For more ACSC information, see ‘Passphrases’ in the:

Small Business Cyber Security Guide

Implement multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication is one of the most effective controls you can implement to prevent unauthorised access to computers, applications and online services. Using multiple layers of authentication makes it much harder to access your systems.

Criminals might manage to steal one type of proof of identity (for example, your PIN) but it is very difficult to steal the correct combination of several proofs for any given account.

Multi-factor authentication can use a combination of:

    • something the user knows (a passphrase, PIN or an answer to a secret question)
    • something the user physically possesses (such as a card, token or security key)
    • something the user inherently possesses (such as a fingerprint or retina pattern).

If your device supports biometric identification (such as a fingerprint scan) it provides an additional level of security, as well as a convenient way to unlock the device after you have logged in with your passphrase.

For more ACSC information on how to implement multi-factor authentication for specific services, see:

Step-by-Step Guides – Turning on Two-Factor Authentication

Stay Smart Online – Two-Factor Authentication

Update your software and operating systems

It is important to allow automatic updates on your devices and systems like your computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Often, software updates (for operating systems and applications, for example) are developed to address security issues. Updates also often include new security features that protect your data and device.

For more ACSC information on updating operating systems and software, see:

Step-by-Step Guide – Turning on Automatic Updates (For Windows 10)

Step-by-Step Guide – Turning on Automatic Updates (For iMac & MacBook, and iPhone & iPad).

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections are a popular method to connect portable devices to a work network. VPNs secure your web browsing and remote network access.

Sometimes organisations specify that you use a VPN on work devices. If this is the case, you should familiarise yourself with your organisation’s VPN requirements, policies and procedures.

For more information on VPNs see:

Using Virtual Private Networks.

Use trusted Wi-Fi

Using free wireless internet may be tempting; it can also put your information at risk. Free Wi-Fi by its very nature is insecure and can expose your browsing activity to cybercriminals. Cybercriminals have also been known to set up rogue Wi-Fi hotspots with names that look legitimate and can intercept communications, steal your banking credentials, account passwords, and other valuable information.

Use trusted connections when working from home, such as your home internet or mobile internet service from your telecommunications provider.

For more ACSC information on the steps you can take to secure your Wi-Fi, see:

Stay Smart Online – Wi-Fi and Internet Connections.

Secure your devices when not in use

It’s much easier to access your information if other people have access to your devices. Do not leave your device unattended and lock your computer when not in use, even if it’s only for a short period of time.

You should also carefully consider who has access to your devices. Don’t lend laptops to children or other members of the household using your work profile or account. They could unintentionally share or delete important information or introduce malicious software to your device.

If you do share your computers or devices with family or your household, have separate profiles so that each person logs in with a unique username and passphrase.

For more ACSC information on good cyber security behaviours, see:

Stay Smart Online – Protecting Your Computer From Online Threats.

Avoid using portable storage devices

When transporting work from the office or shop to home, portable storage devices like USB drives and cards are easily misplaced and, if access isn’t properly controlled, can harm your computer systems with malware.

If possible, transfer files in more secure ways, such as your organisation’s cloud storage or collaboration solutions. When using USBs and external drives, make sure they are protected with encryption and passphrases.

For more ACSC information on portable storage cyber security, see:

Quick Wins for Your Portable Devices.

Use trusted sources for information

Cybercriminals and other malicious actors use popular and trending topics such as COVID-19 to spread disinformation or scam people. Impersonating, cloning or creating websites to look genuine is one way to do this (see ‘Beware of scams’ above). Producing and sharing false information on social media is another.

Be sure to only use trusted and verified information from government and research institution’s websites. Think critically about the sources of information that you use and balance all evidence before believing what people share.

For the latest COVID-19 information, see:

SCA (NSW) COVID-19 Page

Australian Government COVID-19 website.

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COVID-19 – Building repairs and maintenance considered ‘essential’ service

Strata leaders advise unit & apartment residents against dangerous “do it yourself” during COVID-19 confinement

Building repairs and maintenance considered ‘essential’ service

Following our communication about the huge decreases to maintenance and repair works on apartment buildings under the current lockdown restrictions we would like to emphasis that we advise unit and apartment residents against DIY during COVID-19 confinement.

We’re concerned that many owners and residents are undertaking maintenance or planned work themselves.

We do not condone that anyone try to attempt dangerous renovations themselves while staying at home. Unfortunately, residents run the risk of injury or voiding warranty protection by attempting dangerous DIY tasks.

Isolation is sparking a home renovation boom, and some strata residents are undertaking risky DIY electrical, plumbing, and high-rise repair projects that are best performed by a professional.

Tradespeople can work on apartment buildings under the current restrictions, as maintenance and repair works are falling under essential services and are therefore permitted.

We’re encouraging all strata residents to employ skilled, qualified tradespeople for maintenance and repair works.

Residents safety is a high priority. With a few precautions, on-site building managers and strata residents can significantly minimise the risks to both themselves and any tradespeople entering the property.

We’re advocating a safety-first approach to repairs and maintenance in strata buildings and individual lots during COVID-19.

SCA (NSW) COVID-19 Safety Guidelines

  1. Don’t cancel necessary repairs and maintenance work

While we don’t wish to downplay the risk of COVID-19 in the community, delaying essential repairs and maintenance may pose a risk to the health and safety of building residents.

2. Don’t attempt these repairs and maintenance work yourself

Any repairs and maintenance work that poses risk to health and safety, including works involving plumbing, electric and gas, as well as works performed at height, require a skilled and qualified tradesperson.

