Summer 2013/2014

Strata & Community Law Reform

Presently about a quarter of all people living in the Sydney Metropolitan area live in strata developments. Across NSW there are more than 72,000 registered strata schemes, which represent about $350 billion in assets. By 2030, it is estimated that fifty percent of Sydney-siders will be living in strata.

On 14 November 2013, the Minister for Fair Trading, Anthony Roberts released the Strata & Community Title Law Reform Position Paper. This paper was a result of over 2 years extensive planning, research, community and stakeholder consultation.

Minister Roberts stated:
“from the review process it is clear that there is support for greater owner participation, increased transparency and accountability, easier dispute resolution, reducing red tape, improving awareness through better educational resources and using modern technology for communication. The reforms will bring in a legislative framework that is open and transparent, provides more protection for homeowners, minimises disputes and enriches the lives of strata owners and residents.”

The Position Paper lists 70 changes which may come into effect mid 2014. The changes are split across 5 main areas of improvement:
 

  • Governance

     - Participation
     - Transparency & Accountability
     - Strata Managing Agents 
     - Inspection of records and information access
     - Removing red tape
 

  • Managing Built Environment

     - Defects and insurance
     - Collective sales and renewals 
     - Common property, repairs and responsibilities
     - Part strata and staged development
 

  • Budgets and Levies

 

  • By-laws

 

  • Managing Disputes

 

The NSW Government has indicated that a separate paper, outlining the proposed reforms to the community title laws, will be released in the coming months. However, many of the reforms listed in the Strata Position Paper will be replicated to suit the community title legislation.

There is an extensive number of proposed changes, some of the highlights are:

Operation of the Strata Scheme

  • Increased requirements for record keeping and availability for access by owners.
  • Increased clarification and certainty around common property in regards to repairs and maintenance.
  • Increased disclosure requirements on commissions for strata managers.
  • Simplifying the process for owners who wish to renovate.
  • Improvements in the procedure to remove abandoned goods.
  • Require the developer / builder to prepare a maintenance schedule for the strata scheme.
  • Requirement to set reasonable predicted levies in the initial period.


Meetings

  • Alternate methods of attending meetings (video conferencing and the like).
  • Tenants to be permitted to attend meetings however cannot vote.
  • Limited proxies to be held by persons to reduce ‘proxy farming’.
  • Removal of quorums for meetings.


Executive Committee

  • Increased liability protection for executive committee members.
  • The term ‘Executive Committee’ will now be renamed ‘Strata Committee’.
  • Tighter disclosures and restrictions on conflicts of interest for executive committee members.
  • Unlimited number of executive committee members permitted in large schemes.


By-laws

  • Guidelines to ensure that by-laws are reasonable and non-discriminatory.
  • Mandate of a regular review of the scheme’s by-laws to ensure they are current and relevant.
  • Tighter controls around installing wooden or hard floors.
  • Relaxed standard pet by-laws to promote the keeping of small dogs, cats, birds and fish.
  • More enforceable, escalating penalties around repeat by-law breach offenders.
  • Penalties for non-compliance of by-laws will be paid to strata schemes.
  • Better dispute management procedures both within the strata scheme and Tribunal.


Building Defects

  • Defects must be discussed at annual general meetings.
  • A defect report must be obtained for the strata scheme (paid by the developer / builder).
  • A bond must be paid by the developer / builder for rectification of building defects.
  • Removal of the ability for a developer to vote on matters relating to building defects.


Strata Renewal

  • Strict guidelines for owners who are thinking of collectively selling their strata scheme for redevelopment.
  • Reduction to the threshold from 100% to 75% vote to initiate a collective sale (1 lot = 1 vote).


Further information
The Position Paper from NSW Fair Trading may be downloaded here - Strata & Community Title Law Reform Position Paper.
 


 

e-Notices
 

Strata Choice offers two methods for receiving documents relating to your property. You can choose to either receive information via post (Australia Post) or electronically via email. By default you will receive information via post.

You may be able to receive the following information electronically via your nominated email address:

  • Your Levy Notices;
  • Notices and Minutes of Executive Committee Meetings;
  • Notices and Minutes of General Meetings;
  • General correspondence and other information.


There are many benefits for receiving documents via electronic means such as convenience and faster delivery.

All owners have the ability to receive ‘Levy Notices’ & ‘Notice and Minutes of Executive Committee Meetings’ via electronic means. However to receive ‘Notice of Minutes of General Meetings & General Correspondence’ via email your property may need to have a by-law registered.

To register, go to our website www.stratachoice.com.au, click on the ‘Owners & Tenants’ page and then click on the button called ‘Register for eNotices’. Here you are able to register to receive your information via electronic means and to check if you can opt-in to receive general correspondence and other information via email.
 

 


 

Reducing Noise and or Vibrations in Apartments after Construction

 
Anything is possible with energy, will and money. Some noise issues are a relatively simple fix; others are more complicated.

It wasn't until 1996/1997 that the Building Code of Australia was changed to include criteria for acoustics, so buildings constructed prior to that time may or may not have been designed with acoustics in mind.

Foot-fall noise
The most common problem is foot-fall noise. This is becoming more of a problem as people change from carpet to timber flooring. Some body corporates have by-laws in place requiring an assessment by an acoustic engineer before people make that change, with post-testing to ensure compliance. Ensuring the body corporate has a hard-floor by-law that stipulates a minimum IIC 50-55 Impact Isolation Class rating, which is above the minimum Building Code of Australia requirements, is recommended.

Another issue is airborne noise from modern entertainment systems. Some iPod docks can reach a very high noise level including high levels of low frequency. Reducing that problem comes down to the construction of the building. You can retrofit the lining in the walls with additional plasterboard or mortar or isolate the noise generating equipment from the building structure.

Airborne noise, such as foot-fall and music, is the most difficult type of noise to fix. You can end up with less space inside the apartment if you're trying to add an air-gap to reduce the noise. If you're changing a studded floor to a raised timber joist floor you can end up with a step into the unit.

The second most common problem is vibration from lifts, plant and equipment. Old buildings often have no isolation of plant and equipment. Retro-fitting isolation materials can be very difficult, depending on the space. If you have one very noisy piece of equipment, you can fix that problem and find you're still hearing another piece of plant like an exhaust fan. It can be a long and drawn out process to identify all the sources of vibration and noise.

Equipment vibration
Some sources of noise can be difficult to locate. For example, a number of acoustic engineers examined one unit block in Darlinghurst and couldn't find the vibration source. It was finally identified as a detention tank in the top of the building with a pump. The flow of water into the tank was generating a vibration which was audible below.

Typically a vibration won't cause structural damage. Structural damage is usually caused by work on a building next door, for example. For noise to cause structural damage the noise level would have made the building unliveable long before.

Heritage buildings can be retro-fitted to reduce noise as well. However they always need advice from a heritage consultant or heritage architect. But it is possible.

How to resolve noise issues
For all problems with noise and vibration isolating the source is easier if strata managers can provide the acoustic engineer with precise details from those affected. Is the noise repetitive? Is it a whistle? A hum? A knocking sound? A squeak? Is there specific timing when they hear the noise? A log of when it occurs can be helpful as well.

Article provided by Strata Community Australia
http://www.stratacommunity.org.au/