Parties and loud noise

When it comes to noise complaints, parties and strata management, it is against the law to affect the sleep of others. Please check your building or states laws, as they may differ:

Take a look here. 

best-strata-managerIf you or your tenant wish to lodge a complaint about the noise of a neighbour, calling the police should be your last resort.  This creates conflict and, at times, an uncomfortable living environment moving forward. We advise that you do your research regarding your specific situation, especially on the laws and policy, before escalating further. If you have a relationship with the neighbour in question, try and resolve in a reasonable and friendly manner.

Alternatively, the owner’s corporation can be used to issue your neighbour with a compliance notice if all else fails.

Please keep in mind that if you are planning an event or party of your own, you should advise your neighbours prior to the event. Not only does this show respect to those in close proximity to you, they will appreciate the thought and gesture.

Repair v Redevelop? What you need to know

At Sydney Strata Specialist we are asked about the new changes in legislation regarding the 75% rule in selling / redeveloping the strata scheme.

The strata scheme may be facing repairs either immediately or in the near future –  these could mean that current owners raising tens of thousands of dollars each or even more.  There are vast amounts of buildings in the eastern suburbs that have concrete cancer or fire upgrades that have cost each owner $60,000 each.

The above is an example of Concrete Cancer

Meeting these levies can place an enormous financial burden on owners who are on fixed incomes.  In a lot of cases some owners voted NO or blocked the vote to the repairs as they simply could not afford to have the repairs undertaken.

The Government has recognised that a number of owners have blocked the sale/redevelopment and hence changed the laws to meet the ever-changing world of strata living.

Regardless if the owner’s corporation is looking to ether spending money on repairs or taking advantage of the growth. The majority of the owner’s corporation can now take advantage of the new laws.

Selling off the strata plan could be the way to go.  This use to be very difficult as it requires ALL (100%) owners to agree and sign off on the proposal.   Now the law is changing.

Now it is what is the most financial benefit that suits the majority –  Now that the consent of only a 75% majority of strata unit owners in a block will be required to consent to its demolition. This is in stark contrast to the current laws, which require agreement by 100% of strata unit owners for a block to be sold to a developer for demolition.

With many strata blocks within New South Wales becoming quite dated, ongoing maintenance and renovation is, without doubt, an extremely costly process, with the preferred option being to simply demolish the building.

Some of Sydney’s trendiest eastern suburbs are host to some of its oldest, and least sustainable, buildings.   A large number of buildings constructed in the 1970 had a life expectancy of 40 years.   We have now come to the end of the term.   Buildings that are on the coast are more susceptible to concrete cancer and if your building has not already had repairs due to this then it is only a matter of time.

sydney-strata-manager-old-apartments

Apartment block for sale in Cronulla

Allowing for redevelopment rather than expensive maintenance, offering potential increases in tenancy numbers and far more energy efficient buildings. Some local councils have already increased the height restrictions.

Some developers are offering apartment owners options such as ‘first option to buy deals’ and assistance with temporary or permanent relocation.

Talk to us today and see why we are the best strata managers in Sydney.

 

Pets and strata management

The following is an overview of the basics of pets and strata management.

The laws and around keeping animals in strata schemes are often disputed, which normally involves the owners corporation’s refusal to allow animals, however allowing pets is not clearly prohibited in the by-laws of the strata scheme that is in question.

If the owners corporation does not want to allow pets they need to pass a by-law that prohibits all pets and animals.

There are laws to protect people that require companion animals, such as guide dogs. Generally, all such animals are allowed by law. Each state can differ.puppy-guide-dogsin-training

If the by-law prohibits pets, applicants can seek permission in writing, although the owner’s corporation has the right to unreasonably refuse if the pet is not a companion animal.

In NSW the following laws are applied in the Strata Titles Act:

“NSW strata by-laws are subject to section 49(4) of the Strata Titles Act which states that by-laws cannot prohibit or prevent the keeping or use of a guide or hearing dog on a lot or common property.”

