We asked Owners Corporation Network (OCN) Secretary, Gerry Chia, and BCS Strata Management Chief Executive Officer, Greg Haywood, to give us their points of view on the challenges of strata. Here’s what they said.
1. What do you believe to be the challenges people face living in strata?
Gerry Chia, (OCN)
There are a huge variety of challenges for strata owners. For newer buildings these focus on resolution of defects. For older buildings having in place an effective maintenance program is a challenge owners and executive committees need to address to ensure the long-term quality of the asset. Other challenges include transparency of costs and having an effective and knowledgeable strata manager, and if applicable, facilities manager.
Other challenges are rising energy costs and costs of services, enforcement of by-laws and illegal or substandard renovations.
Greg Haywood, (BCS Strata Management )
More people are moving into strata living in the major cities because of the lifestyle and affordability this represents. The challenges come from people not understanding that they live in a community and that their neighbours are not over the fence but are instead above them, below them and on the other side of the wall.
Living in close proximity means there are rules, known as by-laws, which aim to enhance community living for all. Often it’s a challenge to educate people that the rules are there to make it fair for all who live in the building. Individual desires, such as having a pet, may have to give way to the majority view which may be to not allow pets.
Challenges are also brought about as a result of building defects and this can only be fixed when builders and governments realise they need to work together on addressing this issue.
2. What do you believe to be the challenges of managing strata properties?
Engaging owners to participate in the management of the asset for the common good is a challenge for many strata managers. Too many strata plans have no effective owners participation. Many owners fail to understand that they are part of the owners corporation, and without effective and transparent owners participation, the asset will fall into neglect.
Likewise convincing owners that low levies will limit effective maintenance, and reduce the long-term value of the asset is also a challenge.
For strata managers it is finding the right balance in accommodating the wants of the executive committee against the legislation that governs strata living.
Strata managers regularly have to act as a mediator, psychologist, maintenance expert and project manager while keeping up-to-date with changes to the various legislations.
The main challenge is educating lot owners about their roles and responsibilities. There is always a tug of war that goes on between owner/occupiers and investors especially when it comes to funding building maintenance and strata managers invariably get caught in the middle.
3. What are the short-term solutions that could be implemented to address these challenges?
Educating owners that a well-maintained scheme with an effective committee and strata manager are essential elements to meet the challenges outlined above and others not mentioned here.
Education and communication is the key in addressing these challenges, both short and long-term.
Our strata managers undertake a variety of education programs both in-house and externally intended to enhance their skills and knowledge needed to do their jobs effectively. They also have access to legislation and information that they can share with their executive committees at any time.
BCS Strata Management also encourages executive committees to undertake the free online training course offered by Strata Community Australia , which trains committee members in what their roles and responsibilities should be.
4. What makes a strata scheme successful?
Having an effective executive committee and strata manager, and facilities manager (where applicable) are essential elements. Engaging residents – owners and tenants alike – and encouraging a spirit of good neighborhood and taking pride in the building are key elements in a successful scheme. An annual get together for residents can promote good neighbour relations while in larger schemes perhaps some resident’s activities such as a playgroup for parents with young children and some other activities will be very helpful.
A strata scheme that has a well-educated executive committee which attends to its responsibilities – such as regular maintenance, fire safety inspections and updating insurance valuations - and openly communicates with all the lot owners and tenants, makes for a successful scheme.
Finding that right balance is a challenge and people will often disagree on any number of matters but if the elements are there and most importantly the good of the scheme is foremost, then there is no reason why a scheme should not be successful.
5. In your view what would the perfect future strata scheme look like?
A well-built and well-maintained building and asset, devoid of defects, with an effective and engaged committee, strata manager, and facilities manager with engaged residents and investors, good community facilities and some community activities.
An agreed fee for agreed scope of services without disbursements and commission are key elements for effective management.
Most strata managers would agree with Gerry’s comments about a scheme being well-built and having no defects. This would certainly go a long way to creating harmony in a scheme.
With more education for lot owners and better legislation around defects, I believe that we have the ingredients for a perfect scheme.
In addition, a well funded scheme that enhances the value of the asset (your home or investment) is a must.
The NSW strata law review this year may also go some way towards achieving this and may provide new directions other states can adopt.
6. How can executive committees and strata managers work positively together?
They can work positively together by having a strong commitment to managing the asset for the common good, effective communication and transparency, and fair remuneration for the strata manager and facilities manager. Clear and timely decision making by the committee along with accessibility to quick and informative responses by the strata manager and facilities manager are all key elements for a good team.
This is a goal that can be reached by listening to each other and communicating effectively. Executive committees need to be clear in their instructions to strata managers and they need to listen to the advice they are given.
Strata managers need to be proactive anticipate issues and address them before they become larger problems.
Again I have to stress the importance of undertaking education as well as developing good relationships with solid communications.
Our strata managers aim to do all this and have the support and resources of the BCS Strata Management to achieve this goal.
Disclaimer: The information provided above is a general guide only and not intended as a substitute for legal advice. The company disclaims all responsibility and all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs which might be incurred as a result of the information provided by the company in this article.