Pets in apartments

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 19 October that owners living in an apartment block in Kings Cross had banded together to overturn a bylaw banning pets after “years of disputes and attempts to overturn a bylaw banning dogs and cats from the building.”

The matter had finally been brought before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) which ruled that the bylaw banning pets was “invalid, because it is harsh, unconscionable and oppressive”.

Various owners in the Elan building had attempted to overturn the ban through applications to the strata committee and NCAT but without success until this year. One owner had battled for 15-20 years to have pets allowed in the building.

It wasn’t until this year that the owner was able to argue to NCAT “that the owners’ corporation should not unreasonably withhold its approval of the keeping of an animal on a lot of the common property, especially with the NSW government’s changed 2016 regulations”.

The joy amongst the owners may however be short-lived as the strata committee has launched an appeal.

In the meantime, at another Sydney city apartment block an owner who did come clean about her dog is facing the prospect of him being banished. She is also likely to be taking a trip to NCAT.

 We’ll watch these cases with interest.

 

 

Product safety: hundreds of recalled products still in homes

 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has revealed that there are 6.6 million products in our homes that are currently under a voluntary recall notice. While that’s a staggering figure, what’s even more concerning is that half of those products are still in our homes.

E-commerce or online shopping has led to an increase in products entering Australia that are unsafe much to the concern of our safety regulators.

The ACCC said that “about 650 consumer product recalls are issued each year, but because only half of the affected products are returned to sellers, about a quarter of households remain exposed to potential hazards”.

The problem lies in the fact that the penalties to companies selling unsafe products are not a deterrent.

To combat this the Federal Treasury has issued a consultation paper on new regulations aimed at reforming the product safety system. This consultation closes at the end of November so it’s unlikely that any regulations will be in place before mid-2020.

In the meantime, check the https://www.productsafety.gov.au/recalls website to see if anything in your household has been recalled. This could be anything from a bottle of rosé to children’s night wear and various automobiles.

Remember, be safe not sorry.

Get ready for storm season

NSW residents and businesses are being warned to be prepared for the storm season after insurance figures revealed that last years’ season was the most intense in four years.

Last December Sydneysiders braved the worst hail storm in 20 years which caused widespread damage. The storm season is typically from October to March and can bring violent winds, heavy rain and hail.

The story in the Sydney Morning Herald says that “suburbs in Sydney’s north and west were the city’s most storm-affected, while the Central Coast was also heavily hit. Berowra Heights, Castle Hill and Chipping Norton were the top three suburbs, followed by West Pennant Hills, Baulkham Hills, Casula, Quakers Hill, Berowra, Moorebank and Glenwood”.

No matter where you are, it always helps to be prepared as storms do occur all over NSW. Residents should trim trees, clean out gutters and secure lose items on balconies and in gardens.

Stay indoors and away from windows especially during lightening storms and never, ever drive through flood waters.

 It also helps to ensure you have working torches, bottled water and if possible a gassed up, ready to go BBQ. If the electricity goes out you may need these items.

 If you do need help with securing storm damaged property or removing fallen trees call the State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500.

 

Beware the latest scams

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) Scamwatch regularly publishes notices about the latest scams to try and part you with your hard-earned money.

The most recent doing the rounds includes one targeting the Chinese community that involve fake kidnappings and threats of arrest. To date 900 reports have been made about scams targeting the Chinese community and in total $1.5 million dollars have been lost. The scam is nationwide.

The ACCC says that “there are two main variations of this scam. First, speaking in Mandarin, a scammer will call directly or leave an ‘urgent’ voice message to call back. The scammer will impersonate a parcel delivery service and/or Chinese authorities and claim you are in serious trouble as they have intercepted a package addressed to you with fraudulent documents such as fake passports.

“The scammer will then threaten you with extradition to China to face criminal charges in court unless money is sent to them. They will claim this money is needed to prove your innocence while they investigate the supposed crime.”

Earlier in October, Scamwatch also ran the annual Stay Smart Online week, encouraging people, businesses and the community to protect themselves online.