NSW strata communities are governed by the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996. The Act includes a model by-law regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

“Schedule 1 – By-laws 16 Keeping of animals (1) Subject to section 49 (4), an owner or occupier of a lot must not, without the approval in writing of the owner’s corporation, keep any animal on the lot or the common property. (2) The owners corporation must not unreasonably withhold its approval of the keeping of an animal on a lot or the common property.”

Ten basic facts that most Strata Managers get WRONG

Painting of a balcony ceiling – This is considered Common Property and therefore Owners Corporation costs.

Security doors or flyscreens (if not installed by an owner) are considered Common Property and therefore Owners Corporation costs.

False Ceilings added after the registration of the Strata Plan – Are Lot Owners’ costs to repair.

Fences that show as Thick Line on the Plan are considered as Common Property and therefore Owners Corporation costs.

Trees – Any part of the tree that is contained within Common Property is deemed the responsibility of the Owners Corporation. Any part of the tree that is contained within a Lot is deemed the Lot Owners responsibility. If one tree is trimmed or damaged – cost is apportioned to the ratio.

Skirting boards and architraves contained within common property areas are to be maintained at the cost of the Owners Corporation.

Shower waste in the bathroom is considered as Common Property.

Bath plug waste and bath pipe to common property pipe is the responsibility of the Lot owner.

Shower Screen door – Cost of any damage is borne by the Lot owner (In many cases this can be claimed on the OC Insurance policy as Damage.)

Window Lock Keys within a Lot – Are to be maintained by the Lot owners at the Lot Owners Cost.

Alterations in a Lot – FACTSHEET

ALTERATIONS IN A LOT – FACTSHEET

 

The new Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 that came into effect on 30 November 2016 brought a more common-sense attitude to owners who elect to undertake renovations in their apartments.

No owner should undertake any works to their Lot until they confirm with the strata manager, as this can save time money or prevent the owner from being in breach of the Act and or their by-laws.

This works will fall into one of three possibilities:

1: Cosmetic changes only

No approval is required. This involves minor changes such as inserting picture hooks into a wall.

2: Minor renovations

This means that a ordinally general resolution will be required (approval from the majority of eligible voters) to be added onto the next General Meeting of the Owners’ Corporation.  No works can commence until the Owners’ Corporation has held the meeting and approved the works.   A General Meeting of the Owners can be called for if approved by the Strata Committee or if at least 25% of the other owners approve to call the meeting.   This type of renovation must not affect the unit’s external appearance or its waterproofing, or involve structural changes.

3: Major renovations

This means that a special resolution will be required (approval of more than 75% of the unit entitlement from eligible voters) to be added onto the next General Meeting of the Owners’ Corporation.  No works can commence until the Owners’ Corporation has held the meeting and approved the works.   A General Meeting of the Owners can be called for if approved by the Strata Committee or if at least 25% of the other owners approve to call the meeting.   This type of works Includes renovations that will have an impact on waterproofing or the external appearance of the dwelling, or that involve structural changes. Such as bathroom renovations or anything effecting wet areas tiles.

In the example above of a bathroom renovation, wet area tiles are deemed to be common property of the Owners’ Corporation – therefore any work on those tiles will affect the waterproofing.  Hence the by-law will remove the responsibility for ongoing maintenance away from the owner corporation and passed onto the Lot owner.

The Lot owner must prior to the passing of the by-law provide written consent to the Owners’ Corporation  that it accepts and will continue to be responsible for the proper maintenance of, and keeping in a state of good and serviceable repair of the works it undertakes.

The by-law MUST clearly state and this as well.

The special resolution once approved will become a by-law of the Owner’s Corporation and will be registered  on the Owners’ Corporation Certificate of Title.

ALTERATIONS TO A LOT

When proposing to undertake renovations to a lot, the Lot Owners should review this factsheet and we suggest you complete the accompanying application form and checklist. Please submit the application form and checklist, along with any supporting documentation, to the Owners’ Corporation, care of admin@Sydneystrataspecialists.com.au.

