Special Strata Management Services Available by Design

With thousands of strata schemes in existence with a varied mix of facilities, and Councils with differing compositions, it is inevitable that the range of services required of strata management companies will differ substantially from one scheme to the next. For many schemes only regular strata management services in compliance with current legislation will be required. For others with additional needs, there is a range of special strata services offered by WA Strata Management to organise and simplify the strata management process.

These special services are an opportunity to value-add to the regular services they provide so that the Council and the members can confidently leave both the regulatory and operational tasks in the hands of trained and experienced experts. Many strata schemes today have apartment owners who are absent overseas or interstate, and simply want assurances that the Councils are looking after their interests in the management of their property.

Strata Manager Handles Management of the Conduct and Reporting of Meetings

The additional duties that fall under the banner of special strata services take that one step further from the regular services and include items that have been negotiated with the WA Strata Manager. Management of the conduct and reporting of meetings is one of the key duties that are part of these special services. Preparing and issuing notices of both extraordinary general meetings and council meetings are handled by the strata manager, as is attendance at adjourned annual general meetings. Attending, preparing and circulating minutes of both extraordinary general meetings and council meetings are also included in this service.

Administrative duties are also performed on behalf of the councils. Keeping wage and related records, preparing and filing the associated returns, collecting and banking contributions and liaising with tax agents regarding tax matters and activity statements are all tasks that competent business administration staff would normally handle. Councils often find these issues beyond their range of experience, and would prefer for them to be managed as a special service.

Skilled Strata Managers Liaise with Legal and Government Representatives

Sometimes circumstances make it necessary to instruct and attend conferences with lawyers or to liaise with government officials regarding authorisations, licences or other issues. The WA Strata Manager is fully equipped to manage these situations and to implement Strata Company or council decisions unrelated to regular services. When repairs or inspections are required, the strata manager can also co-ordinate access to common property, making this role and the assistance it provides a very convenient and valuable service to the council and its members.

WA Strata Management understands that every strata scheme is different in some way with its own requirements. To give everyone involved the flexibility they need to manage the scheme efficiently they can offer to design a strata management solution to suit your special needs. Visit their website at www.wastrata.com to see the full range of services on offer to their clients.

Strata Management vs. Property Management

With the whole concept of strata management often a cause for confusion, it is not surprising that this same confusion extends to understanding the difference between property management and the former. To think that they are the same is not correct, although there are some similarities. The key difference begins with the term ‘strata’ and what that means.

Strata title schemes came into being as a way of managing the ownership of multi-owner apartments or unit complexes. A strata company is formed automatically on registration of a strata plan for the construction of a multi-owner building. When someone buys a lot, that is, an apartment or unit, they also buy a share in the common property, which is the area in the facility available for use by every owner. It is the responsibility of the strata company to control and preserve the common property, and every owner in the complex is a member of the strata company.

The Role of the Strata Council

In very large buildings, it would be impossible to administer a company of such a size without some form of a management entity, and in strata legislation, that entity is the strata council. The members are elected by all the owners to manage the scheme for the benefit of all the owners. In a very small building with only a few owners, they could all form the strata council.

The strata council members have a big responsibility to manage the common property in a way that protects the interests of all the owners. This includes things like making sure all relevant insurances are current and utility bills for common area lighting and running the facilities are paid on time. Because the level of responsibility and liability is so onerous, large strata councils do not perform these duties themselves, but engage the services of strata management companies.

Property Management Governed by Different Legislation

Property management on the other hand is largely concerned with real estate properties that are not strata titled, typically freehold single lot dwellings and duplexes. The role of a property manager is to secure suitable tenants for a rental property, manage any repairs and maintenance, ensure all legal requirements have been met in respect of the tenancy, collect the rent and remit it to the owners. They are also the liaison point between the owners and the tenants.

