Strata: everything you need to know before you buy
Thinking about buying into a strata property? Exciting times! Before you make any big or drastic decisions though, understanding strata and all its facets is a must.
What is strata?
In Australia, strata or strata title is a model of property ownership that allows people to buy into certain parts of a property (individual ownership) such as an apartment, flat or townhouse complex.
Who manages the individual owners?
Possibly the most important part of a strata property is the Strata Committee.
This group of people take on much of the responsibility when it comes to ensuring the owners, residents, and even visitors are safe whilst on the property and are well-protected at all times.
I know it can be totally nerve-wracking for anyone new to strata properties when it comes to understanding the lingo, knowing who to talk to, and how to go about it. “I own the place! Why can’t I just knock down that side wall, or install a reverse cycle air con in my townhouse?!” In a perfect world, you could. But with shared walls, fences and other bits and bobs that are considered shared property, someone needs to consider the effect your building decisions have on other residents within a strata complex.
And that’s where the Strata Committee comes into play.
How is the Strata Committee determined?
Buyers who are new to strata and are anxious about dealing with a committee typically have the same concerns, and they sound a lot like: Is my property going to be in safe hands with this team of people? Will they take their roles and responsibilities seriously and handle your concerns with care?
Before buying, it’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about your Strata Committee. But in the meantime, rest assured that there is an ethical process involved to selecting these members in the first place.
The Strata Committee is made up of individual owners who are the elected group nominated by other owners of the complex to represent their needs. These representatives can make decisions on behalf of the owner’s corporation and are elected at each Annual General Meeting.
The concept is rather straightforward, but there are other minute details worth noting such as the number of members allowed, dependent upon the property you’re buying into. For example, one to nine members can be voted into a Strata Committee, except in a:
- 2-lot scheme where the owner of each lot becomes a member, or
- large strata scheme of more than one hundred lots; in this case, there must be at least three members.
Who makes up the Strata Committee?
Your strata committee requires certain roles and responsibilities to be filled by elected members known as Office Bearers. These include the:
Mandatory presence at every meeting, unless replaced with the strata managing agent or another responsible member to chair the meeting. Does not receive a vote at strata meetings.
Responsible for all administrative and secretarial duties; this includes: managing strata roll, convening meetings, providing notices and minutes of meetings, enabling account and committee records inspections, providing information to relevant parties, and responding to all correspondence.
Responsible for all financial duties, including sending levy notices, receipts, banking, recording money trail, preparing information certificates, and maintaining all accounting records and preparation of financial statements.
What is an Owners Corporation?
Formerly known as Body Corporate, the owner’s corporation actually holds more power than the committee and is responsible for managing the common property of a residential, commercial, retail, industrial or mixed-use property development.
Matters that an owner’s corporation may be responsible for include annual termite inspections or window safety checks, cutting back trees that are growing into the power lines, and regular roof and gutter maintenance. They will also:
- Determine the number of elected strata committee members at each AGM
- Dismiss strata committee members where necessary
- Employ a strata managing agent and/or building manager.
What is the Strata Management Company?
Now we’re getting technical, but it’s important that you understand the chain of command before approaching your committee or corporation, or buying into a strata complex.
An owner’s corporation will contract a strata manager, and appoint the strata management company at an AGM under an agency agreement that establishes the terms of their authority.
When a strata managing agent is assigned to a property, they become accountable for the tasks formerly completed by the Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer. However, the Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer are not prevented from acting in those capacities.
See what I mean? Technical.
What you need to know about strata meetings!
Unlike corporate meetings, there is no set expectation or legal requirement for the length of the meeting, and it can be organised at any time by the Secretary.
I know. No one enjoys meetings, but if you’re thinking of buying, don’t be put off by the idea of a strata meeting, because depending on the property and committee, they can actually be quite infrequent.
To give you an idea, for a meeting to be held, one-third of the strata committee members can organise a meeting to be held with the Secretary, so if you’re part of a strata committee of nine people for example, at least three owners members need to vote yes to a meeting. But what I find is that the more owners that want to meet, the more imperative the topic, so meeting with your fellow owners or members can actually be really worth your time and, you guessed it, potentially save you money, time or your own health in the long run.
All meetings require at least three days notice, and only one vote per member is permitted – no matter how many lots that committee member owns.
Interested in becoming an individual owner within a strata property? While the ins and outs may seem a little complicated, to begin with, the process for conducting and taking part in a meeting to discuss vital issues or upcoming changes to your (potential) new property is actually really valuable, and the chain of command or contact is clear in writing from day one.
If you’d like more information on buying into a strata complex and want the details explained further, give us a call on (02) 8916 6172 or 0452 341 173 and we will guide you through the ins and outs of all you need to know when it comes to strata!