YOUR LOT (THE APARTMENT)

In most strata schemes, the lot owner owns the inside of the unit but not the main structure of the building. Usually the four main walls, the ceiling, roof and the floor are common property. The internal walls within the lot (e.g. the wall between the kitchen and lounge room), floor coverings such as carpet and fixtures such as baths, toilet bowls and bench tops are all the property of the lot owner. However the wet area tiles (bathroom, laundry etc are in fact common property).

It is also important to note that while non-load bearing internal walls are not defined as common property, a Council Development Application may still be required where you are changing the dimensions of any room. The Council Development Application requires approval by the Owners’ Corporation.

 AIRSPACE

A lot owner effectively owns the airspace (and anything included in the airspace) inside the boundary walls, floor and ceiling of the lot. Lot airspace may include balconies and courtyards. Everything within the airspace must be maintained at the owner’s cost.

AREAS OF COMMON PROPERTY

The following is a checklist for common property:

  1. floor includes a ramp or stairway
  2. wall includes any door, window or other structure within the wall and their working parts
  3. ceramic tiles originally attached to a common property surface (eg. the floor or boundary wall)
  4. pipes in the common property or servicing more than one lot (ducting panels)
  5. electrical wiring in the common property or servicing more than one lot
  6. parquet and floor boards originally installed
  7. vermiculite ceilings, plaster ceilings and cornices
  8. magnesite finish on the floor
  9. balcony doors are usually common property if the strata plan was registered after 1 July 1974
  10. load bearing columns or walls
  11. Wet area floor and tiles (bathroom, laundry )
  12. the slab dividing two storeys of the same lot, or one storey from an open space roof area or garden areas of a lot (eg. a townhouse or villa), is usually common property if the strata plan was registered after 1 July 1974, unless the registered strata plan says it is not.

ARRANGING an EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING (EGM) OF THE OWNERS’ CORPORATION

There are only two ways that an Extraordinary General meeting can be held;

1) That the Strata Committee approve to call a EGM

2) That a formal request signed by at least one-quarter of the aggregate unit entitlement, instructing the Secretary via the strata manager convene the meeting

 CLARIFICATION OF COMMON PROPERTY

The registered strata plan defines the boundaries between common property and lots in a strata scheme. If you wish to clarify any areas of common property for your strata scheme, please contact admin@Sydneystrataspecialists.com.au  for further information.

 EXCLUSIVE USE BY-LAW

If the alterations affect Common Property such as point 3 above, then an Exclusive Use By-Law must be drafted by a qualified firm of Solicitors. We are able to assist in recommending a firm if required.  The current estimated cost of having a by-law drafted is $1,600.00 + GST. There are the cost of the meeting (as it requires the other owners voting on it) and then the registration of the by-law at the Land & Information Property Office (NSW Government) costs (See separate cost estimate sheet).

Without the Special By-Law, the work becomes unauthorised and you would be asked to return the property back to the way it was (Which no one wishes to do.).

SPECIAL RESOLUTION

Following receipt of the by-law motion and supporting documentation, we can then prepare a draft agenda for your review and discussion. Once all the documentation is delivered and in an acceptable format and wording the strata manager will prepare the agenda and send it to all owners.

EGM AGENDA / MEETING /MINUTES

The Exclusive Use By-Law (in Motion format) will then be presented at the EGM as a proposed Special Resolution. The meeting can be either a physical meeting whereby owners are invited to attend the meeting or it could be a paper meeting whereby the owners are invited to provide their proxy and instructions on how to vote (for or against the proposal) For a Special Resolution to be passed, no more than 25% of the unit entitlements vote against the resolution.

Please note that the number of proxy votes able to be held by an individual for schemes with less than 20 lots to one proxy vote, or 5% for schemes with more than 20 lots.

As the strata manager may attend the meeting and record the vote as well as prepare the Minutes of the meeting if instructed to do so.

Moving the Motion to a By-Law.

If the motion is passed, then the motion becomes a by-law and we as strata managers will complete the application to the Land & Information Property (LPI) office for registration (registered on the Certificate of Title) and make the necessary arrangements to have the by-law registered.

