What is a Strata Company?
The process of subdivision of a property for multi-unit development results in the need for a "body" to manage common ownership aspects of the property. On registration of a Strata Scheme, a strata company becomes incorporated. Strata companies are regulated by legislation that has undergone many revisions both to deal with the changing property ownership trends and to adjust to the continually evolving body of knowledge and experience gained from regulating the industry.
Strata companies offer members more affordable property with reduced shared costs of property maintenance. There are different types of strata companies including apartment blocks, attached townhouses, double-storey villa units or mixed-use developments (residential and commercial).
As an owner, what part do I play?
If you are the owner of a unit in a property that has a strata company, you are a "member" of that strata company. When a lot is sold, the new owner becomes a member. A tenant paying rent to an owner is not a member of the strata company and does not generally interact with the strata company. The strata company is responsible for a range of compliance, financial, insurance and essential services matters. These responsibilities are usually delegated to a professional manager who also looks after the insurance, manages the caretaking and handles the various strata company administrative processes.
An important part of being a member of a strata company is that you must adhere to some guidelines to ensure that the group of people can live harmoniously together and that the buildings are maintained in an attractive and consistent way. This usually means that changes to the outside of buildings such as painting or the installation of air conditioners, satellite dishes, awnings etc must be done in collaboration with other members.
What is common property?
Most strata company have "common property". This usually includes the driveway, facilities such as a laundry, gym or pool and also the open space on the property. This common property must be managed and have liability insurance so that it serves only the purposes intended and doesn’t expose the strata company to unnecessary legal risks. The strata company Regulations contain a set of "standard rules" - it is essential that members abide by these rules. Key aspects of the rules include not using the common property to the detriment of other members or making any noise which might disturb other members and not parking on the common property.
Insurance – the critical aspect of strata company management
The strata company normally pays for one insurance policy that covers full replacement insurance for all the buildings and adequate public liability insurance for the common property. When you own a unit on a property with a strata company, you need to be absolutely certain that all building and liability risks are covered for the property – particularly when walls, facilities and services are shared. In the event of an insurance claim there is only one company to deal with and no doubt as to who will pay a claim. As a member of a strata company you do not have to have a separate policy for building insurance if the strata company has a policy. This arrangement is normally more economical than a member buying their own insurance and you are assured of adequate public liability insurance for the common property. Having adequate public liability cover for the common property is critical as a wide range of people have access to it and accidents often result in significant claims – not to mention the legal expenses. Members are still required to have insurance for their own contents and also public liability cover for car spaces and for visitors on their property.
How does the strata company operate?
Strata companies managed by Ace Body Corporate Management have an individual bank account for each strata company. The strata manager is normally the sole signatory to that account under delegation from the members of the
strata company. An annual general meeting is held at the beginning of each financial year of the strata company. This meeting sets the budget and addresses any concerns of the members. This sets the "contributions" which the members have to pay each year. The amount contributed by each member is worked out based on a table included in the plan. This table is referred to as "lot liability". Other meetings may be held if required by the members. The main component of the budget is usually the insurance premium that covers the buildings and public liability risks. Other components are the caretaking, grounds maintenance, repairs, common lighting. maintenance of essential services and the manager’s fees. Strata company vary in the extent to which funds are accumulated in strata company account. Many operate on a small margin over the normal annual operating costs while others plan ahead and accumulate some funds for major works such as painting, guttering replacements, fencing, paving etc. Should a major unbudgeted cost occur without sufficient funds in the bank, it is normal practice to establish a special levy to pay for that particular works.
Where does the strata company spend its funds?
The strata company is responsible for ensuring full reinstatement insurance is in place for buildings together with insurance for public liability. It is also responsible for the maintenance of services that connect into the building and to ensure there is adequate public lighting and for the general upkeep of the exterior of the buildings and the common grounds. It is responsible for the upkeep of all common items such as car and pedestrian security gates, intercoms and public lighting.
What is covered under the building insurance?
The strata company’s insurance covers damage and consequential damage to the building itself and all fixtures within the units. The insurance is for reinstatement of buildings does not cover normal wear and tear, but it does cover legal liability on the common property. Damage to carpets within a unit are specifically excluded. It is highly recommended that Landlord’s insurance be taken out to cover carpets and legal liability within tenanted units and car park lots. Owners and tenants must have their own contents and public liability insurance for their own units.
What does the strata company manager do?
Provides continuity of management processes and record keeping for the strata company. Without a professional strata manager, problems can arise with frequent changes in voluntary members who undertake the duties, resulting in different standards of record keeping and potentially inadequate or missing records.
Ensures strata company legislative matters are being adhered to
Resolves disputes and provides an objective approach to dealing with members’ concerns or disputes. While disputes are rare, some situations can cause conflict; including tenanted units, parking, noise, adjacent developments etc. An objective, professional strata manager can assist in these situations.
Looks after strata company administration and handles day-to-day paperwork and requests from solicitors etc. Organises annual and special general meetings including minutes, facilitates setting of budgets, collects members’ contributions and maintains a complete set of financial statements.
Issuing leases and licences where necessary.
Administers insurance and deals with brokers and directly with insurance companies as necessary to obtain the most effective and economical coverage for the strata company. Submits claims, schedules repair work and processes claims paperwork. Provides advice and options to members in relation to public liability issues. This ensures that necessary processes are undertaken for insurance cover and record keeping against possible future claims for public liability.
Administers the maintenance of strata company facilities and essential services – obtains quotes and schedules works as required to ensure that the strata company is maintained in good condition and presents no dangers to visitors or members. Schedules essential services reports as necessary and reviews compliance with current legislation.
Schedules grounds maintenance and liaise caretakers, gardeners and tradespersons to ensure that grounds are maintained to members’ requirements.
For more information, please contact us.