Feeling zapped? Get your wiring checked

NSW Fair Trading is warning apartment residents who might feel a slight tingle or shock when touching electrical appliances in their homes to report it straight away.

Strata managers, property agents, landlords and the strata committee have an obligation to act on these reports immediately.

The warning comes after a tenant recently reported intermittent electric shocks to their property manager, to which they did not receive a response. The tenant then engaged a contractor who alerted the electrical network operator, and a voltage of 232 volts on rainwater down pipes plus front and rear awning supports was discovered. In this instance, it was a network issue and was fixed by the operator. Had the problem not been resolved, a fatal incident could have occurred.

If you don’t receive a prompt response, NSW Fair Trading recommends contacting your electrical network operator directly. All operators will investigate reported public shocks at no cost:

Ausgrid: 13 13 88  Essential Energy: 132 080  Endeavour Energy: 131 003

If your operator does not respond in a timely manner, contact the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) for a free dispute resolution service.

SCA (NSW) in the news

SCA (NSW) held a press conference in front of Mascot Towers on Thursday, 18 July 2019.

Here is a round up of media coverage and some photos of the press conference:

” ‘Strata army’ demands NSW fix apartments mess”
Australian Financial Review, 18 July 2019

“”Fearful” strata owners call for national action on cladding, codes”
Nine, 18 July 2019

“Buck stops with Berejiklian in NSW cladding issue: Strata body”
Nine, 18 July 2019

“Sydney cladding crisis would take $1 billion to fix, strata body warns”
Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 2019

Owners quoted $80K per unit to fix flammable cladding”
Daily Telegraph, 18 July 2019

“NSW Government urged to match Victoria’s cladding protection”
ABC News online, 17 July 2019 (scroll down page to find relevant story)

“Cladding insurance crisis hits owners of affected apartments”
ABC radio, 17 July 2019

“More than 170 Parramatta buildings identified as potentially containing combustible cladding”
Seven News, 17 July 2019

Meeting request to the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation

Hon. Kevin Anderson MP
Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation
GPO Box 5341
Sydney, NSW 2001

 

Dear Minister,

RE: MEETING REQUEST ON BEHALF OF TWO MILLION NSW RESIDENTS

 Our Association is the peak organisation representing the interests of two million people in New South Wales who own, manage or live in units, apartments, townhouses and commercial strata property in this State.

Nationally, SCA Members have responsibility for the management $1.2trillion of building and property assets and we have a database of millions of strata residents through our member companies.

Your Government and you personally are to be commended for the way you stepped in and assisted the Mascot Towers owners and residents, however the issues facing strata titled apartments is widespread.

It is obvious to us all that the unit and apartment market in NSW is in turmoil.

Flammable cladding can lead to serious death and injury.  Over 70 people died in London two years ago in the Grenfell Towers fire and my Association is under pressure from its members to work with your Government to find a solution.

We do not want someone to die in this State before this cladding issue is properly addressed and a solution found.

I have been unsuccessful in my requests for a meeting with you and or a senior NSW Minister to address issues relevant to the strata sector.

I am requesting again that we meet, and my membership is demanding to know why your Government has not met with us to date to discuss the many and varied issues that confront Strata.

I look forward to your advice on our request to meet as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely,

             

Chris Duggan
SCA (NSW) President

 

Media Release: THREAT TO MOBILISE TWO MILLION NEW SOUTH WALES “STRATA ARMY” UNLESS GOVERNMENTS ACT

CONSTRUCTION, CLADDING, QUALITY CONTROL, INSURANCE, CERTIFIERS…………NOW A BILLION DOLLAR PROBLEM FOR NSW

SCA (NSW), the peak body representing the interests of an estimated two million New South Wales strata sector – managers, owners and stakeholders, says the New South Wales economy will take a major hit unless the State Government moves to restore confidence in the apartment, unit, townhouse and commercial strata property market in NSW.