A strata management company employs professional strata managers who are trained in the administration of the relevant legislation and perform a range of duties that have been agreed between the strata council and the strata management company. A strata manager in a large complex could be expected to assist the council members to frame their budget, perform all administration duties on their behalf, manage their accounts and report to the relevant authorities on the performance of the strata council.

Both roles are subject to different legislation in all states, and while some of the duties and responsibilities may be similar or the same, there are so many legal and procedural differences that it is difficult to compare the two.

Popularity of Strata Properties Increasing in Dunsborough

A three-hour drive south of Perth will take you to Dunsborough, a popular family holiday destination on the calm shores of Geographe Bay. Not only is Dunsborough situated in the heart of some of Western Australia’s most beautiful swimming and surfing beaches, but also a convenient jumping off point for the exquisite Margaret River region and all it has to offer. Once a sleepy, little town that only woke up during holiday season, Dunsborough is now a thriving tourist centre all year round.

An Accommodation Choice to Suit Everyone

Visitors to the town are always impressed with the variety of accommodation on offer. From holiday cabins and caravan parks right up to luxury villas, apartments, hotels and motels, there is something for everyone. Much of the top quality accommodation is strata title apartment-type properties. These are unique in real estate because the common areas are all owned collectively by every individual apartment owner. Common areas include the exterior of the buildings, car park spaces, fences, retaining walls, gardens, driveways and recreational facilities like pools and tennis courts.

This poses unique challenges in terms of ensuring that normal household expenses incurred for common areas are covered and items such as the building insurance is paid on time. To manage all these issues, state legislation requires a Council of the owners be established. With so much at stake, the legislation is very specific about what needs to be done. Most Councils find this too difficult to manage themselves, and appoint a strata management company to do it for them.

Steady Demand for Strata Managed Properties

WA Strata Management is a large company that specialises in providing management services for such Councils. Their staff of trained, professional strata managers performs daily operational tasks for the thousands of Councils in Western Australia, responsible for strata title properties. These types of developments show no signs of waning in popularity. With the growth in tourist numbers and the steady influx of people to the mining industry needing accommodation when they come off-site, professional strata management as an industry continues to grow along with the rest of the state’s economy.

Dunsborough is still a favourite place to go for swimming, fishing, snorkelling, diving and other water sports, but it is also close to the vineyards and wineries of the Margaret River. This area is renowned internationally for the quality of its wines and the beauty of its countryside. Fine restaurants, boutique breweries, art galleries, walks through tall forests or catching some of the best breaks in the surfing world are all just next door to Dunsborough.

Much of the strata titled accommodation in Dunsborough is managed by WA Strata Management. Anyone booking accommodation here can have confidence that if it is under their management, everything will be in order. For more information go to www.wastrata.com.

Definition of Common Property in Strata Schemes Not So Clear

People familiar with the concept of strata schemes generally have a broad understanding of the definition of the term “common property” and take it to mean any part of the land and buildings that are not included in any lot owned individually. They may identify items such as tennis courts, swimming pools, boundary fencing, driveways, gardens and landscaping, barbeque areas and the like. In many cases this would be correct, but equally there are many cases where this is incorrect.

It is difficult to make a blanket statement about common property that will be correct for the whole of Australia. Each state has its own legislation and processes for the registration and management of strata schemes. While they all have many similarities, they also differ in certain areas from state to state. For this reason, it is important to source the correct information for the particular state in question.

In Western Australia, for example, changes to the Strata Titles Act have created a number of possible scenarios for individual ownership as opposed to common property. In many cases some, if not all, of the building structure is actually common property. The differences fall roughly into two timeframes – for strata schemes created prior to 30 June 1985 and for strata schemes created after 30 June1985. There was also one other significant change which became effective on 20 July 1997.

Changes Made to Legislation on 30 June 1985

Where the strata scheme was created prior to 30 June 1985, the building and areas outside the building are common property with only a few exceptions. One exception is where a strata plan of re-subdivision was lodged which changed the lot boundaries. Another exception involves two to five single tier strata schemeswhere the boundaries were moved to the external surfaces of the buildings on 20 July 1997. The third refers to single tier strata schemes where the boundaries of the lots were moved by resolution of the strata company some time after 20 January 1997.

