The Strata industry is constantly evolving to streamline processes and improve legislation. 2019 has seen many changes to the industry with more changes set to occur in 2020.
Each state in Australia is governed by different legislation.
While the year was heavily flooded with legislation and changes to the industry, it was also filled with wins for SSKB clients.
Queensland has seen many changes to the Strata industry throughout 2019. From cladding and defects legislation changes to new draft regulations being released, 2019 was a year for change.
Since the tragic fire at the Grenfell Tower in London in 2017, the fire safety risks associated with combustible and non-compliant cladding on high-rise buildings has been highlighted. The cladding compliance in Queensland consists of a three-part process, with many of the deadlines taking place throughout 2019.
Part 1: The part 1 deadline was at the beginning of the year on 29 March 2019 and required buildings to register using an online system and complete the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Safer Building checklist. Upon completion of the checklist, you would be prompted to sign a declaration, and would either be finished with the cladding checklist, or pushed to progress into part 2.
Part 2: Buildings that were required to move on to part 2 were required to engage a building industry professional, complete the combustible cladding checklist (part 2) and upload the signed and witnessed checklist and building industry professional statement by 31 July 2019. Depending on the answers uploaded to the online checklist, you would again either be finished with the cladding checklist or pushed to progress into part 3 which was split into two parts.
Part 3 a: Buildings that progressed into part 3 were required to engage a fire engineer and register the fire engineer’s details on the Combustible Cladding Checklist by 31 October 2019.
Part 3 b: The Part 3 b deadline is not required to be completed until 3 May 2021. This step will require the fire engineer to complete a building fire safety risk assessment and statement. These two documents will then need to be uploaded and the online checklist will then need to be filled out and completed.
In the second half of the year, Queensland got its first look at the new Body Corporate and Community Management (Standard Module) Regulation and some of the proposed changes for the industry. Following this, new draft regulations for the Accommodation Module, Small Schemes Module, Commercial Module and Specified Two-Lot Schemes Module were released for consultation. The new regulation modules will include reforms that will streamline Body Corporate procedures.
Some of the proposed changes released for consultation were:
Committee members will no longer be able to receive direct or indirect benefits from a caretaking service contractor or service contractor without the authorisation from the Body Corporate. (Relevant section: 81; Supporting section: 8).
Facilitate voting in committee elections at a general meeting by electronic vote. (Relevant sections: 21-23, 25, 27-29, 31, 35).
Require minutes of general meetings to include the reason given for a motion being ruled out of order. (Relevant Section: 54).
Restrict inappropriate use of powers of attorney by providing that a person may only vote at a general meeting under the authority of power of attorney for one lot owner, unless the person is a member of the lot owner’s family, or the power of attorney is given under sections 211 or 2019 of the Act. (Relevant section: 102).
Additional contemporary examples of utility infrastructure that relate only to supplying services to an owner’s lot that a lot owner is responsible to maintain will be required to be provided. (Clause: 4, Section: 31).More substantial changes to the modules may occur in 2020.
New South Wales
In New South Wales, new laws required buildings with combustible cladding to be registered with the NSW Government by 22 February 2019. This allows agencies such as Fire and Rescue to respond appropriately in the event that a fire occurs at a building with combustible cladding.
On the October 31, 2019 a list of 444 buildings across New South Wales were handed to the New South Wales Legislative Council. The Department of Customer Service have decided that the list will not be released to the public as it would increase the risk of arson and terrorism.
The government lodged a privilege claim to keep the list secret claiming that if the list was released publicly it could hurt property owners and mislead potential buyers. The release of the list could also breach expectations of confidentiality.
Defects have been a focus in the media in New South Wales throughout 2019. The spotlight was put on New South Wales when Opal Tower residents were evacuated from their homes on Christmas eve 2018. Towards the middle of the year, residents of Sydney’s Mascot Tower were also evacuated due to cracking appearing in the structure of the building.
Victoria was the first state in Australia to assist in paying a percentage of the rectification costs for combustible cladding on private apartments.
The Victorian State Government announced in July that in Victoria the rectification for buildings that are classified as having extreme or high risk combustible cladding will be funded, at least in part, by the state government. The state government will then seek damages from responsible parties. Initially, it was communicated that apartment owners who had combustible cladding on their building would be responsible for covering the costs of the rectification. The news has been welcomed by those concerned about the high cost of the rectification.
There are 1100 properties throughout Victoria that have been identified as having flammable cladding. Similar to New South Wales, the government is not releasing the list of buildings. The governments reasoning for withholding the list is “Identifying these buildings could make them a target of arson and put the community and emergency services personnel at risk. This is about and always will be.”
Allowing Owners Corporations to remove items that are abandoned on the common property.
Removing the requirement for Owners Corporations to have a common seal
Water that falls on the common property is the property of the Owners Corporation.
A person authorised to act as a proxy must act in good faith, honestly and exercise due care and diligence.
With many proposed regulation changes released for multiple states, changes to the industry will continue throughout 2020. Keep up to date on the changes by following SSKB on social media and by having regular contact with your SSKB Community Manager.