Notification of any change of by-law must be lodged with the Registrar General not more than 6 months after the passing of the special resolution to make the by-law otherwise the decision is considered lapsed and the motion would need to be passed again at another general meeting.

REGISTRATION OF THE BY-LAW

The newly created by-law now has to comply with Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 and Strata Schemes Development Regulation 2016. What that means is any change in the by-laws for a strata scheme that are lodged for registration MUST be in the form of a consolidated version of all the existing by-laws that incorporates the changes to the by-laws as well. The consolidated version of the by-laws must include any relevant model by-laws.  If an attempt to register a change in the by-laws without the consolidated version of the by‑laws, Land and Property Information will reject the document being lodged.  This means greater administration costs to creating lodging and registering by-laws.

REINSTATEMENT OF COMMON PROPERTY

Any Lot Owner who fails to follow the correct procedures runs the risk of having orders made for the reinstatement of Common Property to its original form at their expense.

WRITEN CONSENT

A Lot owner MUST complete a consent form prior to the Motion being prepared. An example of the written consent follows

TO: The Registrar-General

Land & Property Information NSW

Queens Square

SYDNEY NSW 2000

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: Consent to bylaw

In accordance with the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 I consent to the Owners’ Corporation making the following bylaw conferring rights of exclusive use and enjoyment and/or special privileges and its conditions upon me in respect of my lot to be passed by the Owners’ Corporation at its general meeting to be held on the date specified below or at any adjournment of that meeting:

The by-law is to be made by the Owners’ Corporation of strata plan _________ at a general meeting on     /    / 2017 or any adjournment of that meeting.

 

Name in full:       ______________________________

Lot No:                 ____________

Signature             ______________________________

Date signed:       ___/____/2017

 

Dealing with Mould

If the weather’s been very humid for a few days in a row you might notice mould starting to grow in your apartment. When it rains for several days it’s especially common to see mould start to grow on walls, benches and other surfaces because of the wet air.

If you live where humidity in the air is naturally high, such as the eastern suburbs of Sydney or another large body of water, then mould growth in your apartment can be a recurring problem.  However, does this make it an owners corporation reasonability to fix.

When moisture inside your apartment evaporates into the air it increases the humidity indoors. If your apartment is not well ventilated then the humidity will stay high for a some time.

Drying clothes indoors on stands is a common culprit when it comes to causes of indoor humidity problems. Air-Conditioning systems can also create humidity troubles when it artificially heats or cools the air.

bathroom-cleaning-dee-why

 

Not only does high humidity feed mould, but it means that puddles of water and damp materials in the home take longer to dry out. These wet surfaces can in turn create mould growth of their own.

Is the owners corporation responsible for the removal of mould.

The short answer is IT DEPENDS – It depends on where the mould is located and what is the cause.  If the causation is due to a common property water leak then it is – if it is part of the Lots internal pipework or not a common property issue then it not.

The best way to eradicate of mould is to eliminate the conditions. Removing moisture content in the atmosphere reduces the risk of mould growth; the best way to achieve this is to create cross flow ventilation. Opening windows is the most obvious way to do this.

Once you have addressed the causation, the final step is to remove the existing mould. Once the mould is removed the surfaces should then be repainted with special mould resistant paint to prevent spores from reforming.

 

Spalling in Strata Buildings

Spalling in Strata Buildings

Fix it now this is as cheap as it will ever get.

 

A very common but not well understood problem with older concrete structures is spalling. Sometimes known as “concrete cancer” it is something that you want to have to deal with. You may have heard this tem before but not completely understand what it means, is it as bad as people who have gone through the repairs make out.   Simply put, YES!

 

That’s nice, but what is Spalling?

Concrete spalling occurs when the steel reinforcement within a concrete slab begins to rust. The rusted steel increases to approximately five times its original size, displacing the concrete and causing it to flake.  Once concrete is flaking more and more damage occurs – as more water can enter the affected area and cause further rusting, thereby speeding up the process and increasing the affected area. Concrete spalling is usually caused by corrosion of the steel reinforcement bars embedded in the concrete matrix, but can be caused by other ferrous elements either fully or partially embedded in the structure. Steel frame window systems, handrails, structural I-beams, metal pipes and conduits are among the most common of the damage causing building components. Corrosion of the reinforcing steel however, is by far the most common cause of spalling and splitting in older concrete structures.

