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Your strata law questions answered

14 March 2017

With strata communities in NSW adjusting to major reforms, this issue addresses questions that have emerged for strata schemes. We cover the topics of pets, electronic communications, strata management, tenant participation and more.

Test your knowledge with the questions below. 

Q: Can a strata scheme ban pets if they are currently allowed?

A: A strata by-law cannot be harsh, unconscionable or oppressive. A by-law could not ban existing pets. However a new by-law passed could ban any future pets from being allowed in the strata scheme. This would require at least 75% of the owners at a general meeting to agree to the updated by-law.

A strata scheme cannot ban assistance animals. 

Q: As an owner, do I need permission to phone in to a strata meeting?

A: An owners corporation does not need to formally approve an owner phoning in to a meeting. However voting methods, other than voting in person, must first be approved. This requires a majority vote of the owners at a general meeting. Find out more about alternative ways to vote.   

Q: What if all the owners want to sell their strata complex? Do we need to follow the collective sale and renewal process?

A: No. If 100% of the owners wish to sell, you can apply directly to the Registrar General to end the strata scheme. Otherwise, before a proposal can be considered, you need to follow the steps and meet the requirements in the Collective sale and renewal process

Q: How do we change our strata managing agent?

A: An owners corporation can change managing agents by a majority vote of the owners at a general meeting. First, check the terms of the contract with the strata managing agent. It will outline early exit fees that the owners corporation will need to pay and other conditions that will apply.

If someone is unsatisfied with duties performed by the strata managing agent, they should ask a strata committee member to raise the issue at a meeting. The strata committee can check if the agent is performing the duties according to the contract they negotiated with them. They may also choose to discuss the situation with the strata managing agent and seek a resolution.

If a strata managing agent keeps failing to perform the duties in their contract, a person with voting rights can write to the secretary with a motion to change the strata managing agent. This can then be voted on at the next meeting. 

In the case of unsatisfactory performance, an owners corporation may decide to apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to end the contract. This could result in them being able to end the contract without having to pay exit fees.

For more on this topic, visit the Strata managing agents page on our website

Strata communities should be aware that some contracts will end on 30 May 2017 as a result of the new strata laws setting a 3-year maximum term for strata managing agent appointments. The new laws allowed pre-existing strata managing contracts of more than 3 years to continue in their role for up to 6 months from when the new laws started (on 30 November 2016).  

Q: As a tenant, how can I encourage the owners to consider adopting a pet-friendly by-law when they review their by-laws?

A: You can raise this matter with your landlord or property manager. This involves asking the landlord to submit a motion to a meeting for the owners to consider adopting a pet-friendly by-law. This could be based on one of the options in the model by-laws, for example.

Changing to a pet friendly by-law may be attractive to other residents and could make it easier for landlords to rent out property in the strata complex. Your landlord is not obliged to raise this matter on your behalf, however.

If your strata scheme has a tenant representative, you could also bring up the issue with them.

Q: How can I find out about key decisions as a tenant?

A: Your landlord (or property agent) is responsible for completing a tenancy notice. This includes providing your name and address (or email address) to the owners corporation within 14 days of a new lease. This allows the secretary to keep the strata roll up-to-date. It is an offence for a landlord to fail to lodge the tenancy notice with the owners corporation.

Once you appear on the strata roll, you will be notified of upcoming meetings, including the Annual General Meeting. You can attend meetings of the owners corporation (which all owners automatically belong to) as an observer. You may be excluded from the meeting however when certain matters are discussed, such as financial matters.

If your landlord or property manager has not completed a tenancy notice after you have requested them to, you can let us know online so we can help resolve this matter on your behalf.

 

The story of the reforms until now 

Fair Trading’s Manager of Strata Mediation, Michael Courtney, was recently interviewed by Domain about key aspects of the new laws.

Read his interview in the article: 
How changes to NSW strata laws will affect you

 

More strata information sources

Do you have friends, family or colleagues who are unfamiliar with the new strata laws? Share the link to our Strata laws website so they can find out relevant information for owners, tenants or industry.

You can also recommend our Strata living guide. Download Strata living (PDF size 639kb) from the Fair Trading website.

 

Was your strata scheme registered to test for loose-fill asbestos? 

Strata premises built before 1980 may contain loose-fill asbestos insulation. Free testing for loose-fill asbestos is available if your strata scheme was registered by last year’s deadline.

For free testing to go ahead, the owners corporation needs to approve the decision through a special resolution. Complete the owners corporation special resolution form (Word document 20kb). Then email the form to Fair Trading by 31 March 2017 at AsbestosEnquiry@finance.nsw.gov.au  

For background, read our information for strata schemes on the loose-fill asbestos program

 

Events 

Free Strata Information Seminars

Fair Trading’s next seminar is in Narooma:

  • When - 22 March, 6-8pm
  • Where - Narooma Golf Club, 1 Ballingalla Street 

Book in for the Narooma seminar.

We are planning other seminars across NSW, which will be added to our events calendar soon.

Know someone new to strata?

City of Sydney has launched their strata workshop program for the first half of 2017. From finances to pets, the workshops provide practical information and also help people new to apartment life to live well in density. Take a look at the upcoming Strata Skills 101 Workshops.

Strata Owners Day

After their inaugural Strata Owners Day last year, Strata Community Australia (SCA) is back with the event at Sydney Masonic Centre on Saturday 25 March.

Featured topics include electronic voting and green roofing, plus a panel to answer your strata law questions. Among the presenters is Fair Trading’s Michael Courtney. 

Tickets are $40 for members and $60 for non members. Find out more and book in for Strata Owners Day on the SCA website

 

Staying on the journey with you

Now the reforms are in place, we want to share stories with you about how others are dealing with NSW strata laws. 

Stay tuned for a new look and feel in the future. We will explore a key topic and the needs of owners, tenants and strata professionals. We will share insights inspired from typical case studies too.

We will continue to share updates about law changes and consultations relevant to strata schemes in NSW.

If you have feedback on this or future Strata update issues, email us at strataupdate@finance.nsw.gov.au

For general strata enquiries, please make an enquiry on the Fair Trading website

 
fairtrading.nsw.gov.au