After 30 June 1985 amendments to the Strata Titles Act allowed for individual ownership of land and buildings outside, as well as the cubic space inside the building. This created a number of combinations of common property and individual ownership. For example, there can now be individual ownership of buildings and areas inside and outside the buildings. There can also be individual ownership of inside and outside areas but only part of the building, and ownership of inside and outside areas but not of any part of the building.

While these changes have no doubt created a degree of flexibility in the use and enjoyment of strata schemes, it has also created some complexities, making it more important than ever for schemes to have professional strata management. With even the definition of common property now requiring knowledge of the relevant legislation, nothing can be taken for granted.

Tourism Growth Drives Demand for High Quality Apartment Accommodation

Chosen by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top ten destinations in 2010, Australia’s south west offers remarkable diversity in a pristine environment only now being discovered by non-locals. On the coastal edge of this region sits the town of Dunsborough, a popular holiday destination for Western Australians that has undergone significant growth over the past ten years. An easy three-hour drive south of Perth, Dunsborough grew gradually out of a small settlement first established in the late 1830s, but not officially gazetted until 1879.

Whale Watching Just One of the Many Attractions in Dunsborough

Whale watching tours are just one of the tourist attractions that have contributed to the recent growth that has seen Dunsborough become quite an affluent area. Ironically, whaling was a large industry in the past with records of this activity going back to 1850. However, the whaling station has long been closed and tourists come to the area from September to November to see humpback and rare blue whales and their calves resting in the calm waters of Geographe Bay.

Other tourist attractions bring large numbers of tourists to Dunsborough at different times of the year, and this burgeoning industry has created a demand for luxury accommodation. Some of this accommodation is in privately owned beach houses and cottages, but more recently there has been activity in the strata titled unit and apartment market. Most of these are rented by tourists and holidaymakers and some are managed by WA Strata Management, a company dedicated to providing strata management services to body corporate/strata companies.

Cashed up Visitors Expect High Quality Accommodation

With the whole region brimming with all kinds of exciting activities to attract tourists, and the local authorities wanting to showcase these activities to tourists and visitors from across the world, the importance of having high quality accommodation has not been underestimated. Western Australia is still considered a remote location and this is part of its attraction, especially for overseas visitors from overcrowded countries. These are the types of people who expect to find quality accommodation when they finally arrive.

It is not enough for the accommodation to be modern. It must be well kept, properly managed and provide a safe and secure environment for the visitors on their return from excursions and sightseeing. Strata companies, whose responsibility it is to manage these facilities on behalf of the members of the company, generally prefer to engage professionals such as WA Strata Management to do this on their behalf. A professionally trained manager will have the facility running like clockwork so the tourists have a positive experience during their stay in Dunsborough.

Other unique attractions such as the HMAS Swan, a decommissioned frigate scuttled off the coast of Dunsborough in 1997, is now one of the world’s premier dive sites. Not only is it easily accessible to scuba divers, but it can also be seen by snorkelers cruising the surface, such is the visibility in the unpolluted waters. From the towering forests inland to the wineries of the Margaret River, all readily accessible from Dunsborough, there are enough areas of natural beauty and interest for tourism numbers and the new accommodation these visitors need to both grow.

While this type of unit development continues to be in demand, professional strata management services will also be required. Developers or strata companies looking for professional assistance should go to www.wastrata.com for more information.

High Quality Tourist Accommodation Needs Professional Management

Planning for a holiday is always exciting, and the destination and type of accommodation are usually the first decisions to be made. The beach is always a favourite destination for Australians, as our love affair with the ocean and all it has to offer shows no signs of abating. For those lucky enough to make the trek across to Western Australia, Busselton beckons with a range of accommodation options, stunning scenery, historical attractions and welcoming residents.

