In the wake of national licensing

It is crunch time for national licensing of strata managers as the (probably) last phase that SCA (Qld) has always supported, consistent with our mandate to promote professionalism and service quality.

For many years SCA has actively participated in the development of the first wave of occupational licenses which includes property occupations. Considering 33% per cent of new housing nationally is now approved in some form of strata title, our members will continue to play a larger role in the Queensland economy in the years ahead. Therefore the need for consumer protection is critical and licensing can boost consumer confidence significantly.

The implementation of a national licensing framework is a vital continuing process step towards modernising the regulation of our sector and introducing consumer protection in Queensland. NSW has current legislation that is closely related to the proposed COAG/NOLA licensing model and Queensland should not be a step behind.

The strata industry is still often looked at as a little brother of the real estate sector though its financial dimensions speak volumes in terms of its importance. Collectively, Queensland’s strata managers are entrusted with approximately $1 billion of strata property owners’ funds in operating accounts and term deposits and are responsible for the management of $80 billion in private assets. These funds are growing rapidly in line with the growth in medium and high density housing.

Individually, strata managers hold average daily balances on behalf of their clients that are a multiple of the amounts entrusted to other service providers in the property sector such as real estate and resident managers. Even a small boutique or sole strata manager will usually hold or manage in excess of $1 million of body corporate funds; our largest member company manages in excess of $600 million in funds across three states.

Those are significant assets that strata managers are entrusted with.

National licensing will have a direct and meaningful impact on the efficiency and development of the sector. Industry growth and consolidation has seen more strata management businesses operate across multiple jurisdictions. Most of the skill sets are generic and increased staff mobility will add to the flexibility of the individual strata managers and these companies. The only variable is state legislation, which can be dealt with via ongoing professional development programs for strata managers within those companies and the industry as SCA (Qld) has been doing for years.

All members are required to commit to ongoing education by way of attending educational seminars all year long. This continuing professional development requirement will be even more beneficial to consumers when SCA (Qld) introduces a transparent publicly recognised accreditation system from 1 July 2014.

The implementation of accreditation is a further step in the industry, building professional standards that ensure quality strata management services by recognized managers. Accreditation will provide a guide to consumers on the professional level of a strata manager.

SCA (Qld) has been working towards industry skills development for a number of years with representatives to the National Occupational Licencing Authority and the Occupational Licensing Advisory Committee. In collaboration with the Construction & Property Services Industry Skills Council, SCA is continuing to work with these government appointed bodies to provide an updated Certificate IV in Property

Management (Strata) and is in the initial stages of developing a new Diploma in Strata Management along with other tertiary institutions to further improve quality standards for the strata industry as a whole.

The National Occupational Licensing Authority has researched complaints statistics in all jurisdictions to consider the number of complaints against licence holders as a proportionof all licence holders.

For those jurisdictions with a certificate IV requirement, the proportion of complaints ranges from 2.6% to 5.8%, while for jurisdictions with a diploma level requirement, the proportion of complaints ranges from 2.9% to 19.8%. While many factors impact on complaint statistics, there is no clear evidence of a decrease in consumer complaints where adiploma requirement is mandatory.

A number of other states and territories have recognised the need to modernise regulatory arrangements for the strata sector and are awaiting the outcome of national licensing. In Queensland, there is also a case for further development of the strata legislation to which SCA (Qld) will certainly contribute when the property law review commences early in the year.

The main purpose of national licensing is to provide consumer confidence in strata managers and the management of consumer assets and hence improve the attractiveness of strata living as our cities move towards higher densities. A failure to adopt licensing in any one state will inevitably have implications for all jurisdictions.

Regardless of the views of some other occupational groups, there is a clear and compelling case for moving forward with a national licensing framework for strata managers.

Late News

Simon Barnard has been appointed for a second, one year term as president of Strata Community Australia (Qld), the peak body representing the strata industry which encompasses nearly 400,000 community titled lots in Queensland.

The appointment coincides with the 30 year celebrations of the body and a series of landmark achievements in 2013.

Also elected were James Freestun (senior vice-president), Kerri Anthon (vice-president), Richard Allard (treasurer) and Ian D’Archy (secretary).

In 2013 Colin Archer was also recognised for actively shaping the strata management industry through his company Archers Body Corporate Management. He was awarded a life membership for SCA (Qld) along with fellow strata industry identities Ros Janes and Kay Trimble.

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