Chris Duggan, State President of Strata Community Association (NSW), says the State Government needs to put a funding package on the table off the back of today’s meeting of Federal and State Building and Construction Ministers in Sydney.

“The NSW Government moved quickly to support the residents of Mascot Towers but we all know now that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“That iceberg is impacting on confidence.

“Some Mascot Towers residents have been offered $10,000 to purchase their million dollar apartments and no resident in NSW should have to suffer that sort of disgraceful proposition.

“In the flammable cladding area, we estimate that there are well over 10,000 apartments in NSW, Queensland and Victoria that may be affected.

“The Victorian Government has put $600million on the table to address this issue and the NSW Government – supported by the Commonwealth — needs to look at matching this figure.”

Mr Duggan said the NSW Government through the Premier had moved quickly on Mascot Towers, but it is now obvious that the building and construction integrity problem requires a whole of Government strategic response that is properly funded.

“This requires direct intervention by the Premier. She moved quickly on assistance for Mascot Towers and now two million strata stakeholders are turning to her for help.

“We are taking hundreds of calls a day from concerned strata residents who are demanding action.

“There is a two million strong strata army in NSW that wants us to take the lead and to restore confidence in the apartment, unit and townhouse sector.

“People like the owners of Mascot Towers have been caught up in this mess.  This mess centres around Federal, State Government and local authority approvals of building products, certification and processes.

“We still have hundreds of kilometres of poor quality electrical cabling that poses a fire risk in NSW and we can’t track it down. Government is still allowing poor quality Chinese made glass panels to come into this country that can explode under stress.

”Insurance premiums are on the rise and the private certifiers issue off the back of flammable cladding has brought the construction industry to its knees.”

Mr Duggan said it was incumbent on the Federal Government to work with NSW and other States because the problems in NSW were replicated Australia wide.

ENDS

UPDATED: Changes from 1 July 2019 you need to know

The new financial year brings changes to laws and new fees and charges. SCA (NSW) has highlighted those that affect the strata industry and strata businesses.

e-Conveyancing mandate
From 1 July 2019 customers can no longer lodge mainstream property dealings in paper in NSW. This means that NSW LRS will be unable to accept these dealings in paper form at the Customer Service Counter if signed on or after that date.

Instead, customers must complete these dealings using an Electronic Lodgement Network Operator (ELNO) authorised to operate in NSW.

The following dealings signed on or after 1 July 2019 must be lodged electronically through an ELNO, whether as standalone or in any combination:

  • Discharge of Mortgage – DM
  • Mortgage – M (including mortgage with a Justification for a Change of Name)
  • Transfer – T
  • Caveat – X
  • Withdrawal of Caveat – WX
  • Transmission Application – TA

The six dealings listed above must be lodged electronically from 1 July 2019 unless a Conveyancing Rules waiver applies, or the item is exempted from electronic lodgement.

New LRS fees
The NSW LRS fees for products and services involving land titles, plans, property information and the Water Access Licence Register have changed for the 2019/2020 financial year.

NSW LRS regulated fees are based on the following regulations. These regulations are published on the NSW Legislation website: www.legislation.nsw.gov.au.

  • Real Property Regulation 2014
  • Conveyancing (General) Regulation 2018
  • Strata Schemes Development Regulation 2016

The most common regulated and other fees charged by NSW LRS for 2019/2020 can be found on the LRS Forms and Fees web page.

Customers should note that 2018/2019 regulated fees will be applied to land title dealings and plans lodged before 1 July 2019 but not finalised until after 1 July 2019.

A new system called PEXA commenced from 1 July 2019 and is a new way of facilitating electronic property settlements.

New PEXA system
For strata managers this changes the way in which strata lot ownership financial settlements are done.

Instead of a settlement cheque being drawn as settlement for outstanding levies, strata managers will, through PEXA, now receive payment electronically.

To do this, strata managers should provide BPAY details along with a S184 certificate. These details can either be printed on the S184 certificate or a levy notice can be provided with the S184 certificate.