Busselton – a Very Brief History

Busselton was founded in 1832 by the Bussell family and quickly grew from a cattle station to a settlement, on the strength of the superior farming and cattle country surrounding it. It was also located close to superb timber country and, by 1850, timber was being exported from purpose-built jetties at three centres in the area. The Busselton Jetty is the only one remaining and is one of the town’s major attractions. It is 1.84 metres long and said to be the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere.

Spread along the length of Geographe Bay, this beautiful location is sheltered from the extremes of the Indian Ocean while still providing the opportunity to enjoy swimming, fishing, snorkelling, diving and other water sports. A narrow urban strip 15 km long and 1 km wide offers accommodation that suits all tastes. There are camping and caravan parks, B&Bs, resorts, hotels, guest houses, apartments and strata units.

Holiday Accommodation Creates Challenges for Strata Management

One of the challenges of maintaining the high standards that attract visitors to Busselton is keeping the accommodation fresh, clean, serviced and well maintained. WA Strata Management provides services that can assist the many strata companies in Busselton to keep it high on the list of desirable destinations in Western Australia. They provide qualified and experienced strata management professionals who manage the day-to-day operations of unit and apartment complexes on behalf of the strata company.

Strata companies that manage units used for holiday accommodation face special challenges arising from the continuous flow of new people through the complex. This is not a situation unique to Busselton. It is faced by every strata manager looking after units that are rented out for holidays by absentee owners. Under professional strata management strata companies are able to anticipate some of the likely issues and have guidelines in place for holiday makers to enjoy themselves without encroaching on others.

Busselton has much to offer visitors, whether they are staying for a few days or a few weeks. The underwater observatory on the Busselton Jetty gives access to the astounding varieties of fish and soft coral that would normally only be seen by divers and snorkelers. Up to 40 people at a time can enter the observatory which is 8 metres below the surface. Since its opening in December 2003, thousands of people have taken advantage of this unique opportunity to interact with over 300 species of fish and ocean life.

This ongoing growth in tourist numbers continues to create demand for quality visitor accommodation. The flow-on effect is an increasing demand for the services of WA Strata Management and their team of professional strata managers. With Busselton no longer the best kept secret in Western Australia, strata company members should visit their website at www.wastrata.com to get themselves organised before they are overrun with tourists.

Strata Schemes – An Overview

Strata schemes provide a legal and structured way for grouped housing in a residential context, and have also proved to be very practical for commercial and industrial applications. The concept of strata schemes centres around multiple dwellings occupying the same parcel of land within a defined boundary. They can be high-rise apartments or units, townhouses, duplexes or free standing dwellings provided they share the same parcel of land.

Why are Strata Schemes Necessary?

The objective of a strata scheme is to create a community atmosphere within the confines of the boundary, while still allowing the individual lot owners to own their particular unit or townhouse. The entire concept is subject to legislation and all lots must be registered at the time the scheme is formed. Each lot is issued a separate title deed and can be mortgaged, bought, sold and bequeathed in a will, just the same as any other freehold property.

The major difference is that the individual lot owner also owns and is responsible for a proportion of the common areas, as well as their own lot. Areas including the boundary walls and fencing, paths and driveways, roof, gardens and amenities such as pools, tennis courts, outdoor living areas and barbeques are owned proportionally by each individual lot owner. This means that they are also responsible for the payment of utilities, maintenance, insurance and other expenses for the upkeep of these common areas.

When a strata plan or a survey-strata plan is registered at the Registrar of Titles, a strata company comes into being. This is a form of body corporate in which the individual lot owners become members when their names are registered on their lot titles. The members of the strata company are like shareholders but with some differences. The most important of these is the mutual and unlimited liability the members have for any losses or debts of the strata company.

