Shaping the future of strata living: next step in reform released
More than 50 years after the commencement of the world’s first strata title law in NSW, major reform continues with the release of a discussion paper for the public’s input to help shape new laws for the 21st Century.
Minister for Fair Trading Anthony Roberts said people should make submissions and have a say in the laws that would govern their future living and working environments.
“Strata is how many live, work and play. Shared living arrangements are expected to grow into the future. Within 20 years, half the state’s population is expected to be living in strata and community schemes.”
More than one quarter of the state now owns, lives or works in one of more than 70,000 strata or community schemes worth an estimated $350 billion.
“Overly formal, old fashioned, complex and restrictive is how many view the current set of laws governing strata. The Liberals and Nationals State Government is aiming to fix that. Community living and renewal are critical areas that need swift and bold reform and innovation. This reform is well overdue.”
“The government needs as much feedback as possible to make sure we achieve a good balance between competing interests when legislating. To achieve considered reform, people need to have a say and give us their views.”
The discussion paper, Making NSW No 1 Again: Shaping future communities, follows a 3 month online consultation project by Global Access Partners (GAP) that generated 1200 comments and more than 600 suggested law changes.
The University of NSW City Futures Research Centre report, Governing the Compact City: the role and effectiveness of strata management also informed the development of the government’s discussion paper, as did decisions from the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT), and consideration of arrangements in interstate and overseas jurisdictions.
Mr Roberts said NSW introduced the world’s first strata title law in 1961 and led again in 1989 with laws enabling the development of community schemes that allowed for multiple dwellings on one piece of land. Similar laws have since been adopted around Australia and throughout the world.
“NSW will again set the benchmark. Out of this reform process, we will produce more modern, effective and friendly laws that enable easy community living and shared arrangements.”
“We will cut red tape and repetition, streamline and strengthen laws and remove anything that strangles good governance or inhibits necessary protections for people.”
Almost three quarters of all schemes have 10 lots or less but all are compelled to elect a committee. Just over half of all lots in NSW are currently investor owned. In some schemes tenants make up all or the majority of residents and yet they have no voting rights and can’t attend committee meetings.
Around 60 percent of all schemes in NSW are managed by a licensed strata managing agent and it’s close to 100 percent in large and complex schemes. About one quarter of all disputes that come to Fair Trading are about the conduct of managing agents.
About 30 percent of residential strata schemes in the Sydney metropolitan area were registered more than 30 years ago. Many older buildings, some nearing 100 years old, have been converted to strata title.
Renewal or termination of schemes is an urgent issue in some developments. Urban consolidation demands will mean many low density existing schemes will need renewal, yet community and majority interests can conflict with those of the individual. Many buildings are not economical to keep repairing and maintaining. We need a fair and reasonable way of allowing schemes to be redeveloped in the best interests of the community.
The number one enquiry from strata and community schemes across the state is about common property maintenance. Land and Property Information and NSW Fair Trading receive more than 500 calls a week about this issue and it can be quite a complex matter, with anomalies between schemes registered under different Acts. A simpler method of dealing with common property maintenance is required.
Owner renovations, overcrowding and short-term rentals, building defects, levies, debt recovery, sinking funds, insurance, money management, dispute resolution and compliance and enforcement are all covered in the paper.
The perennial issues of parking, pets, smoking, timber floors and washing on balconies are also raised.
“We can make things a lot simpler and more certain for people. Consumer protection is a guiding principle in the government’s review, as is democratic process, transparency, accountability and appropriateness.”
The discussion paper examines development issues when schemes are established, as well as management issues that arise on a day to day basis during the life of a scheme.
Mr Roberts said the government had already received excellent feedback and advice from industry experts and peak bodies on issues affecting strata owners, strata industry professionals and other stakeholders.
Strata Community Australia NSW President David Ferguson welcomed the release of the discussion paper and said it defines the issues well. He said the SCA looked forward to the strata debate.
Chairperson of the Owners Corporation Network, Stephen Goddard, congratulated the Minister for identifying issues within the strata sector that need a new social agreement.
The discussion paper and a quick online survey can be found on the Fair Trading website.
Comments can be made to Fair Trading by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by mail to Strata and Community Scheme Review, Fair Trading Policy, PO Box 972, Parramatta NSW 2124 or by fax on 02 9338 8918. People can also call 13 32 20.
There is a submission form at the back of the discussion paper. It is not compulsory and submissions can be in any written format. Submissions close 5pm, Thursday 15 November 2012.
The government intends to release an Exposure Draft Bill by mid-2013 and bring a final Bill to the parliament in the Spring session next year.