Frequently Asked Questions
About your strata scheme
WHO IS THE STRATA COMPANY?
A strata company is a unique form of body corporate that is responsible for the management and control of a strata scheme. It isn’t subject to Corporations’ Law but it is a legal entity subject to Australian tax laws. A strata company is created when a strata plan is registered by the Registrar of Titles.
The registered strata plan depicts the lots that are individually owned by lot proprietors, all of whom are ‘members’ of the strata company. Lot proprietors are commonly referred to as ‘owners’.
Therefore, when we refer to the strata company, we are referring to your body corporate and not to Blackburne (who are the strata management company). This terminology is often confused.
A Council of Owners should be elected at each Annual General Meeting, and they are the party responsible for fulfilling the duties of the strata company until the next Annual General Meeting.
WHAT IS COMMON PROPERTY?
Common Property is any land within a strata scheme that does not form part of a lot. It may also include any leasehold interest acquired by the strata company. The strata company is responsible for repairing and maintaining the common property.
HOW DO I DETERMINE MY LOT BOUNDARIES?
Your lot is outlined on the strata plan. All strata schemes are different and it is therefore important that you review your strata plan in order to understand what is your lot (and your responsibility) versus what is common property (and the strata company’s responsibility). Your lot boundaries may be to the internal surfaces of the building, meaning the building structure itself is common property. Conversely, you may own to the external surfaces of the building, meaning the building structure is part of your lot.
I WANT TO USE THE AREA OUTSIDE MY UNIT JUST FOR MYSELF, CAN I DO THIS?
If it is part of your lot, then yes. If it is common property, you will need to get the permission of the strata company. This usually requires an exclusive use by-law to be passed at a general meeting.
CAN I DO ANYTHING I LIKE TO MY BACKYARD?
If your balcony or backyard is part of your lot, you can do many things within that space at your discretion as long as it doesn’t breach by-laws, for example, you must not damage common property or create disturbing noise, or carry out any installations or improvements that are either of a structural nature or visible from outside of your lot, without permission from the strata company.
DO I HAVE TO INSURE THE CONTENTS OF MY STRATA UNIT?
While there is no obligation to do so, it is highly recommended that you take out adequate insurance on the contents of your unit. The insurance that the strata company organises covers the structure of the building and any fixtures inside lots (for example, sinks, baths, shower trays). However other contents such as your furniture, electrical appliances, curtains and carpets would not be covered. Owners can suffer major loss if their personal property is not insured in the event of a fire or through water damage.
Repairs and Maintenance
WHO HAS TO REPAIR WHAT?
The strata company is responsible for repairs to common property. Owners are responsible for repairs within their individual lots.
HOW ARE REPAIRS TO THE COMMON PROPERTY FUNDED?
All owners pay levy contributions that are held in a fund used for the maintenance and control of the common property. Your levy contributions are set at each Annual General Meeting, based on a forecasted budget.
CAN I DO MY OWN REPAIRS TO COMMON PROPERTY?
Only if you have the permission of the strata company. If common property needs repair or maintenance, the strata company should undertake that work, not an individual owner.
Meetings of the Strata Company
WHO DECIDES WHEN TO HAVE A MEETING?
The Council of Owners are responsible for calling General Meetings in accordance with the Strata Titles Act 1985. An Annual General Meeting is required each year within 15 months of the last one, however we recommend that Annual General Meetings be held within 2 months of the strata company’s end of financial year.
I AM AN OWNER – DO I HAVE TO ATTEND MEETINGS?
While it is not compulsory for any lot owner to attend strata company meetings, a strata scheme operates better if those concerned take an interest in its affairs. If you’re not able to attend in person, you are able to appoint any adult person to attend as your proxy (you may even appoint your proxy to the strata manager or meeting chairman).
I AM A TENANT – DO I HAVE TO GO TO ANY MEETINGS?
Tenants are not entitled to attend meetings unless specifically invited by an owner or authorised person. A tenant does not have voting rights unless they are appointed as proxy for an owner.
Levies – Administrative and Reserve Funds
DO WE HAVE TO HAVE AN ADMINISTRATIVE AND RESERVE FUND?
The strata company is required to maintain an Administrative Fund in accordance with the Strata Titles Act 1985. There is no obligation under the Act to maintain a Reserve Fund, however we strongly recommend that all strata companies do so.
THE STRATA COMPANY KEEPS PUTTING UP THE LEVIES. WHAT CAN I DO?
Levy contributions for each financial year period are set at the Annual General Meeting. All owners are invited to attend, have their say and vote. It is important to note that the owners determine the levy contributions at each Annual General Meeting, not the Strata Manager.
Levies are based on the forecasted expenditure for the complex and when costs increase or additional maintenance is required, levy increases are sometimes unavoidable. It is important that owners are realistic about what is needed to responsibly manage the complex.
I DID NOT RECEIVE A LEVY NOTICE SO I HAVE NOT PAID MY LEVIES. IS THIS A PROBLEM?
Your levies must be paid whether or not you receive a notice and you can find the levy due dates in the minutes of the last Annual General Meeting. Unpaid levies could mean you will not be able to vote at meetings, and you may also be charged interest and other debt recovery charges.
WHAT CAN WE DO WHEN PEOPLE DO NOT PAY THEIR LEVIES?
The strata company can impose an interest charge (currently 15%) for levies not paid by their due date. The strata company can also take legal action to recover unpaid levies.
Breaches of By-Laws
WHAT IS A BREACH NOTICE?
A breach notice is sent to Owners when a by-law has been disobeyed. It is the Strata Company’s way of advising you that a resident of your Lot has not adhered to the rules in place for your strata scheme.
ARE THERE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH BREACHES?
Yes, and quite often these are forwarded on to the Lot Owner who is then responsible to pay this. There are some schemes who do not on-charge these costs, and as such they are then paid for by all owners (out of their levied contributions).
MY TENANTS / GUEST WAS THE ONE WHO DID NOT ADHERE TO THE BY-LAWS, WHY AM I BEING BREACHED?
The Strata Company does not have the authority to engage with tenants, as the tenants agreement is with the Owner of the Lot (and not the Strata Company). As an Owner it is your responsibility to ensure guests and residents of the Lot are adhering to the by-laws, whether this is an Owner, a spouse, children, guests, or tenants.
As part of a Lease Agreement the Owner can usually breach the tenant for not adhering to the by-laws and forward any associated costs received on to them, however it is worth checking that your agreement allows for this.