This year they released a quick guide to help protect personal data. It provides details of how scammers can obtain your data and ways in which you can protect yourself. There are also links to check if your privacy has been compromised and how to get help if it’s needed.

Remember if something is too good to be true, it probably is a scam, so beware.

2019 Annual General Meeting  

The 2019 AGM will be held on 24 October at the Hilton Hotel, Sydney at 4pm. This is at the end of the first day of the Annual Convention.

Only financial members will be eligible to vote.

A ballot will be held for the Strata Manager Chapter and the Strata Owners Chapter. To read about the nominees for the 2020 Board please click here.

We will also give a review of the 2018-2019 financial year and update members on what’s planned for 2020.

Read SCA (NSW)’s year in review in its 2019 Annual Report here.

We hope to see you there.

 

CHU Strata Community Awards 2019: Strata One, Strata Community Management Business – Medium

Congratulations to the Strata One team

Strata One’s motto: “strata management is not only about bricks and mortar, it’s about people” provides insight into the company’s DNA as well as the reason why they won the award for best medium-sized Strata Community Management business for 2019.

With 20 years of experience, licensee-in-charge, Peter Brisbane knows perfectly what the challenges in this business are.

For us, it is more about managing people than just managing property” he says, adding that it’s also about how to deal with multiple personalities and behaviours in order to create long-lasting and reliable relationships with various stakeholders.

“We prefer to call a client instead of writing or emailing and arrange to meet and talk”, Peter says.

For him the most important aspect is to know the client in order to build a bond and create connection. Communication is the key to being successful and having clients continue to trust the advice and service provided.

Peter is a passionate strata advocate and lives and breathes the values of Strata One which are to take initiative, communicate, be a team player and be respectful and trustworthy.

We encourage ethical behavior by instilling the values of Strata One within our team members and to every touch point in the Strata One Business such as clients, trades and service providers”, Peter says.

To provide a high level of customer service, the company applies a practical hands-on approach to ensuring decisions are made in the best interests of all, in four different ways:

  1. Acting as mediators
  2. Empowering client decision making
  3. Being proactive
  4. Focusing on sustainability and environment protection.

The best evidence proving these strategies are working over the last 12 months the company’s business experiencing significant growth.

According to Peter, Strata One “has employed three main strategies to achieve this growth which include; reputation/word of mouth, updating our schedule of charges/services provided and recently development of a marketing strategy.”

Strata One is proud to say that they have lost less than ten buildings in the eight years since they commenced operating.

Regarding the recent success at the Strata Industry Awards, Peter very enthusiastically says that this is the result of a group effort and that engagement of the whole team is what helped them succeed.

“Empowering and training our team so they can do their jobs and enjoy them is a very powerful thing.”

In order to contribute to team training, Strata One has invested in three main areas:

Phoebe and Peter with the award for Strata One – 2019 Strata Community Business – Medium
  • Supporting the team to complete qualifications relevant to their position
  • Developing training sessions with external companies to keep the team abreast of relevant changes and their CPD points up to date
  • Mentoring and supporting the team to enable them to perform at their best

It has a significant positive impact on the culture within the business and it aligns well with Peter’s professional experience as a mentor and leader in the strata industry. The employment turnover is just 10 percent over the last year as a result of the above initiatives.

The best piece of advice to being successful, however is to follow Peter’s advice which is to treat people the way you want to be treated!

 

 

Words by Helene Guyon

Strata in the media

Strata issues, along with SCA (NSW) have featured a lot in the news lately. Here we bring you a round-up of stories, so in case you missed them, fear not, we’re here to help:

“’No one will loan me money’: Mascot Towers owners can’t afford to pay levy” Sydney Morning Herald, 9 September 2019.

Mascot Towers owners have been hit with a $7 million special levy for rectification works but around 35 percent are unable to pay their share of the levy. They have written to the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation seeking help. Applications to extend mortgages have been declined and owners who are retired are on limited means.

