The Strata Committee

The Strata Committee (SC) is in many respects like the board of directors of a company.

The SC has wide ranging powers to make decisions on behalf of the Owners Corporation unless restricted by the Owners Corporation at a general meeting or by operation of the Act.

Limitations on an SC arising from the Act include:

  • Determining levies, including a special levy.
  • Changing by-laws.
  • Selling, acquiring or leasing common property.
  • Terminating or replacing the strata manager.

The SC can range in number from 1 to 9, all of whom are elected annually at the AGM. There is no qualification to being a member of the SC, even non owners can be members. To be a member of the SC it is necessary for an owner to make the nomination either before or at the AGM.

There is no stipulated frequency for holding SC meetings. The quorum for an SC meeting is 50% of the members of the SC. Meetings may be held by post. Meetings are open to all owners, however, owners are not allowed to speak at the meetings unless permitted by the SC. Notice of SC meetings must be given at least 72 hours prior to the meeting by being posted on the noticeboard or, if there is no noticeboard, then all owners must be sent a copy of the notice. Minutes of meetings must be posted on the noticeboard or if there is no noticeboard then posted to every owner, within 7 days of the meeting. A member of the SC may appoint a substitute to attend an SC meeting so long as they are an owner and are approved by the SC at the meeting.

Members can be paid an honorarium if the Owners Corporation decides at a general meeting. Honorariums cannot be paid in advance.

The decisions of the SC are binding on all owners. In the event of a dispute between the SC and the Owners Corporation, the decision of the Owners Corporation will prevail.

Smoking

Can You Smoke on Common Property. The answer to this frequently asked question is whether the subject area is an enclosed public space or is an area in which food is prepared or consumed. The definition of an enclosed public place is found in the Smoke Free Environment Act 2000 which requires most enclosed public spaces to be smoke free. An enclosed public space is a place that is open to the public, has a ceiling or roof and apart from doorways, is substantially enclosed. Generally the main entrance and stairwell of a building would be considered an enclosed public space and must be smoke free. The gardens and surrounding area to a building would be considered open space and therefore not subject to the Act. Individual unit owners or occupiers are also exempt from the provisions of the Act by virtue of their unit being private property.

The issue of smoking is an emotional subject for many people and some goodwill and common sense should be used in addressing the problem. Smokers should ensure that they take their cigarette butts with them when they have finished smoking in the open areas of a strata plan building as this avoids any complaints being levelled against them for depositing rubbish on common property, which would be a breach of the by-laws.  Another tip to smokers would be to do so away from the open windows and doors or other residents.

New Strata Regulations to be released mid 2016 regarding this matter. Watch this space for more info. 

Selecting A Strata Manager

You or your executive committee has decided that there should be a change of strata manager, or the current manager is selling out, so what should the Owners Coporation look for when selecting a new manager? 

Integrity – This is such an important aspect of business that it should always be the first criteria to be considered. A manager should treat all owners equally without playing up to favourites. The manager should have the best interests of the Owners Corporation in the forefront of any decision regarding work to the building. The SCA has a Code of Ethical Conduct which can be viewed on their website (https://www.stratacommunity.org.au) Payment of commission, unless it has been declared at the time of appointment is illegal, whilst charges for non-incurred disbursements should not be tolerated.

Experience – A manager should have wide commercial experience in order to deal with the wide range of issues encountered in strata management. There is a large turnover of people coming through the industry after following other career paths. Their previous career experience is relevant to the way they will manage your Owners Corporation.

Knowledge – A good knowledge of strata law, accountancy and the conduct of meetings is imperative. As managers often have to deal with building and construction issues it is important to have some understanding of these matters.

Personality – There are a lot of strong personalities sprinkled throughout owners corporations and it will require a manager with a confident personality and an ability to manage people to deal with all the competing personalities of the owners.

Qualifications – All managers have to be licensed by the Office of Fair Trading. The Institute of Strata Title Managers conduct a Strata Certificate of Registration which is recognised by the Office of Fair Trading, however, those qualifications are the minimum requirements. TAFE conducts the Certificate IV in Property (Strata Management) which is relevant to the industry.

Repairs – Nothing aggravates owners more than repairs left incomplete for months on end, or the workmanship is of poor quality. Make sure that your prospective manager has a track record for dealing with repairs promptly and that they only use well qualified and reputable tradespeople.