Think you know exactly how strata works? You might be surprised at some of the answers!
1. The strata manager decides how much I pay in levies each year and how much they will be paid for proving their service.
Levies are decided at the Annual General Meeting each year by the owners who are present and entitled to vote at the meeting. The strata manager will prepare a proposed budget for expenditure for the year but the final decision rests with the owners who are at the meeting to decide. Similarly the strata managers fees are proposed by the strata manager but ultimately are decided by the owners corporation.
2. It is up to the strata manager to make decisions about which contractor to use for building works and which quotes to accept.
False. The owners corporation or executive committee have the right to choose whoever they want to attend to building works at the property. The strata manager will have a list of tradesman who are licensed and insured and can make recommendations, but the end decision rests with the owners.
3. A fence between two townhouses is the responsibility of the body corporate to repair and maintain?
False. Under the dividing fences act it is up to the two affected owners who share the fence to maintain it.
4. Renovations to my unit are allowed without me needing to inform anyone if they do not affect common property?
False. Even if you are only carrying out minor renovations to your property that have no impact on the common property you are required to provide 14 days notice to the owners corporation of your works. Why? Firstly because it’s a requirement under the legislation and secondly, because it’s important for the other owners in the building to be aware of any noise disruptions, when there will be tradesman on site and so in the case that something goes wrong, the owners corporation can be prepared and assist. If due notification is not provided fines can be imposed upon you and in severe cases the unit can be requested to be returned to its original condition. It is really important that you check with your strata manager before carrying out renovations as your building may also have its own set of agreed conditions including a holding bond in some cases.
5. I can bring a pet to live in my apartment without seeking approval first?
False. You need to check with the strata manager first about what the By-Law is in place for your property. It may be that there is a ban of all pets or maybe only some pets. Alternatively pets may be allowed pending an agreed application process.
At the end of the day it’s up to the owners corporation to decide what pet By-Law they want to have. If the owners are not happy with the pet By-Law they can change it at a general meeting.
False. The strata manager plays an administrative role in managing the strata, meaning that they will arrange tradesman but it is up to the owners corporation and executive committee members to meet with tradesman and ensure they are carrying out the works that are desired. Alternatively, there are a number of companies that can be engaged by owners corporations to assist them in meeting tradesman and reviewing their works.
7. The strata manager charges me interest on levies when they are in arrears and keeps it for themselves?
False. The Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 determines that interest on levies is charged at 10% per annum. Any interest paid goes directly into the bank account for the owners corporation. Similarly the strata manager cannot remove interest on levies from an account. That can only be approved by the owners corporation at a general meeting.
8. It is up to the strata manager to ensure that maintenance works at my building are appropriately carried out?
False. The strata manager is exactly that – a strata manager. They have a general understanding of building works but are not licensed or qualified to be reviewing and giving advice. If an owners corporation wants to have works checked out after completion they should consider engaging a building specialist with the appropriate expertise to help them review the works.
9. My strata manager tells me I can’t hang my washing on my balcony and keep general items in my garage. The property belongs to me so he can’t tell me what to do.
False. Under the By-Laws that your strata plan is governed by, hanging of washing is only allowed on balconies if it can not be seen from outside the unit. It might seem silly to some but the rule is there and its enforceable by the owners corporation. In fact, for continued breaches of this By-Law, fines of up to $550 can be imposed upon you per breach! That’s expensive washing. Similarly with your garage space, only cars, bikes and other similar items are generally allowed in car spaces. Flammable or other dangerous items are not allowed to be stored in garage spaces. Just as you can be fined for the washing, you can also be fined for continued breaches in your garage area.
10. Our strata manager makes all the decisions about our building?
False. The good news is, it’s up to you as an owner in the strata scheme to make all the decisions regarding the property! The strata manager will assist in the decision making process by providing advice on the legislation and in providing details for specialists when required but at the end of the day it’s up to the owners corporation to make all the decisions about how they want the property to operate.
It is important that you read and understand the By-Laws that are written for your specific property as each strata scheme has its own specific set of rules when it comes to things like renovations and washing as they can vary in some instances.