3 February 2022
By The Remedial Management Team
At any given time, our team here is working with around 6 or so strata managers. So, we are pretty well placed to recognise that these people are tireless, multi-skilled, task jugglers. Not only do they have to manage the welfare of the tenants in the building, but they need to balance this against judicious management of the budget for the owners. Throw into the mix the fact that they, therefore, need to understand building issues, mitigate arguments and manage the upkeep of the building and you can see the life of a strata or building manager is a busy one.
Ultimately, the role provided by strata management services is multi-faceted and is to some extent governed by the size of the property or the complexity of the building occupants. If you are a strata manager you will know the below list is far from exhaustive, but if you are not, here is a snapshot regarding some of their responsibilities:
- Administrative duties e.g. circulating correspondence, maintaining records of strata rolls and minutes of meetings, and dealing with all correspondence from within and outside the strata community;
- Compliance duties e.g. ensuring all tenants know the by-laws related to common areas, being a neutral third party when handling disputes between property owners, and amending by-laws as per the corporation’s request while ensuring all affected parties are well-informed; and
- Financial duties e.g. preparing the administration and capital works fund budget for the strata council’s approval, ensuring timely payment of the strata corporation’s expenses, and ensuring the timely collection of levies.
The problem – as alluded to above – is that beyond these more common responsibilities, strata manager duties may also involve building maintenance, improvement and rectification matters, organising tenders, and bringing in tradesmen as needed.
General property maintenance
From our perspective, the key area Strata Managers look after which we are most interested in, is their role in ensuring that the common areas within the strata property are in safe, working condition, and maintaining the value of the property. As the centralised decision-maker, they have the power to make decisions over minor maintenance matters for the common areas without prior approval. It is often through this process that a diligent manager will notice areas where problems are recurrent or more significant. They can then be proactive in ensuring the problems do not become too significant nor cause ongoing issues for the building or its occupants.
Whilst a strata manager is not a qualified builder and are therefore not allowed to make recommendations on repairs needed, what they can do is act as advisors on who to contact for certain works, with the purposes of expediting the process of repair. In fact, we implore building or strata managers to NOT make structural decisions without consulting an expert.
Identifying large structural issues
Aside from the day-to-day general maintenance of common areas in the strata property, the strata manager also has the responsibility of undertaking periodic and planned maintenance inspections with a view to proactively identifying major structural issues that could become problematic in the long or short term. This is an important role especially for those managing a strata property with multi-storey apartments or commercial spaces.
A well-trained eye will often see past the aesthetic elements; What seems like a minor paint job to hide rust, may indeed be a sign of deeper structural issues that need rectification. Other signs include:
- Large slabs of concrete falling from the building;
- Door and window arch bars showing cracks and rust on brickworks;
- Concrete cancer and water leaks;
- Displacement of brickworks due to brick expansion;
- Doors and windows not fitting properly as before due to brick growth;
- Balconies with leaks and/or cracks;
- Building surfaces with rust stains, the origin of which cannot be traced to a source; and
- Cracks in a step-like appearance on external and internal walls.
One of the things that a strata manager can’t do – as much as we may want them to at times -however, is approve non-routine expenditures, and thus, there are not able to authorise immediate action with regards to rectifying large structural issues without the strata committee’s approval. They can organise the tendering process and bring in subject matter experts such as engineers or structural repair companies, and can make recommendations, but they cannot make the decision.
Handling insurance matters
One of the other responsibilities the strata management company has is to assist with the obtaining of insurance cover and the lodging on insurance claims on behalf of the residents and owners’ corporation.
As part of their financial duties to the strata council, the SMs are obligated to ensure that the strata scheme has the appropriate insurance coverage for the building itself as well as all the fixtures within the property. This differs from the strata insurance in the sense that the building insurance coverage does not include legal liability on common areas and is only for the restoration of the property.
Residents’ insurance claims
Strata managers are responsible for submitting all insurance claims and following through the process until their conclusion. These insurance claims, some of which may indicate signs of major structural issues, can be due to the following:
- Impact and malicious (or crime) damage;
- Storm and water damage;
- Broken window/door glass;
- Fire and accidental damage; or
- Fusion and machinery breakdown.
Strata insurance in Australia also provides coverage for the items owned by the residents and not just for the common properties. Typically, the strata council will instruct residents that all insurance claims should go through the SM. Although the strata insurance contract is entered into by the insurer and the council, the residents can assert a claim since they’re considered as a Third Party Beneficiary according to applicable insurance contract laws.
Ensuring compliance with applicable building and safety regulations
Strata owners have to comply with several laws and regulations in Australia regardless of how big the strata property is. The building and safety requirements for strata communities include:
- Annual fire safety compliance, and adherence to Fire Upgrade Orders;
- Work health and safety audit and compliance, for strata buildings with workplaces;
- Annual lift registration, which includes escalators and moving walkways;
- Swimming pool (or spa) certificate of compliance or occupation certificate; and
- Asbestos inspection and reporting, are required for mixed-used strata buildings or common areas that are not used purely for residential purposed.
Maximising property value
While strata owners may be able to improve their own property’s value by undertaking non-structural renovations through aesthetic changes, the owner’s corporation and the strata manager responsibilities also include consideration as to how common areas can be improved to further increase the value of the entire strata lot or block.
In our 50 plus years of work, we have been involved in numerous upgrade projects. Most commonly we are involved with aspects such as:
- Changing balustrades and handrails;
- Replacing old timber windows with new aluminium ones;
- Improving the overall security of the property by installing effective security systems, security cameras and smart locks, among other modern technologies;
- Upgrading the façade through rendering, painting or a combination of both;
- Repairing leaks to underground areas such as carparks; and
- Rectifying any large structural issues especially those with visible aesthetic problems.
Maximising the property’s value doesn’t have to be about renovations though. Property managers can consider other less obvious improvements that reduce the day-to-day costs of running. Initiatives could include setting a campaign for reducing or eliminating water wastage, using timers for exhaust fans to ensure they’re off when not in use, or using motion-sensor lights and other low-emission lighting in car parks and related areas. Generally, any well-implemented eco-friendly solutions can add value to the property.
The strata manager has various duties and responsibilities that must be performed for the strata owners’ corporation. We have the pleasure to work with dozens of strata managers each year and recognise the hard work they perform across financial and administration duties, as well as compliance under the law.
If you are a strata manager and have something you think needs looking at on one of your buildings, our advice to you is this; take action early. If nothing needs to be done, you will still be given a timeline for when it may need to be, allowing you to rest easy till then. At worst, you have taken action to remedy something that needs your attention now.CONTACT US
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