Well-respected writer on all things strata, Jimmy Thomson, has written an article on “Why strata mediation is not the quick fix you’re looking for” in the Australian Financial Review on 29 August 2019. In it he says that “Many apartment residents go to mediation thinking they are going to get a ruling from a strata referee. They probably won’t. So what’s it all about?” The process is long and tricky at times so its best to be well-informed about the steps and not to think that things will be resolved immediately.

Also in the Australian Financial Review was the article “Combustible cladding will ‘test the owners corporation model’”, on 3 September 2019. The article states that “Fixing combustible cladding will require technical skills and understanding beyond some owners corporations – especially in smaller buildings – and could prompt a rethink about the best way to manage housing stock”. Read on to find out more.

 

 

 

Ways to reduce plastic waste

We’ve all come to realise the dreadful impact that plastic waste has on our environment. Who can forget the images of birds choking on plastic bottle rings or the ocean heaving with all sorts of plastic materials.

We need to be more thoughtful about our plastic use. According to the City of Sydney (CofS), only 9 percent of all plastic gets recycled. So thanks to the Cofs guide here are some tips on how you can reduce your plastic use. The key is looking for more sustainable alternatives.

  • Use a refillable coffee cup and water bottle – lots of cafes offer discounts if you bring your own cup and places like Bundanoon in the NSW Southern Highlands have banned plastic water bottles selling only ones that can be refilled.
  • Banish the plastic utensils and carry your own that can be taken home and washed (or washed at the office).
  • Say no to plastic straws. Many places offer paper straws (ladies you don’t have to leave a lipstick mark on your cocktail glass) and you can always invest a few dollars in a metal or bamboo one of your own.
  • Ditch the plastic bags. Yes, even the ‘reusable’ ones. Who are they kidding – they’re still plastic. Cloth bags are great as they can be washed.
  • Bamboo is your friend – increasingly its being made into toothbrushes, cotton buds, straws. The more we demand them the cheaper they will become, and bamboo is sustainable.

The CofS has other tips as well. These are just some that you can adopt immediately.

 

Safe disposal of household chemicals

We all have them lurking in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry cupboards -household chemicals. And they can be very, very nasty.

As this City of Sydney article states it’s confusing to know what to do with them. How do you dispose of leftover paint, old motor oils, batteries and household cleaners? You can’t put them in the yellow bin and never, ever pour chemicals or paint down the drain.

Luckily the NSW Environment Protection Authority and most local councils band together to provide residents with Chemical CleanOut days where you can take your nasties and they will dispose of them correctly.

According to the City of Sydney “over the past decade, inner city residents have safely disposed of 240 tonnes of household chemicals at these events.”

The EPA says that “Many materials collected at CleanOut events can be recycled or reused with special processing. By coming along to Chemical CleanOut, residents will not only work towards reducing pollution, they will also be helping to recycle.”

Check with your local council as to when the next Chemical CleanOut day is near you and get rid of those nasties correctly and safely.

 

 

Know your by-laws

A recent article in Smart Property Investment “Everything you need to know about Sydney’s strata by-laws” provides a good explanation about some of the most common by-laws.

If you’re new to strata it may help you to understand that community living, which is what strata is, can only be successful if there is a regulatory framework that provides residents and owners with some assurances about their property.

By-laws, in essence, promote harmonious communities if they are observed and are not onerous.

Most strata schemes will have adopted the model by-laws set out in the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. Since the new legislation took effect in late 2015, the new model by-laws provide guidance around issues such as pets, parking, parties and smoking as well as other matters that affect common property.

NSW Fair Trading also has information on its website about by-laws. It says that “a by-law must not be harsh, unconscionable or oppressive”.

By-laws should be regularly reviewed by the strata committee to ensure they continue to meet the requirements of the scheme. Where changes to by-laws are needed they must be put to a special resolution at a meeting of the owners corporation and must be agreed to by no less than 75 percent of those eligible to vote.

By-laws must not be contrary to the Act and are required to be registered with NSW Land Registry Services.

It’s always best to seek professional advice when considering changing or adding by-laws. Solicitors who specialise in strata law can assist with this.

Remember everyone – owners and residents – must observe the by-laws and breaches can attract a legally enforceable fine.