Are you Mail Safe?

Mail theft is the fastest growing crime in Australia and the easiest way to steal your identity. Thieves often target high density areas, making it an increasing concern for those living in strata.

While many may think that mail theft is just petty crime, the reality is that it is usually an indication of a much larger fraud operation that is connected to serious organised crime. According to the Australian Federal Police, approximately 5% of the population or 900,000 people lose money annually as a direct result of identity theft.

Crimestoppers have recently launched a campaign to help reduce the threat. To find out how to protect yourself, click here.

Strata schemes are encouraged to review the security of their mailboxes location and design. Should you have any concerns please contact your Strata Choice manager.

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New Strata Laws Seminars


Over the last two evenings, Strata Choice held two large seminars on the new strata laws for clients and members of the public. The events were a huge success, with 900 people in total registering to attend the seminars which were held at the Kirribilli Club and the Wesley Conference Centre, respectively.

Scott Martin, Managing Director of Strata Choice, was engaging and entertaining as the key presenter of both evenings. Special thanks to Michael Courtney of Fair Trading NSW, and David Bannerman of Bannermans Lawyers for lending their expertise during Q&A on Tuesday evening. Thank-you also to Glenn Cancellier from Fair Trading NSW, and Colin Grace of Grace Lawyers for supporting Q&A on Wednesday – the knowledge and expertise shared by all culminated into a comprehensive and empowering evening.

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Saving On Energy Costs Couldn’t Be Easier

With utilities making up between 10% – 30% of the running costs of an average apartment building, it is a great place to start to look for potential savings in costs. One method is to shop around for a better deal on electricity prices.

The electrical network, such as the power lines in the street, the lines running to the building and the electricity meters are owned by a network owner such as Ausgrid. The actual electricity that you purchase for your energy consumption can be purchased from many retail energy providers in the market.

These providers purchase energy wholesale and then resell it to consumers. The quality and service reliability is the same no matter who you purchase the electricity from as it is all managed by the network owner. This provides you freedom of choice without compromising on the quality or reliability of your electricity supply.

Our larger properties under management who consume say, at least $25,000 of electricity p.a. are large enough to be able to tender to retail suppliers and have them bid to supply the electricity to them. This will save the building significant electricity costs rather than purchasing energy on a month to month basis. The contract terms are usually about 2 years in duration.

Strata Choice, two years ago bundled together a group of 432 properties that use too little on a consumption basis to solely tender for an electricity contract. They consume on average $3,200 p.a. each. This initiative saved the group an estimated $651,310 in energy consumption costs over two years, which represented a 24% saving in electricity costs.

The two year contract is now up for renewal and has been placed to market with an estimated saving of an additional $219,715 p.a. which is 14% saving from current market rate.

All properties managed by Strata Choice who are on a small energy contract are invited to participate in the buying group and new properties to Strata Choice can also benefit by being added throughout the contract term.

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Strata Choice Annual Conference 2016

The Annual Strata Choice Conference and Awards Dinner was held earlier this month and what a day it was! We kicked off the day at the Four Points by Sheraton in Darling Harbour and throughout the day explored the concept of Tomorrow’s Communities through the lenses of people, legislation, the environment, and buildings. We had an all star line up of presenters leading us through the topics, including Catherine Lezer, Director of SCA NSW and Stephen Albin, CEO of the Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW.

The day began with Dr Hazel Easthope, a Senior Research Fellow at the City Futures Research Centre UNSW, who led us through the evolution of strata and left us with a new perspective on the industry. Next was James Freestun of Solutions in Engineering, joined by a panel of expert lawyers, David Bannerman of Bannermans Lawyers, Colin Grace of Grace Lawyers and David Le Page of Le Page Lawyers, and we weaved through the intricate web of strata legislation. Catherine Lezer took the stage next and we picked up some valuable tips on how to make our homes more efficient and sustainable. Stephen Albin then led a discussion with Ralph Kress of Impact Group, and Nick Tobin from Aqualand, where we discovered what the buildings of tomorrow will be like.

