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Greetings to you all!

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Welcome to the JULY 2016 edition of our Think Smart quarterly newsletter

We are starting to feel Spring here in NSW and boy, does it feel good seeing the sun and the blue sky after a few days of heavy rain.

With most of us feeling relieved with the temperature getting a bit warmer, many people may start thinking of going house hunting to buy either a holiday investment property or a strata unit. 

In this edition we have highlighted the new strata reforms which will start on 30 November 2016 and the new protection laws for victims of domestic violence. The reforms will benefit millions of people who rent, own or manage strata properties. 

Other highlights during this quarter includes: 
  • Have your say about the draft Associations Incorporation Regulation Act 2016 
  • Learn your rights and responsibilities about buying a property off the plan
  • Be warned about investment property spruikers
  • New MoneySmart Cars App and
  • What you need to know about renting things for your home. 
I hope you find the information in this edition useful for you, your staff, clients and your community members.

Please help us spread the information here by forwarding this newsletter to your networks. For more information visit our website at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au
 

New strata reforms to start on 30 November 2016 

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Reforms to benefit the more than two million people in NSW who own, rent or manage strata will come into effect from 30 November 2016. 

The new strata laws have been modernised to fit the reality of living in a strata townhouse or apartment today. Many new requirements will not impact strata communities immediately. This includes allowing time for pre-appointed strata managing agents, building managers and executive committee members to continue in their roles once the law reforms start. 

Some key changes include:

  • strengthening the accountability of strata managers
  • allowing owners to adopt modern technology to conduct meetings, vote, communicate and administer their scheme
  • the need for owners to review by-laws (strata community rules) within 12 months, which can be customised to suit their lifestyle - such as whether to allow owners to keep a pet by giving notice to the owners corporation
  • a process for the collective sale and renewal of a strata scheme
  • a simpler, clearer process for dealing with disputes
  • tenants will have a right to attend owners corporation meetings, no matter how many of the lots are tenanted in their scheme
  • a new option to manage unauthorised parking through a commercial arrangement between a local council and a strata scheme
  • a clearer and simpler three-tier renovations within the strata lot (for example, installing handrails for safety). 
To find out more about the reforms download a copy of the Changes to strata laws fact sheet available in Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese from on our website.
 

New laws to protect victims of Domestic Violence

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Victims of domestic violence will receive greater protections under the proposed changes to the state's Residential Tenancies Laws. 

Currently victims of domestic violence on a fixed lease have to give 14 days' notice to their landlord, with potential liabilities, and provide them with a final AVO which can take months to obtain. This is often burdensome process for people living in dangerous situations. The changes will allow tenants to terminate residential tenancy agreements immediately by providing evidence of domestic violence through a provisional, interim or final AVO, or court order which can be obtained quickly without court hearings. 

The new laws will also ensure domestic violence victims are not penalised for property damaged or rental debt caused by a violent partner. Landlords and agents will be prohibited from listing victims on tenancy databases that hold such information so they won't be penalised in their future rental applications.

The reforms follow a review of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, which included a public consultation. The new laws are expected to be introduced into Parliament during the first half of 2017. For more information download the Domestic violence in a rented property fact sheet on our website.
 

Have your say on the draft Associations Incorporation Regulation 2016

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The NSW Government has released a draft regulation to update association processes and support amendments to the Associations Incorporation Act passed by the NSW Parliament on 2 March 2016. 

The existing Associations Incorporation Regulation 2010 will be automatically repealed on 1 September 2016 and the draft Associations Incorporation Regulation 2016 has been prepared as its replacement.

The draft 2016 regulation and a Regulatory Impact Statement are now being released for consultation and comments are invited.

Some of the major changes proposed in the regulation include:
  • updating the procedures to allow for electronic voting
  • adding a new provision to keep financial records for at least five years, where there was previously no time period specified
  • adding a non-distribution and wind-up clause into the model constitution
  • amending the model constitution to take into account electronic communications and the use of technology at meetings
  • revising the fees schedule - fees for lodging the annual statement of financial affairs reduced for tier 2 associations (gross receipts not exceeding $250,000) and raised for larger tier 1 associations.
We would like to encourage you our Think Smart partners, and other community based not-for-profit organisations to learn about the proposed new regulation and suggest any improvements that may be needed to ensure the provisions work as effectively as possible. 