 

Steel reinforcement bar (rebar) is used in concrete to provide strength to the concrete that is extremely high in compressive strength but has very limited flexural or tensile strength. One of the principles of reinforced concrete is that the high alkaline content of the concrete is meant to aide in protecting the embedded steel from corrosion, for this to happen though there needs to be a minimum amount of coverage on the steel. As a general rule of thumb one inch of cover is required to protect the steel rebar, in other words, no rebar should be nearer than one inch to the concrete surface.

 

What causes Spalling?

There are a number of factors that can cause concrete cancer and it often depends on the unique circumstances of each case, the most common causes are;

  • steel reinforcement being located too close to the surface allowing water to react with it
  • poor quality steel reinforcement used
  • incompatible metals used close to each other causing a reaction
  • damage to concrete allowing water to enter the slab and come into contact with the steel

 

How can you tell if your building has Spalling?

Owners normally only become aware of concrete spalling once symptoms of the problem are visible to the naked eye or when delaminated concrete starts falling to the ground, however visible concrete defects are normally just the indicator of larger problems. Concrete staining and discolouration is often the first visible symptom, often mistaken as being caused by weathering. Concrete flaking from the surface of an affected area combined with the discolouration of the area usually indicate there are significant problems with the structure.

 

SPALLING STAGES

The development of corrosion in concrete that happens over time is generally seen as a multi-stage process.

  1. In the first period, aggressive substances penetrate the concrete and ultimately reach the steel, which causes the onset of corrosion called depassivation or corrosion initiation.
  2. In the second stage, actual corrosion takes place (its rate depends on moisture and oxygen availability). Given that properties in the Eastern Suburbs are constantly and continually exposed to sea water the expansion due to corrosion builds up tensile stresses in the concrete cover until it cracks. This cracking produces the first visible signs of corrosion, although in some cases rust stains at the concrete surface may show before cracking.
  3. In the next stage expansion due to corrosion proceeds, until parts of the concrete cover completely detach and spall off constituting a potential danger for users of the structure or the general public.
  4. In the fourth and final stage, reinforcing bar diameter loss becomes so severe as to approach the minimum required for structural stability; eventually collapse cannot be ruled out. Catastrophic Failure is imminent.

 

 sp

 

The Cost?

A common question asked by owners undertaking spalling repairs is, Why can’t a contractor provide a more accurate estimate for the cost of repair? In essence they should be able to provide a qualified and expert estimate once the extent of the spalling is known.  However, the full extent of the spalling spread through the building is hard to quantify until work has started with all the affected concrete removed and the amount of steel exposed is known. While each property can be completely different in the time frame between the stages and cost of repairs the over all principle remains. Spalling will not stop until it is completed addressed and repaired.

 

 

 

 

Do Nothing?

Spalling concrete puts owners of property at risk of negligence suits. Damage can occur through concrete pieces falling and injuring people or property. Concrete spalling that is not attended to in a timely manner will only lead to further repair costs as the problem grows and spreads. Simply concreting or painting over the effected areas will not address the issues.  In order to affect the repairs the “spalled concrete” MUST be removed and any exposed steel MUST be either replaced or cleaned and treated.  It can range from minor issue only requiring cosmetic repair but left unattended it will become a major problem that can affect the structural integrity of the building and if left untreated can cause catastrophic failure of the structural elements of the building. Taking no action only results in further damage and increased costs.

 

This is far too expensive, so let’s just do a temporary repair.

If the cause of the original damage to the concrete is not determined, correctly addressed and eliminated, the spalling process will repeat itself on the repair material, resulting in wasted time, money and efforts, and a spalling problem still in existence. Future owners could also seek costs being incurred from the previous (current) owners for not undertaking the appropriate works now.

