The responsibilities of a strata committee

 

Around the traps

 

The responsibilities of a strata committee were a serious concern for a potential seller this week. Vendors of a lovely two-bedroom unit approached me wanting to discuss problems they may have when they sell. The vendors explained that they were very concerned about their strata’s mismanagement and the strata committee’s power.

 

The vendors explained that the strata committee had evolved from a clique that initially wanted to change strata agents. This was successful – as many were frustrated by the lack of service provided. Once the agents were replaced the group that lobbied for change became the committee. There is a limit to how many can be on a committee, which created a very narrow focus for improvements and change.

 

The vendors explained that the work being funded was more about what the committee wanted and less about what was needed. The vendors were concerned that works were being approved with increased levies. The new committee also prevented some owners from improving their properties – even though they satisfied the necessary criteria.

 

The owners wanted to sell but were worried a potential buyer would look at the strata report and be alarmed by the increase in levies. Their fears prompted me to advise about asking questions before you buy into a strata.

 

More people buying into strata

 

More and more people will be buying into strata complexes as the price of houses increases. A unit or a townhouse is a great first or last step in the property journey. However, in strata, you are part of a group and there are responsibilities that you must be familiar with. New unit owners must actively participate in their strata and not defer responsibility.

 

In Victoria, a strata committee, also known as an owner’s corporation committee, plays a crucial role in managing and making decisions regarding strata-titled properties. The responsibilities of a strata committee in Victoria typically include:

 

Administration. The committee oversees the administrative tasks of the owner’s corporation, such as maintaining records, issuing notices, and keeping financial accounts.

 

Financial management. Managing the finances of the owner’s corporation, including budgeting, collecting levies, paying bills, and ensuring proper financial records are kept.

 

Maintenance and repairs. Organizing and overseeing maintenance and repair work for common property areas, such as gardens, building exteriors, and shared facilities like gyms or pools.

 

Insurance. Ensuring that the owner’s corporation has adequate insurance coverage for the property and common areas.

 

Compliance. Ensuring compliance with relevant legislation, regulations, and by-laws governing strata-titled properties.

 

Meeting management. Organizing and conducting owners’ corporation meetings, including the annual general meeting (AGM), and ensuring that decisions made at meetings are properly recorded and implemented.

 

Dispute resolution. Addressing disputes and conflicts among owners or residents within the strata scheme, and seeking resolution through appropriate channels, which may include mediation or legal action if necessary.

 

Communication. Maintaining open and transparent communication with owners and residents, keeping them informed about matters concerning the strata scheme and seeking their input when necessary.

 

Emergency planning. Developing and implementing emergency plans for the property, including procedures for dealing with fires, natural disasters, or other emergencies.

 

Strategic planning. Developing long-term plans and strategies for the maintenance, improvement, and development of the property, in consultation with owners and residents.

 

Strata committee challenges

 

Communication issues. Effective communication among committee members, owners, and residents is vital for smooth operations. However, disagreements, misunderstandings, or lack of communication protocols can hinder decision-making and lead to conflicts.

 

Financial management. Strata committees must manage the finances of the owner’s corporation responsibly. However, inadequate budgeting, unexpected expenses, or difficulty in collecting levies can create financial strain and affect maintenance and repair efforts.

 

Maintenance and repairs. Ensuring timely and effective maintenance and repair work on common property can be challenging. Issues such as identifying priorities, obtaining quotes, coordinating contractors, and dealing with disputes over responsibility or costs can delay necessary upkeep.

 

Compliance and legal matters. Staying compliant with relevant legislation, regulations, and by-laws can be complex and time-consuming. Failure to comply can result in legal liabilities, fines, or disputes with owners or regulatory authorities.

 

Dispute resolution. Resolving disputes among owners or residents, whether related to noise, property damage, or other issues, requires careful handling. Strata committees may need to navigate mediation, arbitration, or legal processes to reach satisfactory resolutions.

 

Governance and leadership. Effective leadership and governance are essential for the success of a strata committee. Challenges may arise if committee members lack the necessary skills, experience, or commitment to fulfill their roles effectively.

 

Owner engagement and participation: Encouraging owner participation in meetings, decision-making processes, and community initiatives can be challenging. Some owners may be disengaged or apathetic, while others may have conflicting interests or agendas.

 

Emergency preparedness. Developing and maintaining emergency plans, such as fire evacuation procedures or disaster response protocols, is crucial. However, ensuring readiness and conducting drills may be overlooked or underprioritized.

 

Strategic planning and future development. Developing long-term plans and strategies for the property’s maintenance, improvement, or development requires foresight and collaboration. Balancing competing interests and priorities among owners while considering financial constraints can be difficult.

 

External factors. External factors such as changes in market conditions, regulatory reforms, or environmental considerations can impact strata committee decisions and operations, requiring adaptability and proactive management.

 

Addressing these challenges often requires effective communication, collaboration, and proactive management by the strata committee, supported by the engagement and cooperation of owners and residents.

 

It is important to understand that while the strata committee has significant authority in managing the property, its powers and duties are subject to the Strata Titles Act 2018 and any relevant by-laws of the owner’s corporation. However, if the committee is working for their interests, they may be complaint but not fair. Even works undertaken could be given to people they know rather than independent contractors.

 

When buying into strata make inquiries about being on the committee and what other owners think about the strata management and the committee. if you do not actively participate in your strata you may be shocked by increases in levies or be frustrated by poor decision making. As these decisions affect you financially you must have your say.