A copy of the draft regulation and Regulation Impact Statement is available on our website.  
 

Buying a property "off the plan"

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Buying a property 'off the plan' refers to buying property that has not been built yet. 

Entering a contract to buy a property without seeing the finished project has extra risks compared with other property purchases.


Risks in buying off the plan include:

  • the finished unit, house or townhouse may be different from what you expected and may not be the same as the property you saw on display
  • the building plans may change during construction or may not be the same size as that which you expected to buy
  • the quality of the building work or finishes may not meet your standards
  • construction setbacks could delay completion of the property
  • the developer may seek to end their contract with you, under certain circumstances
  • interest rates could increase before you settle on the property
  • your personal or financial circumstances may change between signing the contract and completion
  • the developer could go into liquidation (bankruptcy) before the project is completed.
Potential buyers, make sure you know the risks and your rights before you sign the contract and pay any money. Seek advice from a property lawyer or licensed conveyancer on what the contract contains.

Find out more about Buying a property off the plan download our fact sheet in Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese from the Fair Trading website at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au
 

Consumers warned about dodgy property investments 

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As part of a national campaign, Fair Trading is urging consumers to be aware of property investment schemes promising big returns with low risks.

While there are companies in Australia offering credible property investment opportunities, a number of rogue operators apply high pressure sales tactics using 'obligation free' seminars, to persuade people to sign up on the spot. These operators, often referred to as 'property spruikers', are accepting generous commissions from developers while the consumer is left with a deal more likely to lose money than make it. NSW consumers are warned to be wary of any scheme offering the following:

  • supply of mortgage broking, conveyancing or tax advice as part of a property deal
  • suggestion the scheme is 'government approved' by frequent reference to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC)
  • offering personal loans or credit
  • property investment strategies using current equity to borrow significant money
  • claims of capital growth rate that may not be independent or credible
  • spruikers who side-step questions or downplay the risks and costs involved
  • promotion of a particular property development, as the spruiker may be receiving a commission or have an undisclosed interest in it; or
  • buying properties interstate that you have not seen or off-the-plan properties that do not yet exist. 
Consumers are advised to take the time to obtain independent financial and legal advice before signing anything to help ensure they are getting a good deal. For more information about buying investment properties visit our website.
 

New MoneySmart Cars app

Buying a car is an emotional decision. The type of car you buy is important because you'll own it for a long time so it has to meet your needs.  

ASIC has developed a MoneySmart Cars app to assist consumers with the financial decisions associated with buying a car at the point in time when they're shopping around, gathering information and in decision-making mode.  

The app helps consumers become an informed car buyer and gives you more confidence and control when you go into a car dealership. 

The app helps consumers by:

  • highlighting the real cost of buying a car, both upfront and running costs
  • alerting users to the risks of add-on products and identifying hidden costs
  • exploring alternative ways to buy a car and save money
  • explaining the role of insurance and finance and providing information about sales tactics.

The app can be downloaded via the App store or Google Play 

 

What you need to know about renting things for your home

Buying new appliances such as a fridge or a washing machine can be expensive, so it may seem like a good idea to rent one instead. The problem is, when you rent, you may only pay a little bit every week or fortnight but the costs can add up over time.

To rent things you may have to sign a document called a 'consumer lease '. Under this agreement, you will usually make small payments every week or fortnightly until the agreement finishes. You may have to keep making regular payments for a long time. 

Consumer leases are sometimes advertised as 'rent to own' or rent to buy products. However, because you are renting the item, you don't own it at the end of the lease. Some rental companies may offer you to buy the items for a small additional cost. However, by this time you may have already paid more than three times the cash price of the item.

Before you decide to rent shop around. You may find the same item for a lower price somewhere else. Compare the total cost over the rental agreement, not just the fortnightly payments.

For more information visit moneysmart.gov.au 
 

Resources in other languages 

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Fair Trading have a range of FREE information in other languages to help educate consumers. Visit our website and select 'Languages' to access web pages and publications in over 30 languages. You can also access video and audio resources on specific topics relating to consumers and traders in community languages.
 

Think Smart community partners

Think Smart community partners

Think Smart program

Fair Trading runs a community education initiative through partnerships with community organisations and multicultural media to increase awareness and understanding of consumer rights issues by community members from CALD communities...... Read more about the Think Smart program 
 
fairtrading.nsw.gov.au