 

In one example an owners corporation was made aware of a spalling issue in 1986, the estimated cost of repair at that stage was $15,000.  The owners of the day did not wish to undertake the work as it could not be funded and was left unattended until 2010.  Further engineering reports were issued and tenders called for.  The spalling had dramatically increased and new estimates to repair the work were obtained.  The cost in 2010 was $1,100,000.00. Still no action was taken as the owners were deliberating over the costs and whether a less expensive repair could be undertaken. After a further 24 months delay the work commenced in 2012. The spalling was moving into its final stage and the building was close to being unliveable. The final cost to the repair was $2,150,000.00.

 

 

The cost of repairing concrete spalling might be high, but the cost of doing nothing is much higher.

Water Saving Tips & Ideas

Owners Corporation – Water Saving Tips & Ideas

A vast number of owners will be completely surprised to learn that they do not pay for the water that is used in their strata unit or townhouse.  If your strata plan is located between Katoomba to the West to Bondi Beach to the East or from Mona Vale to the North to Kiama to the South unless your scheme was registered after 2014 it is the Owners Corporation that pays.

It was only late 2014 that individual cold water meters for new apartments were mandated.  Until then only one master water meter was in place for the entire building.

That cannot be correct I hear you say, we receive a quarterly bill from Sydney Water – While an owner receives a water bill it is not for the actual water usage. It is a fixed fee for the provision of water, stormwater & sewerage services. It is NOT for the consumption.

It is the owners’ corporation that receives and pays the quarterly bill for all water consumed in the complex. It is a budgeted regular item and is paid from the administrative fund.  It also means that as owners you collectively are all paying for water consumption but not based on usage but on unit entitlement through your levies.  That means that while you may use less water personally then another Lot bit have a higher Unit Entitlement you are subsidising other owners.

If you have tenants they do not see the water bills and are not paying for any excess usage.  This means many tenanted apartments never report a leaking shower, toilet or tap.

So let’s consider where the average amount of water usage is used.

wsg

While it is the responsibility of the owners corporation to pay for common property water consumption, studies have shown that over 85% of the actual water consumption is not common property water but in fact private use from inside a Lot.  In fact, more than half of a building’s total consumption emanates from Showers.

 

Toilets – Leaks

Now consider that a simple leaking toilet can waste over 16,000 litres of water a year.  If you then consider that the average Strata plan is 50 % tenanted and an average of 2 toilets per apartments.  As tenants are not responsible for the water usage they seldom report a leaking toilet.  That a lot of money that the owner’s corporation is wasting.  If the leaks are not fixed the cost, just keeps on going.

 

Toilets – Flushing

Older model toilets can use up to 12 litres of water per flush, whereas dual-flush toilets use only 3 litres on a half-flush.

Example of savings

Owners Corporation of 20 apartments with a mix of size apartments – let’s say 30 toilets.

30 (toilets) X 3 (flushes) x 12 (litres) X 365 (year) = 394,200 litres

30 (toilets) X 3 (flushes) x 3 (litres) X 365 (year) = 98,550 litres

Installing water efficient toilets can save the owners corporation money each time the toilet is flushed. Money not going down the drain.

 

Showers

As mentioned if 50% of the water usage is from showers then we need to look at how we can save on shower usage.  Naturally the simplest answer is to take shorter showers.  That is not always the answer.

You can install a flow controller which simply attaches to your existing shower head.  This simply device can reduce the amount of water flow.  An alternative is to install a save every drop paddle.  This allows you to PAUSE the shower, it quickly switches the water flow on and off while soaping or one person getting in or out. One flick and the water is paused, flick it again and the same pressure and temperature continues.

Heating water in fact costs more than the water itself.  Just pausing a hot shower for just 2 minutes per shower will save over 18,000 litres per annum.  That is a lot of hot water and electricity usage-  it is estimated to save a little over $320 pa in heating costs alone, If every apartment installed one the owners corporation could reduce its expenses by thousands pa.

There are many simple ways to save water. Water efficiency requires both smart behaviours and technology. The strata committee owes it to the owners corporation to investigate ways to reduce the ever increasing costs of strata living.

 

 

Can the owner corporation demand that an owner install any of these devices –