More than 90 updated strata laws will come into effect in New South Wales on the 30th of November, affecting millions of residents and apartment owners across the state.
Many believe the changes passed by Parliament last year have been a long time coming – the current laws are forty years old and no longer adequately reflect the reality of modern apartment living.
A recent influx of apartment construction in the state and in Sydney in particular means that strata laws will soon affect more people than ever. It is estimated that by 2020, over half the population of New South Wales will be living or working in strata buildings.
Here are some of the more notable changes we’ll soon see.
Strata building collective sales
Perhaps the most controversial change, new laws will allow a strata building to be sold if 75 per cent of owners approve. Currently, 100 per cent of owners must agree to the sale, so there has been criticism this new rule will force the most vulnerable out of their homes.
Owners corporation meetings
To encourage owner involvement, if there is no quorum at a general meeting (25 per cent of owners represented), the meeting will still go ahead thirty minutes after the scheduled start time instead of being adjourned as they currently are.
Tech friendly meetings
Finally recognising the times we’re living in, owners will be able to attend meetings via telephone or internet. Voting will also be opened up to email or even old-fashioned snail mail, recognising that owners don’t necessarily live in the places they invest.
Tenant committee members
For the first time, tenants will have the right to attend owners corporation meetings, but their involvement will be limited. They cannot vote unless they hold a proxy vote and will be excluded from discussions about finance and by-law breaches. Furthermore, if at least half the lots in a scheme are tenanted, a tenant representative can be nominated as a non-voting member of the strata committee.
An easier process for cosmetic and minor renovations
Renovations are about to get a whole lot simpler. Any works under the newly defined “cosmetic works”, such as putting nails or picture hooks into walls, painting or installing new carpet, do not require approval from the owners corporation. The concept of “minor renovations” has also been introduced. This covers works such as kitchen renovations, installing hardwood floors and rewiring, and this now only needs general resolution approval (50 per cent of entitled voters). For more complex works relating to waterproofing, structural changes or changes to the external appearance of the building, special resolution approval will be required (75 per cent of entitled voters) before works can commence.
Schemes more pet friendly
Reforms have aimed to make strata schemes more pet friendly. It will now be easier for owners corporations to allow the keeping of pets as opposed to automatically prohibiting it. Under the new model by-laws, the request to keep a pet cannot be unreasonably refused.
Owners corporations will have more control over unauthorised parking on common property. They can enter into agreements with local council to manage unauthorised parking, which means council may erect parking signs, patrol the car park and issue tickets to any breaches on common property. The new rules mean that even residents who park over the lines of their allocated spaces or leave their vehicles in visitor parking, for no matter how long, can be ticketed for it.
There are two options related to smoking under the new model by-laws. The first option is a complete ban of smoking on common property areas, and the second allows for designated smoking areas and for written permission to be given to smoke on common property.
In a bid to prevent overcrowding, new rules will allow owners corporations to adopt by-laws setting occupancy limits for apartments. It can be set at any number provided it is not less than two adults per room. The exemption is if all residents are related, so not to discriminate against larger families.
Laundry on balconies
It has been an issue for renters for years, but now the ‘natural’ dryers have come out on top and will finally have greater rights to dry laundry on their balconies. For post 1996 schemes, laundry can be hung to dry anywhere on the lot except for the balcony railings, for a ‘reasonable’ period of time.
Strata management contracts
Previously limited to ten years with an automatic rollover, this has now been reduced to one year in the first year of a new scheme and then three years thereafter. This is to give the strata manager sufficient time to prove themselves in the first year, and make it easier for the owners corporation to appoint a new manager in the subsequent three years if it doesn’t work out.
Fines now paid to owners corporation
Almost all fines will now be paid directly to the owners corporation in order to renumerate the committee (to cover expenses for common property repairs, for instance). But far from being a cash cow for committees, the same tribunal process will still apply. The maximum penalty of breaching a by-law will be increased from $550 to $1,100 per offence.
Developer’s bond required
Developers must now lodge a 2 per cent (of the contracted price of the building) bond at the commencement of a project, in a bid to ensure any defects are addressed early on in new developments. Developers will also now need to appoint and pay for an independent building inspection of their work.
For the full list of amendments, visit the Fair Trading website.