The afternoon saw everyone team up for a flat-pack-challenge, where we assembled furniture that would be donated through our charity partner, Habitat for Humanity, to newly settled refugee families. Like us, Habitat for Humanity Australia believes that a decent home provides much more than bricks and mortar. It provides hope for the future, gives families the opportunity to be healthier, happier and more secure, and leads to stronger communities that can grow and sustain themselves. All together we assembled a total of 52 pieces of furniture including beds, chairs, tables and wardrobes. Thank you to those who participated, you’ve made a real difference!

Later that evening, celebrations kicked off at the Annual Strata Choice Awards Dinner, held at Madame Tussauds in Darling Harbour. The Awards dinner is an opportunity for us to formally recognise and celebrate the incredible work of our employees. Congratulations to all the nominees and award winners!

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New Strata Regulations

As you may already be aware, the NSW Government released the draft Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 and draft Strata Schemes Development Regulation 2016 for public comment in April earlier this year. After careful consideration and much anticipation, the government has released the finalised regulations. These regulations are designed to support the 90 plus new laws which were passed by the NSW Parliament last year. The implementation of the new regulations will coincide with that of the new laws, which take effect on 30th November, with the exception of the building defect bond scheme which will start later on 1st July 2017.

According to NSW Fair Trading, the reforms are designed to better meet the needs of modern strata living through:

- Strengthening the accountability of strata managers
- Allowing owners to adopt modern technology to conduct meetings, vote, communicate and administer their scheme
- Requiring 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
- Changes to the process for the collective sale and renewal of a strata scheme
- Creating a simpler, clearer process for dealing with disputes
- Broadening tenant participation in meetings
- Introducing a new option to manage unauthorised parking through a commercial arrangement between a local council and a strata scheme
- Implementing a clearer and simpler three-tier renovations process, which waives approval for cosmetic renovations within the strata lot (for example, installing handrails for safety).
- Introducing measures to reduce red tape, such as simplifying financial statements for owners

To help owners and tenants understand the new regulations, NSW Fair Trading will be hosting a series of information seminars open to the public. To register for a seminar close to you, please click on the following link https://events.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/scripts/NSWFairTradingCalendar/
To view or download your own copy of the new regulations, please click here.

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Proudly Managing Award Winning Properties

The Urban Taskforce Development Excellence Awards 2016 were recently announced with three of the properties Strata Choice proudly manages; Pacific Bondi Beach, Bridgehill Residences and Anadara & Alexander in Barangaroo, receiving awards.

Pacific Bondi Beach, the old Swiss Grand Hotel was transformed into a luxurious apartment building and has received the program’s top honour ‘Development of the Year’ by Urban Taskforce.

Bridgehill Residences, developed by Bridgehill Milsons Point took the award for ‘Adaptive Re-Use Development’. While Anadara & Alexander, Barangaroo South, developed by Lendlease were awarded the ‘Medium Rise – City Apartments Development’ Award.

If you would like to read further details, as well as view images of each property, please click here.

Bridgehill Residences and Anadara & Alexander, Barangaroo have also been nominated for Excellence awards at the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) NSW Awards for Excellence in August. To see the full list of finalists for UDIA awards, please click here.

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STRATA CHOICE WINS STRATA MANAGEMENT BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD

We are pleased to announce in our first year of participating in the Strata Community Awards, Strata Choice has been awarded the ‘2016 Strata Management Business of the Year Award – Large’ – the most sought after award at the event. This prestigious award is awarded to a large strata management business that makes a significant contribution to the strata industry and their clients. We would like to recognise everyone in the team at Strata Choice, this award is a culmination of everything we do and everything we live and breathe.

We are also excited to announce that two staff members, who were nominated for individual awards both received commendation on the night. Mercedes Priddy was awarded with the ‘2016 Student of the Year Award‘ after being nominated by the facilitator of the Certificate of Registration course she recently undertook. Luke Derwent was nominated for the ‘2016 Strata Manager of the Year Award’, although Luke missed winning the award, he was recognised as highly commended in the industry.

A very big congratulations to all of those who were a finalist or won an award on the day!

