2014 THE YEAR FOR MAJOR STRATA REFORM IN WA

Major changes to strata laws in Western Australia are under government consideration following the successful implementation of similar changes in New South Wales. It is widely recognised that the current laws are outdated and in need of reform; also, there is broad support for this to happen.

Some of the issues on the table for discussion and some possible changes are making it easier for tenants to keep pets and setting stringent laws for smoking that reflect community expectations. Landgate in WA will have the responsibility for updating the legislation. They are concentrating on other key issues including recognising strata managers and simplifying the disputes resolution process. The government also wants to investigate ways to terminate a strata scheme with safeguards where 100% agreement has not been reached.

It’s Still the Little Things that Get up Peoples’ Noses

Tenants, however, have set their sights much lower and want reforms to restrict smoking, a simple system of applying fines to misbehaving tenants and regular valuations for apartment buildings. This makes sense when you consider that it is the tenants who have to live with the behaviour of others in the building who think that good neighbour laws don’t apply to them.

From our point of view here at WA Strata Management we have always worked within the legislation and any changes to the laws in strata title properties will be incorporated into our systems and processes. As soon as we have some definite indication of where the laws will change, we plan to commence training our staff and updating our procedures accordingly. In this way, we can continue to provide the quality of service our clients expect from our managers.

Reserve Funds, Permission for Minor Design Changes being Discussed

Calls have been made from other groups to look at wider reforms, including the requirement for reserve funds to be made mandatory. Many WA apartment buildings are ageing and in need of expensive refurbishment. Currently, new owners are left with all the costs of these refurbishments, which would have been better covered by an ongoing fund collecting contributions from all owners over a period of time. We are not sure if this will be looked at this time but it has certainly been raised.

Another key change being mooted that would make life easier for tenants is the proposal to improve their ability to make minor design changes without being blocked unreasonably by other tenants. A good example is that of solar panels. Currently, it needs the permission of everyone in the building for tenants to install solar panels for their own use.

No doubt the Minister’s portfolio briefings will identify other issues, but we all agree that legislative reform is well overdue.