Strata schemes are common throughout Australia and although the concept of group title is universal, the legislation underpinning its operation differs in each state. The development of strata law began as an ad hoc response to growing urbanisation; initially; it was managed through existing legislation, an approach that was not particularly effective. The first specific legislation occurred in Victoria and it was called the Transfer of Land (Stratum Estates) Act 1960.
Different States, Different Laws, Different Terminology
Although WA Strata Management operates in Western Australia, we are interested in the history of our industry, not only here but throughout the country. Because the laws for registering and managing group living arrangements are not uniform, this has created confusion over the years. This is especially true for people who move interstate to live in group accommodation, or apply to work for companies such as ours, and hope to use their existing knowledge.
Even the terminology differs from state to state. For example, the group entity itself is known as the Body Corporate in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. In New South Wales and the ACT it is called the Owners Corporation. South Australia uses the name Strata Corporation, the Northern Territory calls it the Management Corporation, and we use the term Strata Company. The word “by-laws” is the only term every state has in common.
Each State has its Own Approach
It is the same with the different pieces of legislation. Each state names them differently and in many cases, the individual laws that govern leasehold properties are different from those governing freehold properties. Queensland’s approach was unique as, rather than having multiple laws, they enacted an overarching Act under which sat a number of regulations. These were specific to different situations to give the flexibility to suit multiple needs. Tasmania has kept it simple with just one Act.
If the legislation enacted by the various states is different, then the actual processes for the registration and management of group living arrangements must also differ from state to state. There will be some similarities, but there will also be significant differences.
Explaining to an owner new to Western Australia that we don’t do things exactly as they did in Queensland or Victoria or Tasmania can be a little tricky for organisations like ours. It often falls to our staff with their industry knowledge and training to smooth the waters and acquaint people with the law as it is applied here.
Are Nationally Uniform Laws Possible?
There has been some discussion between the states over the years about making the laws uniform throughout the country. This was achieved recently with occupation health and safety laws. However, whether this is possible in our industry remains to be seen. The New South Wales government is reforming their laws with draft bills released for comment in mid-2015.
Whatever the outcome, we can assure our clients that WA Strata Management will always be up-to-date with legislation so their property and interests are in good hands.