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2016 CHU Strata Community Awards

The 2016 CHU Strata Community Awards are to be held on the 15th of July 2016. This awards dinner is hosted by Strata Community Australia (SCA) NSW. The awards are designed to recognise and reward those individuals and companies who make a significant contribution to the strata industry and community.
We are pleased to announce that Strata Choice has made it to the final stage for the following awards:
• Innovation of the Year Award for our window safety locks video and process
• Professional Commitment to Ethics and Service Award
• Strata Management Business of the Year – Large

And the following Strata Choice individuals:
• Luke Derwent – Strata Manager of the Year
• Mercedes Priddy – Student of the Year

We wish all the nominees the best of luck.

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Preparing for the End of Financial Year

Tax time is fast approaching; there is still time for you to get on top of your financial records. Here are some tips to get you ready for the end of financial year.

Set up your filing
It’s a good idea to set up this file in advance of 1 July each year. If you haven’t been very organised this financial year set up a file to store all of your financial records as soon as possible. Remember, for auditing purposes you should keep written evidence of your tax return for five years from the date you lodge your tax return. There are some exceptions to this and you can visit the Tax Office’s website for more information.

Do your research
Do you know what you can claim this financial year? Are you aware of government tax incentives on offer? If you own investment properties or a small business, do you know what you can prepay in this financial year? Tax returns can be complex but with a little research you’ll be on top of this in no time.
Everyone wants to claim as much as possible when doing their tax return. To ensure you are claiming the correct expenses visit the Tax Office’s website where you’ll find a list of acceptable expenses for various industries.

Create a checklist for the documents you require
Once you have sorted out your file and you’ve researched what you can claim, you need to start sourcing your financial documents. A number of documents will be provided to you throughout May/June so while you may not be able to obtain them now; it is worth creating a checklist to ensure you have all the documents required when the time comes.

Some documents which may be on your list:
• PAYG statement from your employer;
• bank statements to show interest earned;
• dividend statements for shares;
• receipts for donations, medical expenses, work related expenses or your children’s school expenses;
• private health insurance statement; and
• a high education statement.

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Short Term Letting

What is short term letting and how does it affect strata apartment buildings?

Short term letting is the rental of an apartment for a short period of time, i.e. from one night through to a couple of months. The apartment is comes fully furnished so that a guest can feel at home with as little thy have in their suitcase.. The most common guests are holiday makers and travellers passing through.

Short term rental apartments are attractive to guests as they are usually positioned in prime locations, for example beachside or close proximity to the CBD, they are usually lower in cost when compared to a similar sized or locality based hotel room.

Guests usually find short term rentals via booking websites such as AirBnB, or house swapping sites such as HomeExchange.com.

Although the short term letting market has increased substantially in popularity, it does bring with it certain concerns and problems in strata apartment buildings.

Apartments being used solely for short term letting could now be viewed as a commercial business and therefore would require development consent from the local council. If it is operated without consent, it is therefore operating illegally. Local Council also have planning laws in place that dictates the minimum period of time you may rent out your apartment, this is usually a minimum of 3 months.

Owners may also experience problems should their contents or landlord insurance not cover the activities of short term letting, therefore placing the owner at risk of not being adequately covered for damage or liability claims.
Guests who rent on a short term basis are also left without the protection of the same regulations that govern operators and protect guests staying in hotels and motels across Australia.

Residents of the apartment complexes may experience day to day issues, including additional noise, tidiness, damage with people constantly moving in and out of the building, overcrowding and generally being surrounded by people who are always on holidays, which brings with it different behaviour. This often leads to the breach of by-laws for the owner and also unknowingly to the guest.

The owners corporation of the strata scheme (those who govern the by-laws registered with the scheme) can manage the day-to-day breaches of guest behaviour. However, it is the local Council planning laws that govern any breach of the ‘use’ of the apartment regarding short term letting, i.e. the apartment is rented for periods of times less that the laws allow. These laws differ greatly from one Council to another, some being more enthusiastic in enforcing short term letting laws than others.

The owners corporation may also register a by-law that enforces the owners in schemes to comply with local Council planning laws, therefore action may then be taken by the scheme itself (via breach of by-law) which may be a faster and more efficient process than liaising with local Council and waiting for action to be taken. However, as with all by-law enforcement actions, it must go before the tribunal nor a court, where the decision ultimately lies of whether a breach has occurred and if the by-law can limit such activity.

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