CHU Strata Community Awards 2019: Nicholas Stephenson, Strata Community Manager

2019 Strata Community Manager, Nicholas Stephenson accepts his award

Nick was introduced to strata by a family friend three years ago right after he obtained his business degree. From that moment on he has been fully committed to maintaining an exceptional level of service.

As a strata manager at Bright & Duggan Sydney Olympic Park branch, Nick says, “the key challenge is to maintain the same level of service that my previous manager achieved”.

Nick manages a substantial portfolio comprising 40 buildings divided into 3259 lots. Half of his portfolio includes over 100 lots, of which the largest is composed of 383 lots. He defines his current position “as a liaison point for owners: acting on their behalf and representing their best interests as well”.

Providing advice, consultancy and supervision of the Building Management Committees, Nick deals with large and complex relationships between members of the strata scheme in order to reach the best possible outcome.

Nick regards communication skills to be a key factor to successfully establishing exceptional and durable working relationships with his external clients. Nick also uses his communication skills on a daily basis to boost office morale and foster a positive work environment:

My sense of responsibility and ability to communicate with others in the workplace contributes to a healthy working environment with the aim of sharing and learning,” he says.

Nick has also mentored his assistant who now chairs his own strata committee meetings all within six months of commencing at Bright & Duggan. Nick also spends time working with other assistant managers to develop their careers.

“‘I see this as a way forward, a way of learning and becoming more attuned to the various aspects of strata management. The company has an agreed relationship with the customers, and it is up the strata managers to accept the portfolio and to make a positive contribution to the company and to the customers”.

Being nominated for the Strata Community Manager award was a privilege and a true honour for Nick. His own piece of advice for the future contestants is threefold: transparency, accountability and again communication!

Accountability and transparency are now at the forefront of the strata industry. The growth of the industry will continue and as legislation continues to be implemented those in the industry are more and more expected to have integrity and to be ethical in all of their dealings.”

Good communication seems obvious especially today, but it is an essential part of Nick’s work. As such, Nick always tries his best to respond to all his emails in order to stay up to date at any time. Simple! Yes! But this is also how Nick reinforces the fundamental values of the Bright & Duggan culture and delivers a professional customer relationship always with courtesy.

Words by Helene Guyon

 

NSW Parliamentary inquiry starts

In early July, the NSW Parliament commenced an inquiry into the “Regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes”.

SCA (NSW) made a submission outlining the state of the strata sector from the viewpoint of both those living and working in the sector.

In the submission SCA (NSW) highlights that, “There is a strong case for retrospective legislation to deal with builders and suppliers who have shut down companies and started new ones to avoid their responsibilities.”

At the end of the submission a seven-point plan is presented which, if adopted, will go a long way to restoring confidence and dealing with the worst impacts of past failures:

    1. Reintroduction of a robust and accessible Home Owners Warranty Insurance scheme for all levels of strata development, removing the current four-story exclusion.
    2. Increasing the two-year statutory warranty period to at least three years.
    3. Along the lines of the precedent now established in Victoria, provide an assistance package for cladding and structurally affected schemes. This may include a combination of subsidised loans, rate/taxation relief and other financial assistance.
    4. Legislate within the regulatory framework for builders, developers, designers, and certifiers a clear duty of care to owners and owners corporations.
    5. Legislate a statutory chain of responsibility through the entire design and construction cycle.
    6. Introduce mandatory supervision of private certification.
    7. Introduce a record of occupation certificates accessible to owners’ corporations that is separate from the Office of Fair Trading. This will avoid any conflict of interest with its regulatory functions and enforcement of compliance, licensing and administration of home building compensation fund.

SCA (NSW) was given the opportunity to present in person at the inquiry before the Public Accountability Committee, which is Chaired by the Hon David Shoebridge, MLC, and includes a former Minister for Fair Trading (as it was then), the Hon Matthew Mason-Cox, MLC.

The first day of public hearings was 12 August 2019 with SCA (NSW) invited to appear on Friday, 16 August. A copy of the transcript from the hearing will be made available as soon as it’s been provided by Parliament.

Information about the inquiry, including the Terms of Reference, is available here. Check the website for details.

Building Commissioner appointed

SCA (NSW) previously advised that the NSW Government intended to appoint a Building Commissioner.

On 7 August 2019, the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, the Hon Kevin Anderson, MP, announced that the government had appointed David Chandler OAM to the role of Building Commissioner.

Mr Chandler is a building and construction expert with more than 40 years’ experience in the industry. He is well-respected as a result of his experience.

According to the Government’s announcement, the Commissioner will be responsible for:

– the investigation and disciplinary action for misconduct in the building industry
– overseeing the end-to-end licensing and auditing across the building industry and
– driving legislative reforms of the building industry, including consultation with industry.

