We see all kinds of issues in Sydney's strata buildings, which we have to report on, but we always look for the positives to give our report readers ... things that might out-weigh any negatives.
Nikki Jovicic of LookUpStrata published a post by Tom Bacon of Strata Title Lawyers that got a reaction across the industry ... including myself. Quote Tom: "Typically, (Strata) managers work very long hours, from the time they arrive in the morning (usually greeted by dozens of emails and phone calls) ... "
The email floodgate: You open Outlook upon arriving to work and yet more emails come flooding in ... but you have to type and action your minutes from the meeting the night before ... and we know minutes take hours and usually the later the meeting, the more tasks to action ... but the phone doesn’t stop and your dear old retired clients drop in unannounced for a long chat (because they don't use email) … and if that’s not enough, your own colleagues who have little idea about actual strata management bug you throughout the day with chit-chat or low priority stuff … so your inbox turns into hundreds … and the risk of missing true urgent requests suddenly becomes high … and so does the likelihood of a law suit!
What can you do to fix the problem? Strata Managers need to set expectations from the get-go (if they’re employer will let them). Owners can otherwise develop a bully mentality towards their Strata Manager … especially at meetings. We often find that one owner starts nit-picking and the other owners join the bandwagon. This attitude can continue from email to email unless the Strata Manager can disarm the owners and set their expectations.
Stop cc-ing me on EVERYTHING! Getting the Committee to choose ONE owner to issue the deliberated instructions of the Committee avoids clogging up your inbox, and makes for more enjoyable and productive relationships with your owners … but this takes time and Strata Managers can get caught up spending all their time putting out fires, instead of just getting the job at hand done.
Take a ticket! Strata Directors who constantly give in to demanding clients, set an unrealistic expectation with the complaining owner, and puts undue stress on the Strata Manager. Hiding the fact that you are charging owners like a wounded bull for additional services just adds to this wide-spread problem and is nothing short of a dishonest protocol. Giving owners the option to save money to do their own leg work makes for a far more respectful and happy relationship and owners will appreciate when their Strata Manager has time for them when it's needed.
What happened to team spirit? I think firms have to get on board with “Social Equity” … that is to create an environment where staff WANT to help and support each other.
The last resort: If none of this works, you have to let unreasonable clients go. Eventually they’ll realise that “you get what you pay for” ... but make sure you keep the door opened for them to return!
Most people know what a Building Inspection is when you buy a house, so naturally most people think that a Strata Inspector inspects apartment buildings.
That's not the case. A Strata Inspector inspects the files of an Owners Corporation. In most cases, the files are kept at the office of the person or firm that manage the property (known as a strata Managing Agent). Sometimes the owners manage their own building.
This inspection may sound like a feeble task ... but a Strata Inspection can tell you far more than a Building Inspection.
Not only can you find out if the Owners Corporation look after their building or not, you can find out what work has been done on the building in the past and what work has been planned for the future. No work done in the past can mean that future owners will have to fork out tens of thousands of dollars on work that should have been done; and work that has been done, may be inadequate ... it's what Strata Managers call a "band-aid approach". This is when the owners don't want to do what is necessary to fix building issues properly, so they do it on the cheap ... and the problem usually returns (and can end up costing more than it did to start with).
A Strata Inspection can tell if there is a lot of complaints from other residents... like there may be a party animal living in the building or on the flip side, you might want to know if a bunch of noise-sensitive retirees live in the building!
So my advice: get yourself a Strata Report from a Strata Inspector who understands what each file they inspect means. How do you do that? Ask the firm you choose (in writing) if the person doing your Strata Inspection has experience managing owners corporations.
A Strata Inspection is like going to the doctor for a check up… it will show any concerns or give you a clean bill of health.
The NSW Government is changing the regulation of the NSW property industry.
The proposed changes to the Property, Stock and Business Agents Regulation 2014 will make it easier and cheaper for prospective buyers to obtain pre-purchase property reports.
We're mainly talking about timber and pest inspections, and strata reports for properties for sale.
Real estate agents will be required to maintain a record of the reports they have organised; and even the ones that the vendor has organised or any other report that a buyer has obtained.
The information that will have to be recorded is the contact details for the person who compiled the report, who requested it (ie. the seller, agent or a prospective buyer) and whether the report is available to be repurchased and price.
At the moment, many agents get a report done and hand out free copies to buyers, who are unaware that they have no recourse if the information in the report is wrong ... gees that is the whole reason of a Strata Report!
If the vendor pays for the first copy, then the Strata Inspection firm should discount copies for buyers ... that's the fairest approach!!
These changes to legislation are great for buyers but may turn out to be a headache for agents ... especially if you refer your buyers to organise their own strata reports!!!
I have had a few cases in the past few weeks with owners experiencing very unfair decisions from their Strata Committee… including reports of Committee’s who “feather their own nest”.
The Strata Committee’s role is to make decisions on behalf of the Owners Corporation … so what can be done about Strata Committees who act in the best interest of themselves, thereby disenfranchising the other owners?
Here are the most common complaints:
If you’ve heard getting a Strata Report done is a waste of money … or it’s a simple quick task you can do yourself … brace yourself for the truth!
In the last few weeks, I’ve had several buyers who have passed on negative comments about getting a strata report done … comments that were simply misleading.
The mere mention of the words “Strata Manager” gets many people riled up. I often hear examples of how a Strata Manager was “rude and disinterested, hopeless, unorganised, stupid, simply refuses to return calls or emails… and that they do nothing for the money they are paid”
Some owners think that they pay the Strata Manager ... like the Strata Manager gets the entire fee. Many owners don’t know what services are included in the annual management fee and what services are considered “additional” and chargeable ... and which services are not available at all.
I consulted with an owner recently who was furious with their Strata Manager for not giving them access to the metre room so they could update their stove. The Strata Manager had told the owner to hire an electrician to install the stove but the owner would not accept the advice and launched into a dispute with the Strata Manager. My advice to this owner was to engage an electrician to install the stove, and I explained why.
Most Buyers (and many agents) seem to think the sinking fund is the be-all-and-end-all when buying a new strata property …
So you got a strata report that mentions planned remedial works … and you think there is enough to cover it in the Sinking Fund … probably not!
The Sinking Fund is designed to pay for planned expenses; such as major painting, new carpet and fence or gutter replacement etc. There usually isn’t nearly enough in the sinking fund to pay for remedial works … and remedial works don’t usually include an upgrade of the entire building. The reason being is that owners usually can’t afford to do both.
I did an inspection of an apartment building on the Northern Beaches. Looking at it from the outside, it can only be described as bespoke and luxurious … ah, but never judge a book by its cover!!
The owners ran the block like they were running BHP so needless to say there were volumes and volumes of records to wade through (all in the space of an allocated 1.5 hours). Lucky the records were hard copy because it was easier to detect that several minute books were missing.