One major benefit for members with this new system is that it should reduce the number of phone calls for payment details that most offices receive.

More details about PEXA can be found here.

Lodging a tax return
From 1 July 2019, lodging a tax return and managing your tax and super details have changed.

From this date, employees may not receive a payment summary from their employer. This is because of the way employers report tax and super information to the ATO is changing.

This information will instead be available by logging into myGov and accessing ATO online services. For those who use a tax agent they will have this information and will be able to use it to pre-fill tax returns.

Also, health insurers are no longer required to send private health insurance statements. This information should be available in the ATO online services by 20 July.

For employers, from 1 July 2019, you can only claim deductions for payments you make to your workers, such as employees or contractors, where you have complied with the pay as you go withholding and reporting obligations for that payment.

Tax changes for Small Businesses
From July 1, businesses with staff numbers less than 20 are advised to switch to an online payroll system called ‘Single Touch Payroll’. The new system also tracks superannuation payments.

Businesses with more than 20 staff switched to Single Touch Payroll last year.

NSW Civil and Administrative (NCAT) fees increased from 12 July. The NCAT fees and charges schedule can be downloaded here.

Briefly the charges are:

  • 1.75% general increase to all fees and charges.
  • Introduction of a corporation fee for administrative review applications.
  • Certain application types continue to have no fee including community services matters and Guardianship Division applications.

NCAT fees and changes are prescribed under Schedule 2 of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Regulation 2013.

A concession rate of 25% of the full fee is available for eligible pensioners. Parties who are unable to pay the concession fee or are not eligible may apply to NCAT for a full or partial fee waiver.

 

Meeting sought with Premier following Mascot Towers disaster

A meeting has been sought with the NSW Premier following the Mascot Towers disaster which has dominated headlines in Sydney for over a week.

SCA (NSW) President, Chris Duggan, has written to the Premier seeking an urgent meeting on behalf of the thousands of strata apartment owners and residents in NSW who could easily find themselves in a similar situation.

While the NSW Government has said that it will bring forward a revamp of building regulations, SCA (NSW) believes there are other issues such as building integrity, combustible cladding, private certifiers and insurances premiums that need to be worked through.

The Mascot Tower, as well as the Opal Tower, support SCA (NSW) claims that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hear Chris Duggan’s most recent comments on 2GB in an interview with Ross Greenwood on 17 June 2019 via this link.

SCA (NSW) is yet to hear from the Premier but will continue to strongly advocate on behalf of the strata sector in NSW.

 

 

 

Report released: the rising number of building defects

Deakin University  and Griffith University researchers released a report into building defects this month, which coincided with the Mascot Towers defect disaster forcing apartment owners to leave their damaged apartments.

The unnamed report follows research into the types of defects and how they impact buildings and their occupants.

The research found that the number one problem in buildings was from water damage either caused by poor waterproofing or roof and rainwater disposal defects. The second and possibly more alarming find was from the number of defects relating to fire safety.

Researchers interviewed industry stakeholders, apartment owners and residents, including those who volunteered on owners corporation committees. They noted that “water penetration and fire protection defects were the most commonly cited problems.”

They also said that “the focus on minimum standards instead of best practice in the National Construction Code was also raised as a concern, as well as the private certification system, where community expectations were seen to be out of step with legal requirements.

“Many industry representatives suggested that human error played a significant part in building defects and the misuse of building products, lack of training, and lack of licensing were all common factors contributing the defect problems.”

With the latest apartment block defect issue making the news each night for over a week SCA (NSW) is watching closely. The Deakin University report confirms what most of the industry has been telling government for sometime and we will continue to raise this at every opportunity.

 

Why owners corporations might need to join EWON

The Energy and Water Ombudsman (EWON) has advised that owners corporations supplying or selling energy to residents through an embedded network are required to become EWON members.

In March 2018, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) revised its Network Exemption Guideline and its Exempt Selling Guideline to require exempt entities servicing residential customers to join EWON.