It is vital, therefore, that the owners take an interest in the management of the strata company. To facilitate this, each year at an annual general meeting, the owners elect a Council to perform the functions of the strata company. This is a similar role to that of a company director. The objectives of the strata company are to comply with the Act and protect the interests of the owners, tenants and visitors to the property.

How Does a Council Manage Its Affairs?

The complexity of the legislation and any by-laws enacted by the Council has created an important role for professional strata management. In most cases the day-to-day management of the buildings, finances and the reporting to legislative bodies is too time consuming and complex for individual Council members. Councils are increasingly entering into agreements with strata management companies to manage their affairs.

WA Strata Management is a professional strata management company that has been providing these services to both residential and commercial Councils for a number of years. Their trained and experienced strata managers perform the day-to-day administrative and management functions required by the Council. They keep the complex operational and ensure that the interests of the owners are looked after.

Councils that choose WA Strata Management as their strata management company can be assured that they are putting their affairs into the hands of an ethical, professional and honest organisation. They are members of the Strata Titles Institute of WA. This is the peak industry body for people and organisations working in the strata titles industry. All member companies of this body are bound by a code of ethics to act honestly and honourably to protect the interest of the owners.

For people still getting their heads around the concept and the legislation, WA Strata Management’s website at www.wastrata.com has a lot of useful information including free downloads in pdf format that explain the differing roles and players in detail. If you are considering buying into a strata scheme, or if you are on a Council that is looking for a professional strata management company, you will find everything you need right there.

Choosing a Strata Management Company

As the trend towards strata living continues across all Australian states, and the legislation controlling these ownership and living arrangements becomes more complex, the emergence of professional strata management companies is relieving more and more Councils and bodies corporate of the stress of operational management of these legal entities. Regulatory changes require corresponding changes to management processes, so being able to leave these fine details up to a professional organisation brings peace of mind to the owners. Under the legislative structure owners have unlimited liability for losses or debts of the strata company, so proper management is vital to the financial well-being of all owners.

With so much riding on the ability of the strata management company to act responsibly on behalf of the owners, choosing the right company becomes more than just picking a name and making a phone call. First and foremost, this is a customer service industry, so in choosing a strata management company, the Council should ensure that the candidates under consideration have a solid track record in understanding their client and being able to deliver the services they require.

They should also check that the company is a member of a professional industry association. This provides an additional layer of protection for the client as members are required to have accreditation which includes being up-to-date with training and industry knowledge. Membership of industry associations also provide the opportunity for the members to seek professional guidance and tap into the experience of others in the industry, should they be dealing with a situation or issue that is unfamiliar or sensitive.

Another important consideration is the experience of the person the strata management company designates to look after a particular client. Choosing a company whose staff members receive regular training to update their knowledge and understanding of current legislation, and who already have a track record successfully managing other complexes minimises the risk of errors. The management tasks involved require people with a wide range of skills including communication, computer, financial and administration, and it is the responsibility of the strata management company to ensure their staff have those skills and can therefore service the needs of the client.

The strata management company chosen by the Council should also have sound and tested managementsystems that allow accurate reporting to the Council that complies with all the requirements of the relevant legislation. The owners of strata properties have placed their trust in the Council to ensure that their collective risks and responsibilities are being managed. This makes the selection of a strata management company one of the most important decisions the Council will make.

Councils of Strata Companies Buckling Under the Strain

Have you just been elected to the Council of your strata company and suddenly realised the level of responsibility that the Council bears for sound management of the company? If you didn’t know before, you are now aware that as an elected Councillor you have similar duties and responsibilities that are usually attributed to a company director. You also have a similar level of authority and accountability to the owners, as well as a duty of care that impacts on the strata company and also on any appointed manager.

As scary as this sounds this is not a role that needs to be a burden or that people have to struggle through without assistance. There is so much legislation around the establishment and on-going management of strata companies that it’s very difficult for the Councillors, who often are not familiar with all the legal requirements, to know for certain that they have everything covered. Enter WA Strata Management, a professional and experienced strata management organisation that assists Councils to discharge their duty of care and meet their legislative responsibilities.