Mr Chandler is reported to have welcomed the opportunity to work with the Government to strengthen the building and construction industry.

He stated that “recent events have reduced community confidence in how buildings are designed and constructed and how they perform, but I welcome the leadership and commitment being shown by the Government to implement change that will strengthen the construction industry foundations in NSW.”

Mr Chandler started in the position on 14 August 2019 and has since appeared before the NSW Parliamentary inquiry at which he was highly critical of the building plans and design of Mascot Towers which he described as ‘poor’.

 

Have your say

Strata owners are being encouraged to have their say on laws around short-term rentals.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and Department of Customer Service are seeking your feedback on draft Regulations that have been proposed and are aimed at introducing a state-wide planning framework and Code of Conduct for short-term rental accommodation.

The proposed changes are outlined in a Discussion Paper, which also seeks feedback about introducing a new industry-led short-term rental accommodation property register.

The exhibition is open for public feedback until 11 September 2019.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the Department of Customer Service say they welcome feedback from the community, government agencies, councils, industry and other stakeholders during consultation. This will help them to better understand the opinions and concerns of the community, which in turn will inform the Government’s decisions.

To have your say, you need to complete an online submission form or send a written submission to:

Att: Director, Housing and Infrastructure Policy
NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
GPO BOX 39
Sydney NSW 2000

Whatever way you do it, make sure you have your say by the due date 11 September 2019.

 

First strata scheme sold under new laws

The NSW Land and Environment Court is set to approve the first ever sale of a strata collective sale under the Strata Schemes Development Act 2016.

The decision is the first time that the provisions of the Act have been tested where the sale or redevelopment of a strata scheme only requires 75 percent of the owners to agree. The Court is required to approve the application if a number of criteria are satisfied including that the sale is just and equitable.

The scheme itself is a 159 lot strata scheme currently operating as serviced apartments across 19 floors. It is now set to be converted into a new hotel for the CBD.

The original story was published by The Real Estate Conversation in early August.

It’s a great example of the new legislation in action and should be a good assurance for other schemes thinking of selling or redeveloping that this is possible.

There is a process to go through and any owners considering this major step should engage a legal professional to guide them through.

The benefits of redevelopment can include a new home in your old place. Some apartments built in the 1970s and 1980s are potentially reaching their use-by date and may benefit from a redevelopment which could incorporate new energy efficiency measures and better communal areas.

While the building industry does not have a good reputation at present, its anticipated that this will improve and so redevelopment may be a great option.

 

 

 

Winter sleepout to raise funds to assist the homeless

St Vincent de Paul Society NSW has a long-standing commitment to helping those who are experiencing homelessness. This year, the Vinnies Western Sydney Community Sleepout aims to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.

Did you know?

  • According to the Greater Western Sydney Research Report, housing stress is one of the biggest drivers of disadvantage in Australia.
  • In Greater Sydney, 36.7% of households across the region are experiencing housing stress (where more than 30% of household income spent on rent or mortgage).

In Western Sydney, this figure is significantly higher, with 45.7% of households experiencing housing stress, giving them few options if something happened that impacted their ability to pay their rent or mortgage.

Across Western Sydney, Vinnies provides a range of programs and services to assist in preventing struggling families from experiencing homelessness. Our Community Hubs, which offer client-centred support and referral, are just one example of how we help people in need.

On a day-to-day basis, families who are experiencing financial stress, relationship breakdowns and medical issues are forced to choose between feeding their family or paying their bills. The Vinnies Community Hubs offer assistance by providing the support, information and connections these families need to get back on their feet.

The vital funds raised through this event will go directly to our programs to offer support to people experiencing disadvantage in our local communities.

St Vincents is asking you to join them on Friday 30 August at Western Sydney University Parramatta South Campus for a night of information, discussion and experiential activities, all before bedding down on the campus to experience just a taste of what it’s like to sleep rough for a night. By making the commitment to spend a night without the creature comforts of home, you’ll be helping to raise both awareness of the issue and much-needed funds to help those at risk.

To register click here.

Championing the consumer

City Futures Director Professor Bill Randolph, has written a blog discussing the recent series of revelations about the building industry and how this has propelled the government into some action.

The blog post “Those left to pick up the bill shut out of building crisis debate”, points out that:

“The lowly position of the consumer in the process was graphically exposed last week. In the list of the government ministers and industry heavyweights who attended the Building Ministers Forum, there was no one representing the most important stakeholder of all – apartment owners. Neither were strata managers nor strata solicitors at the table. It is indicative of the whole shambles that those who are left to pick up the bill and deal with the consequences are not included as part of the solution.”

Professor Randolph says that “What’s needed is a wholesale revamp of the culture of the apartment development industry that puts the needs of the consumer first, not a distant last.”

