Recently, representing Strata Community Association, I put on my Owner hat to talk to Strata Owners at the Strata Governance 101 arranged by the City of Melbourne.
Firstly, what a great initiative to be undertaken by a forward-thinking Council, appreciating that there are an estimated 100,000 living within Strata communities in the City of Melbourne.
Having identified the largely unknown quantity that is living and owning within Strata, the City of Melbourne and SCA have put together a progression of information evenings to raise understanding and awareness.
It was interesting reflecting on my journey as purchaser, elected committee member, elected Chairman and subsequently transitioning to General Manager of Quantum United Management, Master Planned Residential Community Management & Consulting aficionados.
In talking with the attendees, I realised my journey of living and owning was until recently, not dissimilar from many others. I was uncertain what it meant to be an owner within a reasonably sized Owners Corporation (182 lots)(O/C), I got bills from the Manager and knew what they were for (loosely) but couldn’t believe it really cost that much and I didn’t know who to talk to or if I did contact someone getting a response was a different story.
Following this session I felt it would be valuable for me to share with you the answers to some of the burning questions we heard, and as Owners Corporation Managers, hear every day…
- If I have a question or concern in relation to the operation of my owners corporation who should I contact?
Your appointed Strata/Owners Corporation Manager should be your first point of contact. Yes, they should respond to your enquiry, if you don’t hear back try calling and emailing them. However, you shouldn’t have to wait days to be responded to.
- Should I be able to contact the Committee directly?
Yes, personally I believe it is reasonable for at least the elected Chairman (figurehead of the O/C) to be available to all members within the O/C community, but remember they are volunteers trying to help you so be respectful as you should in any relationship. I would also advise caution, remember they are volunteers, don’t inundate them with frivolous or futile queries that you haven’t had a crack at solving yourself with the support of your manager. If you do you may well burn them out and lose their potentially excellent support for you and your community.
- What should I do if things are or aren’t being done how they should be?
Remember, we live in a democratic society! As much as I would like to dictate on occasion, we need to support the best interests and desires of all our members (2 or 2,000 lots worth). If there is something that is required to be done, that is not occurring, bring it to the O/C Manager and Committee’s attention in writing. If it doesn’t get resolved, you can lodge a formal complaint, lodge an application to VCAT, get your own legal advice and provide it to the O/C or if it is that atrocious, sell out.
- Why don’t I every get told what is going on or get given any information?
Your O/C Manager, Building Manager (if one is appointed) and Committee will likely be working tirelessly in the background on a number of items and sometimes delivering the outcomes takes priority. Having said that, communication and sharing information is one of the key ingredients in maintaining a harmonious community. You as lot owners have the right to view/receive the minutes of all Committee meetings, seek them out as they should be a source of information. Alternatively, you can, as a community set out a requirement for a minimum number of communiques from your O/C Manager, Committee and Building Manager about what is happening or going to be happening within your O/C.Most professional management companies should be providing numerous tools to support active ongoing communication such as your own website/portal, email updates, SMS, webinars, in person information session as an example.
- Do I have to pay the fees that the Manager sends me?
I have saved everyone’s favourite to last. Yes, you have a legal obligation to pay the fees that are struck in accordance with the adopted Annual Budget in proportion pursuant to the Lot Liability contained within your lot table for the relevant O/C.
For Strata Communities here in Victoria, it can become expensive for a lot owner who doesn’t pay their fees. Cost for recovery including applications to VCAT, engagement of lawyers for attendance at hearings, registration of VCAT Orders in the Magistrates Court and potentially to obtaining Orders for the Sale of the property from the Supreme Court can range from a minimal additional cost of $350.00, into the thousands or tens of thousands. Its best that you pay the fees or obtain personal legal advice if you are concerned with the validity of the amounts being charged.
There are plenty of other things that I have experienced and learned in the journey from purchaser to owning, living and working in the Strata industry that I am happy to share with the wider strata community. Please have a look at the Strata education seminars run by SCA and the City of Melbourne and get involved if you have a perspective to share for the benefit of others or you would like to learn more about what you have or may buy into.
If you have any questions about the operation of the owners corporation within your master planned community please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or on (03) 8360-8800.
Quantum united Management