WA Strata Management is a member of the Strata Titles Institute of WA and as a member is bound by a code of ethics based on professionalism, honesty and integrity. Their website shows that the company has been “managing strata properties from Karratha to Margaret River since 1991,” an enviable record that makes WA Strata Management the industry leader in strata management and body corporate services in Western Australia.

“We believed as a Council that the best way to discharge our duty of care was to appoint a professional, experienced strata management company to assist us. After discussions with WA Strata Management we were quite confident we had found the right group of people with the skills and experience we needed to make sure our complex would run smoothly, and all legislative requirements would be met.”

The added benefit of using a professional strata management company is that they are able to nominate an experienced staff member to provide the services agreed between the strata management company and the Council. This person performs a wide range of duties but essentially their overriding duty is to help the strata company make and implement business decisions. Managing a large residential complex is equivalent to managing a business, with all the same financial and administration skills and systems required. Just like a business, there needs to be strategic and financial plans and budgets developed, and these are areas that require a professional approach.

“None of the Council members were prepared to take on those additional duties. We have a large complex that needs to be run like a business. We’ve already had a couple of situations where we’ve made decisions as a Council, but haven’t followed through properly because we’re all busy. That got a few of the owners off side, so it was time to hand it all over to professionals. It was the best move we ever made. Everything runs like clock-work, we get regular financial reports and all the maintenance is up to date.”

WA Strata Management is a reliable company with an excellent reputation. Their strata title managers are fully qualified and regularly undergo specialist training to update their skills and knowledge to keep pace with changes to legislation and business practices. It’s the best way for your Council to discharge their duty of care.

Protect Everyone’s Interests with Regular Building Maintenance

Maintenance is one of those concepts that usually attract polar opposites in terms of general philosophy. In the one camp are the preventative supporters, who understand that regular, on-going maintenance to a pre-arranged schedule is the best way to keep property in top condition and avoid future expense. In the other camp are the reactive types who believe that maintenance is a waste of money as the item will break down eventually, and money should be conserved and kept aside to replace it when this happens. In between is the voice of reason that says both sides are right to a certain degree.

In the world of strata management, both points of view have been accommodated by councils and bodies corporate establishing sinking funds for long-term, large scale repair and maintenance work like replacing a roof or painting an entire unit complex. At the same time, the importance of regular, on-going maintenance has also been recognised, and this is one of the tasks of a strata manager.

Regular building maintenance is designed to target specific areas, keep a check on how sections of the building are holding up under stresses such as abnormal weather events, and attend to problems while they are still small and localised. This is much more cost effective that letting a small problem, such as a loose roof tile, go unattended causing the entire roof to lift off during a severe wind.

Typical building maintenance tasks that would be arranged by a strata manager are regular inspections of the roof and any subsequent repairs, cleaning out guttering to prevent storm water overflow, arranging for the repair or replacement of cracked concrete or tiling in common areas, or repairing or painting fencing around the property. Any of these items, if left to deteriorate further, could not only cause further property damage, but cracked or damaged concrete or tiling in walkways constitutes a tripping hazard and could cause personal injury.

External electrics are another essential area that should be checked regularly by an electrician. Security lighting, light switches and fittings in places like a reception area for example, or flood lights in common areas, are all the types of maintenance targets that should be on a regular strata management schedule.

Attention should also be paid to structural things like brick screening walls which, if not checked for structural integrity have been known to collapse, sometimes with tragic consequences. The same would apply to timber pergolas and carports which may rot with age and become unsound. They may look solid, but only an inspection would identify if they would stand up to a strong wind.

In strata title situations, it is not just one householder who is responsible if anything happens as a result of poor building maintenance. It is all the unit owners, many of whom may be in absentia and relying on a manager to make decisions. Enacting a regular maintenance schedule is essential to looking after the interests of all owners.