Have you ever wondered what the committee of your owners corporation talks about in its meetings? What decisions need to be made? What information is shared?
While no two properties – and therefore no two owners corporations – are the same, all strata committees in New South Wales must follow the same set of laws as set out in the state’s Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (the ‘Act’) and the regulations attached to it.
What’s in those laws, and how do they differ from other states?
The Act in NSW is pretty comprehensive, and the regulations add a detail to the broad requirements of the law.
Across the country, a number of basic owners corporation rights and responsibilities are common to all jurisdictions. These include:
- Taking out adequate insurance for the building, public liability and personal property damage, as well as other optional insurance such as that provided by Flex Insurance
- Maintaining and repairing the common property when required (including the buildings, shared driveways and gardens, lobbies, communal facilities and carparks etc) so that it’s safe, secure, and doesn’t create an eyesore
- Holding regular meetings and AGMs that are open to all members of the owners corporation, i.e. the owners of the units
- Collecting annual levies and managing the finances of the owners corporation responsibly and correctly
- Keeping proper records of owners, tenants, insurance, finances and maintenance reports, and allowing those records to be accessed by owners and other relevant bodies when requested
- Publishing and enforcing by-laws of the property
- Seeking legal advice and taking or defending legal action – though usually this requires the specific approval of a majority of owners
- Organising safety inspections
- Employing staff such as building managers, concierges and cleaners if appropriate, and engaging contractors
Additional rules for NSW
As well as the basics, strata committees also have a number of additional rights and responsibilities. These include:
- Making sure that insurance policies also cover workers and committee members. This is compulsory in NSW, and specialist strata insurers such as Flex Insurance automatically include it in policies.
- The committee has a chairperson, secretary and treasurer, each with specific roles and responsibilities under the Act. The committee can also include a non-voting tenants’ representative.
- Allowing owners to make minor or cosmetic changes to their own units, whilst also being aware of what constitutes ‘minor’ and what constitutes a change that requires committee or owners corporation approval.
Committees in NSW must also ensure that no by-laws of the property are unfair, discriminatory, harsh or oppressive. Similarly, it cannot prevent children or assistance animals living in units, nor can it impinge on an owner’s right to sell or lease their property.
Fortunately for new owners corporations in NSW, the regulations provide a really good set of default, model by-laws that can be adopted as they are, or amended to suit the wishes of the owners – as long as those by-laws aren’t prohibited under the Act or other state laws.
There is more information for NSW owners corporations at Flex Insurance.
A balancing of needs
All in all, New South Wales’ Strata Schemes Management Act seeks to provide a good balance between the rights of individual owners and the rights of the entire owners corporation, while the regulations help make life easier by providing templates and additional detail.
Both also recognise that many of those people who volunteer their time to be on committees have busy lives and not necessarily a ‘legal’ mind. This recognition in turn helps to encourage a broader cross-section of people to join their owners corporation committees, and that’s a good thing.