8 New Strata By Laws
Need to Know Strata Laws
Don’t underestimate the importance, and perhaps even the volatility, of real estate. While many might be tempted to simply take the importance of this field of business for granted, it’s rarely ever as simple as all that. While many might understand that real estate has always been an important industry, owing largely to the ever-present need for families and companies alike to have land and buildings in which they live and operate, not many might understand the intricacies and subtleties of how it works. It’s so important that it has transcended eras and continued to be significant despite the changing needs of society – where most people preferred to stay in their own house on their own land, for instance, the more practical (and, let’s face it, feasible) option these days is now staying in apartments and condominiums, or townhouses at best.
“All strata laws are equal, but some strata laws are more equal than others
Apartment living became so prevalent in so short a span of time that new rules began to be needed to govern this unique new way of living. Virtually all over the world, condo, apartment and townhouse living has come to be covered by a new system of designing and delineating ownership called “Strata title.” From its origins as a system named after the vertical layers or levels seen in apartments to its widespread application and influence in related housing systems in Singapore, the UAE and the Philippines, among other countries, strata title has proven its worth as a sensible ownership division methodology.
Strata title typically provides for shared ownership of common areas, which typically refers to halls or paths between units, main driveways or internal streets, and amenities shared by the tenants such as the gym, pool and clubhouse if any. Typically the lot owner on the title owns the interior space of their lot unit, but the physical structure like the walls, roof, façade and so on are shared property and are thus subject to the strata title’s rules. Strata title is typically managed by a committee that helps regulate how the rules are applied. They fulfill this task and make important decisions, and serve other functions such as accounting for fees and such. Strata title has become so prevalent in some contexts, such as Australia and NSW, that it is covered by legislation. Other contexts may have this as well.
Recent Developments in Strata Laws
There are some recent developments that those following strata title will want to be aware of. These include the following.
- Fines resulting from breaches of by-laws will be paid to the owner’s corporation and not state revenue. This actually raises motivation for strata committees to take action on these breaches, because now rather than lose the incoming funding that would offset costs (in this case, the fines) to state revenue, the fines would go through the usual tribunal process and become available to the owners corp.
- Owners corporations may negotiate with local councils in order to authorize parking monitors to issue fines to rogue parkers who disrespect the strata car park rules. On the one hand, this is to be appreciated, because inconsiderate rogue parkers can be difficult to police without relevant assistance. However, residents should also be careful, as if they park over the lines of their parking spaces (or in visitor parking) they could be ticketed for parking on common property.
- A ban has been instituted on strata managers, caretakers, rental agents and building managers forbidding them from joining strata committees there they operate, unless of course they happen to be owners. This long-overdue change is to be welcomed because it locks out professionals with possible vested interests, who would otherwise have privileged access that could be parlayed into taking control of the committee (and eventually running things to suit their needs or interests) through proxy votes.
- On that note proxy voting strata laws has also been reduced to 5% per each holder. Ordinarily, committee chairs and secretaries could use the full power of the proxy vote to rig elections to get what they want, including staying in power. Some cases have seen chairs holding more than half the overall vote tied up, which is antidemocratic and counterproductive due to the reduction of the likelihood of change and new ideas.
- Smoke drift from smoking is now considered a nuisance. This corrects an old anomaly where the rules prohibit smoking in your doorway lest it bother someone, but doing so from your balcony is something that the aggrieved neighbor can’t stop. No longer is this the case, as defining smoke drift in general as a nuisance brings it under the law that prohibits residents from causing a nuisance to their neighbors, effectively disallowing the otherwise loophole-enabled practice.
- Strata committee members are expected to carry out their duty of care, meaning they must carry out their jobs diligently to benefit the owners corporation. You’d think this doesn’t need to be spelled out, but some committees sometimes try to spin situations and make them seem like personal disputes rather than ones that require their intervention. As any resident knows, a committee that does nothing to actually help the owners it represents and caters to doesn’t belong in place.
- A new time frame for strata manager contracts is in place: one year (in the first year of a building’s life), and thereafter three. The shorter initial term plays to the need for the owners corporation to be able to evaluate the strata manager’s performance before deciding if they want to retain the manager for a typical period. This keeps owners corps from being locked into a lengthy term with a strata manager that they don’t get along with .
- DIY home improvement is now easier and more acceptable, since cosmetic changes and similarly minor fixes will now only need committee-level approval. Homeowners looking to make small repairs and tweaks – filling cracks, hanging a picture, and so on – as well as minor alterations – to the level of replacing wiring, installing tile or timber flooring, and such – now no longer need a special resolution. Just don’t cause damage to common property in doing this work.