  1. Be mindful of your scheme’s shared facilities

With more people staying home, shared facilities, will be under increased strain. These may include garbage disposal and collection, plumbing and cleaning. Be courteous of your neighbours and follow all health and safety rules.

  1. Be mindful of your neighbours and accept that many people are working from home

With more people working from home, be considerate about the amount of noise any work you contract or undertake is emitting. Be understanding about the level of noise that may occur while you’re working from home. Being part of a scheme where everyone is in close proximity, it’s best to be courteous, patient and understanding of your neighbours and community. Call your building/strata manager if you have any concerns regarding noise.

  1. Practice physical distancing

If you’re expecting a tradie in your home, maintain a minimum physical distance of 1.5m at all times. Avoid shaking hands and disinfect surfaces others may have touched.

If someone in your household is unwell, call your tradie 1-2 business days in advance. You may also ask your tradie if anyone in their team is unwell or showing symptoms.

  1. Practice hand hygiene

Provide your tradie with the option to wash their hands before and after completing the job. Tradies should carry soap or alcohol-based hand sanitiser with them and offer cashless payment options.

Everyone in the household should also practice good hand hygiene, including washing their hands regularly and coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow or tissue, then disposing it.

  1. Ask for your tradie’s policies and procedures

Tradies need to employ strict policies and procedures for their staff to follow during this time. These guidelines should provide detail on how they are implementing health and safety precautions.

As a homeowner or resident, you can ask to see a copy of your tradie’s policies and procedures to ensure you’re satisfied.

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COVID-19: How to stay mentally healthy during isolation

As local councils, the State and Federal Governments’ and health authorities look to curb the spread of COVID-19, more and more people throughout NSW are being required to stay home and practice social distancing. Likewise, those who are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19 are further limiting their social contact through mandatory quarantine.

There is no denying the COVID-19 coronavirus is impacting us and our members, and today’s discussion questions how COVID-19 is affecting our happiness and ability to manage our mental wellbeing? Especially when we are physically cut off from friends, family and other social interactions.

While such measures may protect our physical health, SCA (NSW) want to emphasise the importance of considering the impact of isolation on your mental health.

Being separated from friends, family, and colleagues may trigger feelings of loneliness, anxiety, anger, restlessness, stress, and even depression. But just as we are protecting our immune system, it is equally important to prioritise self-care during the lockdown period.

We want to take a moment to provide some information and resources for you to assist in taking care of your mental health while in social isolation.

We see this as an opportunity to invest in some self-care.

Whether you live alone, with a partner, or with family/friends, there are many ways to care for mental health during isolation.

  1. Keep busy— Have a household project you have been putting off or been too busy to get around to? Now’s your chance! Organise your closet or put together that bookshelf that is been sitting in the corner. You might even consider learning a new language or trying a new indoor hobby.
  2. Go on a digital detox— While it’s important to stay up to date on the latest public health announcements, too much news consumption can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. If endless scrolling leaves you feeling overwhelmed, try setting aside regular time in the morning or afternoon to check your newsfeed and give yourself a time limit. Many social media platforms even allow you to set such parameters with their apps.
  3. Pick up a book— Although watching TV can be an easy way to pass the time, reading or listening to audiobooks can stimulate your imagination and give your anxious brain a nice reprieve from reality. Research shows that reading for just six minutes can lower your blood pressure and ease tension in the muscles.
  4. Communicate with others as much as possible— While physical contact may be limited right now, there are several ways to stay in touch with friends and family. Try to still connect with your friends and family through video chat or phone calls. You don’t need to talk about the quarantine or COVID-19, and in fact, it might be a good idea to keep that part of the conversation to 5-10 minutes and the rest of the time talk about other things.
  5. Make a schedule— Studies show that following a routine can increase productivity, boost happiness levels, and help ward off depression. Even though you may not be heading into the office right now, it is important to still follow a regular schedule. Having set wake up and shower times, as well as a normal meal schedule, can keep you feeling accomplished and energised while in isolation.
  6. Practice good hygiene— If you are feeling well enough, continue your regular self-care. By that, we mean, keep showering and getting dressed in real clothes. While lounging in pyjamas with messy hair is fine at first, it is going to start feeling depressing.
  7. Stay Active— Just because you have been told to stay home doesn’t mean you need to stop exercising. Exercise can help reduce elevated cortisol or stress levels, as well as trigger the release of endorphins, boosting your overall happiness. Even walking up a few flights of stairs or working out in your apartment can be helpful. Move your body!
  8. Practice mindfulness— It is important to remember that quarantine is not a punishment but actually a form of altruism. Focus on the fact that you are doing the right thing by staying home and preventing further spread of the virus and that those around you are grateful for what you are doing, even if they don’t say so in so many words.
  9. Get some Vitamin D— If you can, get outside and soak up some sun. Vitamin D plays a vital part in regulating your mood, as well as strengthening the immune system. Consider sitting out on your porch, balcony, or backyard. If you don’t have a private outdoor space, even sitting by a sunny window can help.
  10. Eat well— It is easy to neglect your nutrition when you are stuck indoors or not feeling well. When it comes to managing your anxiety, however, a balanced diet is vital for your health. As we usually recommend, focus on eating fresh, unprocessed, whole foods in order to maintain a strong immune system.

Struggling?

It is important to seek support if you are feeling overwhelmed. Speaking with friends or family to let them know how you feel can help, and they might also appreciate talking to you about how they feel. There are also many digital mental health services that you can access online or over the phone, or you can connect with a health professional such as your GP, a psychologist, or other mental health professional.

Resources:

Head to Health is committed to providing Australians with trusted information and digital supports to help support everyone’s mental health and wellbeing during this pandemic.

Useful other resources for additional support during this time:

 

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