Consumers to have a champion. SCA (NSW) continues to advocate on behalf of apartment owners and residents in various ways including as sponsor of important research by the City Futures academic team.

The Defects in Strata: Research Overview, outlines a program of important data collection on defective apartment buildings in NSW. Without this it’s difficult to understand the depth of the problem to even begin to know how to address it as there are so many various issues that need to be considered.

The research is currently underway and we will continue to support it and provide updates as things progress.

 

FREE WEBINAR: Electric Vehicle Charging in Apartment Buildings

Six Sydney-based Councils – Waverley, Randwick, Woollahra, Willoughby, North Sydney, Mosman – are co-hosting a free webinar next month, on EV Charging in Apartment Buildings.

Hear from the experts about charging for electric vehicles (EV) in apartment buildings. Our guest speakers from Council, industry and electric vehicle peak bodies will help demystify the key information that people living in apartments will need to consider when owning an EV in the future.

When: 6.30-7.30pm, Thursday 19 September

Where: Online anywhere, from the comfort of your own home or office.

Who should attend?

  • Residents living in apartments who are considering owning an Electric Vehicle (EV) in the future,
  • Strata owners
  • Strata managers
  • Other interested folks

Register today – it’s easy online!

Feel free to pass on to your neighbours, friends and any other folks who may be interested.

 

 

David Chandler OAM appointed NSW Building Commissioner

Home owners will be better protected following the appointment of building and construction expert David Chandler OAM as NSW Building Commissioner.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the appointment of Mr Chandler was part of the NSW Government’s commitment to implementing the biggest overhaul to building laws in the State’s history.

“David has more than 40 years’ industry experience, which will be invaluable as we move to restore confidence in the building and construction industry,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We know there are national challenges affecting the industry, but this new appointment will play a key role in protecting NSW homeowners and driving critical reforms.”

The Building Commissioner will be responsible for the investigation and disciplinary action for misconduct in the building industry while overseeing the end to end licensing and auditing across the building industry.

The Commissioner will also drive legislative reforms of the building industry, including consultation with industry.

This will include legislation to be introduced later this year requiring building practitioners to be registered, a new duty of care to make it easier for home owners to seek compensation against negligent building practitioners, and ensuring all buildings are designed and constructed to plans that comply with the Building Code of Australia.

Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said the Building Commissioner’s priority will be to continue the extensive work that has already been started by the NSW Government to reform the building and construction industry.

“David will lead the implementation of this reform and will advise the Government on additional reforms that may be needed to ensure better protections for homeowners and purchasers, and lift building standards across NSW,” Mr Anderson said.

Mr Chandler has welcomed the opportunity to work with the Government to strengthen the building and construction industry.

“Recent events have reduced community confidence in how buildings are designed and constructed and how they perform, but I welcome the leadership and commitment being shown by the Government to implement change that will strengthen the construction industry foundations in NSW,” Mr Chandler said.

Mr Chandler will start in the position on 14 August 2019.

SCA (NSW) meets with Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation

SCA (NSW) met with the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation on Wednesday, 31 July to discuss a seven-point plan that strata industry representatives had devised to address the failures in building standards and the flammable cladding issues that are plaguing apartment owners and residents.

SCA (NSW) President, Chris Duggan, encouraged the NSW Government to legislate to seek compensation from builders who have created the problem. He warned that tens of thousands of NSW strata owners are being stuck with the costs of fixing the problems left by dodgy builders and the flammable cladding crisis.

It was highlighted to the Minister that NSW will face potentially the largest class action this state has ever seen if it fails to provide consumers with some relief and guarantees.

A submission has also been released by SCA (NSW) that was made to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Building Standards.

The seven-point plan that was presented to the Minister is outlined below:

  1. Reintroduction of a robust and accessible Home Owners Warranty Insurance scheme for all levels of strata development, removing the current four-storey exclusion.
  2. Increasing the two-year statutory warranty period to at least three years.
  3. Along the lines of the precedent now established in Victoria, provide an assistance package for cladding and structurally affected schemes. This may include a combination of subsidised loans, rate/taxation relief on insurance products and other financial assistance.
  4. Legislate within the regulatory framework for builders, developers, designers, and certifiers a clear duty of care to owners and owners corporations.
  5. Legislate a statutory chain of responsibility through the entire design and construction cycle
  6. Introduce mandatory supervision of private certification.
  7. Introduce a record of occupation certificates accessible to owners corporations that is separate from NSW Fair Trading. This will avoid any conflict of interest with its regulatory functions and enforcement of compliance, licensing and administration of home building compensation fund.

As always SCA (NSW) will keep members updated on these issues and the outcomes from the meeting with the Minister.