WA set to move ahead with strata legislation overhaul
The overhaul of legislation covering strata agreements in Western Australia would be a positive for the state, according to property professionals and lobby groups.
The overhaul has been in the pipeline for a number of years, with the reform and consultation process beginning in 2013, but a statement on the Landgate (Western Australian Land Information Authority) website claims the new legislation will be introduced in the second half of 2016.
According to the Landgate statement, the proposed reforms will cover five main areas.
Community title would allow for multiple strata titled schemes on one land parcel or in one building, while leasehold strata would allow for a land owner to retain the freehold ownership of the land and develop a strata scheme which can operate for up to 99 years.
Those buying into a strata scheme would be offered better protection, with information such as management levies required to be set out in clearer terms.
The State Administrative Tribunal would be given expanded powers and become the sole forum for strata disputes to be heard.
The management of schemes would be improved by allowing the use of electronic meeting notifications and voting systems, while strata managers would be required to act honestly and in good faith, exercise due care and skill, hold a trust account for strata funds, provide records of management activities, disclose conflicts of interest and lodge an annual return with Landgate.
The reforms would also allow entire apartment blocks to be sold if 75% of owners vote in favour of doing so.
Property Council of Australia WA executive director Joe Lenzo said the proposals were long overdue.
“The strata titles system is very important for the continued growth of Perth and major centres in Western Australia. Strata offers great flexibility for housing and commercial properties and it’s vital that the regulations are updated,” Lenzo said.
“The reforms will modernise the strata titles system including the introduction of Community Titles, more efficient strata development and reducing the complexity of strata purchases and management,” he said.
Kara Grant, head of strata management with property development and services firm Blackburne, said the updated legislation was a real step forward for the state.
“It’s fantastic to see that there’s now a real commitment from Government to progress much needed reform, which will be beneficial for owners and residents as well as providing more options for the future development of WA,” Grant said.
“Although licensing of strata management is unfortunately not on the table, we’re glad to see that strata managers will be recognised in the legislation, hopefully making them more accountable and therefore improving the professionalism of the industry,” she said.
Paul Keet, managing director of Strata Asset Services (WA), said while some aspects of the updated legislation such as expanding the use of technology for strata committee meeting were common sense, he does have misgivings about some of the changes.
“Allowing for electronic meeting notices and voting is just a natural part of moving into the 21st century. A lot of people in the industry have been doing that for a while now, but now we no longer have to hunt around to find the legal means to do so,” Keet said.
“Requiring strata managers to provide annual returns and that sort of thing is an attempt by Landgate to compile some industry statistics. The thing is though the government doesn’t have the best track record of keeping that kind of information confidential, so I’m not terribly excited about that,” he said.
The move to allow the sale of apartment blocks with the support of only 75% of owners was introduced in NSW last year, and despite some criticism then it has support from those in WA.
“Those wishing to redevelop ageing buildings will face fewer hurdles, making way for modern and more sustainable dwellings across Perth,” Lenzo said.
Keet also welcomed the move, and said the 75% threshold had been effective when adopted in other areas.
“The threshold had to be relaxed. As schemes age they become harder to repair and maintain and there were situations where the minority was holding out and making life harder for the majority.
“The key was to come up with an acceptable threshold, along with the other reviews and processes that go along with it, and 75% seems to be that. From what I’ve seen in locations overseas the evidence seems to show it works.”
Article by: Phil McCarroll
Source: Your Investment Property Mag 19 January 2016