Being aware of your rights and responsibilities

Every resident building manager in NSW should have a copy of the booklet issued by the Department of Fair Trading titled Strata Living. If you live in a community titles scheme, then you should obtain the booklet titled Living in a Community Scheme.

These booklets are readily available at every office of the Department of Fair Trading or you can download a copy from the Department of Fair Trading website. These booklets are a great! The best I have seen produced by a government department.

They are easy to read and cover many of the day-to-day issues that crop up in strata or community living. They are particularly relevant to resident unit managers in your day-to-day dealings with your strata manager or your executive committee members.

It goes without saying that resident building managers need to constantly review their duties and obligations under caretaking agreements. Now, more than ever, executive committee members are reviewing these documents to ensure that they are getting full value for money. Also, you must always ensure that any charges you make to your letting owners are 100% compliant with the schedule of charges in your letting appointments.

You also need to have a good knowledge of the by-laws that apply to your complex. Whilst it is important to understand basic strata law, it is equally important for good governance that your owners and tenants are aware of the particular by-laws in place for your building. When an owner buys into a building, they often do not receive a copy of the by-laws, unless they specifically ask their solicitor to forward them a copy. As you will be aware, the current law requires a landlord to give a tenant a copy of the by-laws within seven days. Some schemes pin a copy of the by-laws to their noticeboard but these by-laws are often out of date and are rarely noticed by incoming owners and tenants.

Why not make it part of your business to provide every new owner or tenant an up-to-date copy of the by-laws, as part of a welcome pack handed out to all incoming residents? There has even been some talk of making this suggestion law in the future.

Many buildings still have their original by-laws. These by laws may have been chosen by the developer and may not reflect the views of the current owners. Resident building managers should bring to the attention of the executive committees any by-laws that are confusing, or simply don’t work. It is all part of how you are perceived to “value add” for the benefit of your owners.

Perhaps the NSW government should reduce the registration fee of $100 that currently applies every time there is a change to the by-laws? This may encourage strata schemes to constantly review and update their by-laws, so that they keep relevant with today’s issues

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