What are levies?

The role of the owners corporation is to look after the business of the strata scheme. To carry out this role, the owners corporation must set up and keep an administrative fund (for day-to-day operational expenses) and a sinking fund (for long-term future expenditure). The owners corporation must estimate how much money is needed each year for the funds to cover all the expenses and needs of the strata scheme. This amount is discussed and decided by a majority vote, and then divided up between all Owners based on the unit entitlements of each lot. Levies are usually paid every 3 months.

Types of expenditure for a strata scheme could include water and electricity charges for common areas, building and public liability insurance, ongoing repairs of common property, building valuations and reports, and accounting/tax fees.

Lot owners must be aware that they will be required to make regular contributions to the owners corporation to cover the maintenance and administration of the strata scheme. Owners should pay close attention to the quality and finishes of a building as everything the scheme has to offer must be maintained eg. swimming pools, electric gates etc.

What happens if I pay late?

Strata levies are recognised as a debt if unpaid, and after a month begin accumulating interest at a rate of 10%, this cannot be simply ‘waived’, this interest is a penalty under the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 (NSW).

Correspondance by mail is used to remind Owners that a payment is behind, if that correspondance goes unanswered, the Owners Corporation has the ability to appoint a debt collection agency to recover any unpaid levies.

This can be a very costly endevour and Owners are encouraged not to get themselves into this situation. Any charge to the Owners Corporation for trying to recover the unpaid levies will be charged straight to the lot owner.

Are there any meetings I would have to attend?

While it is not compulsory for any lot owner to attend owners corporation meetings, a strata scheme operates better if those concerned take an interest in its affairs. Every year, the Annual General Meeting will be chaired, which determines the strata levies, and is also a legal requirement. Other meetings may be held but these are optional and depend on the Strata’s needs. In larger schemes, the executive committee would usually meet more often than the full owners corporation, as there would normally be a number of issues to deal with during the year.

What are the by-laws/lifestyle restrictions?

By-laws are a set of rules that all people living in a strata scheme must follow. By-laws are made in relation to issues such as safety and security measures, floor coverings, the keeping of pets etc. Failure to abide by these rules, can result in a fine and/or a case before the Tribunal.

What should I do before signing a Sales Contract?

You should get professional advice about the complexities involved in buying property. If you are interested in buying a strata unit, it is essential you look at the records of the owners corporation and know as much as you can about the maintenance of the building, usually done by a Strata Inspector orgainised by your Solicitor or Conveyancer.

Particularly, you should consider how much it may cost and whether there are signs that money may need to be spent soon. There are companies which specialise in inspecting the books and they know what to look for. You can inspect the records yourself (upon payment of the necessary fees) and the owners corporation must make these records available.

What does Strata Insurance Cover?

The strata insurance covers common property. Generally a product and disclosure statement for most insurers are found on the insurers website for full information on what exactly is covered.

What Insurance do I need?

All Owners should contact their own insurance company and decide whether they require a CONTENTS policy for any internal items that are not covered under the strata insurance policy such as carpet, paint, blinds etc

Who is responsible for pruning trees on the property.

If the trees are common property, it is the owners corporation’s responsibility. If the trees are part of your lot, in your courtyard or overhanging your courtyard– you are responsible, as the owner.

I want to park in a section of the driveway that’s common property. Can I get permission to do this?

Send a written request to the strata manager. Permission should then be voted on at a general meeting, however this creates the requirement for a special by law if exclusive use is to be granted, and the Owners Corporation may vote that the benefited person pay all charges and fees as a result of this action.

Can I do anything I like to my backyard?

If your backyard is part of your lot, you can do anything as long as it doesn’t breach by-laws, for example, you must not damage common property or create disturbing noise.

Where does the money for repairs of common property come from?

Levies must be raised for repairs. A motion is put to a general meeting to raise levies to cover the cost of the work. The amount will be paid by owners based on their unit entitlement.

What if the damage was accidental rather than caused by negligence? Is there
 a difference in who has responsibility? 

The owners corporation must repair common property and an owner must repair their lot – whether the damage was accidental or negligent. If someone else damages your property, then like any damages claim, you may take legal action 
to recover the cost of repairs from that person.

Some of my possessions were in the garage and they have been damaged. Who is responsible?

The owner or occupier is responsible for things inside their lot.

Who is responsible to put bins out?

The owners (or residents) are responsible for putting their own bins out, bringing them in, and keeping them clean.