This change gives NSW residents who receive electricity or gas via an embedded network access to the same protections customers of authorised energy retailers receive. More information about this is available via this link ewon.com.au/its-time-to-become-a-member.

There are benefits to joining EWON, which aims to be the office of last resort. It works with members to help them reduce complaints and manage the ones they do get as effectively as possible. Members receive a complaint handling policy template and training opportunities to help them improve their internal dispute resolution processes. Other benefits of joining EWON include:

  • Regular reporting on complaint figures
  • Systemic issues identification
  • Participating in forums
  • Complaint referrals
  • Engagement and education
  • Policy development
  • Governance participation.

Read about the full benefits of membership at ewon.com.au/what-does-becoming-a-member-mean.

In the first year of membership EWON fees start from $425 for up to 50 customers, as shown in the table below.

Customer number bandwidths Joining fee (one off) Base fee (annual) Customer number fee (annual)
1 1 50 $125 $150 $150
2 51 100 $250 $500 $200
3 101 500 $1,000 $1,000 $500
4 501 2,000 $2,500 $2,000 $1,000
5 2,001 5,000 $5,000 $3,000 $2,000

Visit applications.ewon.com.au to start your application. For more information, or help email members@ewon.com.au or phone 02 8218 5251.

 

DIY By-laws: is it possible?

Strata committees can do their own by-laws thanks to a new online portal from Bannermans Lawyers.

In just a few easy steps, strata owners can create a new set of by-laws that can save them time and money. Something we all want to do in this time poor world.

Launched this month, owners can upload plans and documents as well as choose from a range of already created by-laws or renew existing ones.

A helpful online video has been created to explain the process. To find out more head to diybylaws.com.au.

 

Changes in legislation needed to fix the construction industry

Changes in legislation needed to fix the construction industry

written by Honan Insurance Group

Déjà vu? Once again, another Sydney apartment block has been evacuated due to observed structural cracking in the building’s underground car park. Mascot Towers, a 131-unit complex at No. 1 Bourke St Mascot was evacuated last Friday evening (14 June) with residents given short notice to vacate their apartments.  On Tuesday, there was still no advice on when residents would be able to return to their homes permanently. This follows on from the dramatic Christmas Eve (2018) evacuation of Sydney Olympic Park’s Opal Tower.

The cause of the cracking in Mascot Towers is yet to be determined, and alleged possible causes may include neighbouring construction work or the original design and construction 10-years ago. Mascot Towers was constructed over 10-years ago, meaning that any building defects will not be covered by building warranty insurance (referred to as Home Builders Compensation in NSW), leaving the unit owners to pay for the repairs. If the neighbouring construction project is to blame, then a lengthy legal battle may occur regarding various other insurance covers.

Currently, NSW law states that future owners of a property are covered for the statutory warranty period – six years for major defects in the work and two years for other losses from the date of completion of work. With many building defects appearing after the six-year statutory warranty period, there is a need for major changes to be made to NSW laws to protect property owners buying off a plan or buying buildings younger than 10-years old that were poorly built.

The strata industry and Strata Community Association (SCA) will continue to advocate for change and encourage the government to further regulated the relaxed approach to building completion sign off and hold the construction industry to account for faulty work.

In February of last year, the NSW Government[1] told the COAG meeting that it would introduce new legislation to improve consumer protection if they won the next election, these included:

–    Builders needing to sign off that building was constructed in accord with certified plans

–    Allowing Owners Corporations to litigate for negligence if building code was not carried out

This new legislation is still to be introduced, and many people in strata see this legislation as not being tough enough on the construction industry who are accountable for this issue. With research finding that 72-85% [2]of owner’s corporations identifying major defects in their buildings, it is important that strata managers and the SCA continue to do what they can to influence the federal and state governments into reforming legislation as soon as possible.

[1] https://aib.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/NSW-Government-Media-Release-2.pdf

[2] https://cityfutures.be.unsw.edu.au/research/projects/defects-strata/