The Strata industry is evolving every year as more and more Australians make the switch to high-density living.
With high-profile cases shining a light on the massive defects crisis plaguing the apartment sector, ever expanding flammable cladding woes and residents being put out of their homes, 2019 was a pretty bleak year for apartment owners and the strata sector as a whole.
Hopefully, 2020 will bring better news for apartment owners and bodies corporate in Queensland and across the country.
Whilst 2019 was a big year for the industry (albeit quite negative) we reckon this year will be even bigger.
The following is a reflection on the last year in strata and short-list of things to look out for in 2020.
The bushfire season that has already seen much of our beautiful country burn, over 25 lives lost, and thousands of homes destroyed is still very much underway.
The initial damage bill stands at $939 million, according to the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), but those figures are just the tip of the iceberg.
Unfortunately, we should not forget other weather and climate challenges looming this summer.
The peak time for heatwaves in Australia has not yet arrived.
Many parts of Australia can expect heavy rains and flooding and northern Australia’s cyclone season is just gearing up.
Cyclones often bring welcome rains to drought-affected communities. But we should not overlook the serious damage these systems may bring such as coastal flooding and wind damage.
Ensure that you…
• Listen to warnings
• Have a disaster plan for your community
• Have an emergency kit ready
• Continue to be storm ready
• Make sure your scheme’s and your own insurance coverage is adequate.
Click here for a guide for storm preparations
Click here for helpful tips on dealing with heatwaves
Click here to find out what to do when the power goes out.
Click here for advice on protecting your unit block from Bushfires.
Qld Rental Reforms
Tenants would be given more freedom to keep pets and modify rental properties to make them feel more like a “home” under sweeping reforms being proposed in Queensland.
The proposed changes follow consultations with the community and have not even reached draft legislation yet, but if enacted would affect all rental property stakeholders.
There will also be some unintended (or perhaps misunderstood) consequences for bodies corporate with respect to the rights of tenants.
The key practical areas for the proposed changes are:
• Ending tenancies;
• Minimum housing standards;
• Property modifications;
• Renting with pets.
These proposed rental reforms represent the most significant changes to tenancy laws in Queensland’s history.
Rental reforms are needed in Queensland; however, we are concerned about the practicality of some proposals and that some of the changes erode too many rights from property owners.
Brisbane Townhouse Ban
In response to criticisms on the perceived over-development of Brisbane the City Council has voted for a ban on townhouses in low-density suburbs.
The law changes were brought through council in a set of reforms that the council said were some of the biggest in a decade.
The ban stops the amalgamation of numerous lots into more than 3000-square-metre lots that could then have townhouses constructed on them in low-density zoned suburbs.
Another major amendment approved will require new apartment developments to have a minimum of one car park per bedroom, and 2½ car parks for apartments for four or more-bedroom apartments.
It will be interesting to see the effects of this ban on housing affordability and diversity in Brisbane.
Click here for more details on changes to Brisbane’s planning laws.
Last year a major body corporate defamation case played out with some interesting twists.
An open letterbox outside a strata scheme prompted an email war that led to a building manager making a claim of defamation against a resident.
Originally the manager was awarded $120,000 in damages only for that decision to be completely overturned on appeal with subsequent costs awarded against him!
The total cost to the man, who won the defamation case but lost the appeal, has been estimated at about $400,000, making this surely the most expensive letterbox in Australia … if not the world.
Bottom-line for 2020: be nice to people and be considerate in your dealings with them because….they might sue.
Click here to see full details of the case.
2019 was a big year for pets in strata with numerous cases being ruled in favour of pet ownership in strata schemes.
Proposed legislation (see Qld rental reforms) will also make it very difficult for Queensland landlords to refuse their tenant’s pets.
How those decisions will ultimately pan out remains to be seen, but the issue is quite a bit more complicated than just whether or not pets should be allowed in strata or the number of those pets.
It comes down to the heart of high-density living, which is a balancing act of individual rights and the rights and needs of the community.
Expect to see a bunch of more “pet wars” raging in 2020 as strata residents, lot owners and legislation changes attempt to get the balance right.
Click here for a complete guide to Pets in Strata for Qld.
Short-term rentals/ Airbnb
For the first time in Queensland, a by-law banning short-term letting or Airbnb within a Gold Coast strata community has been successful.
The decision in the case of Fairway Island GTP v Redman and Murray is certainly ground-breaking, but only for a tiny minority of Body Corporates in the state.
It is unlikely to impact the broader industry as there are more than 50,000 Bodies Corporate in Queensland with this decision only applying to probably less than around 200.
However, strata leaders are cautiously optimistic in the message this sends to the Queensland Government to grant more powers to bodies corporate to manage short-term letting in their communities.
For more information on this landmark ruling and click here.
Currently, Queensland does not allow body corporates to enforce restrictions through by-laws in the area of short-term letting. This means that if you’re a property owner and you choose to let out your residential unit on Airbnb, the body corporate cannot stop you doing so.
Almost 70 per cent of Queensland is now in the grip of drought.
The latest local government areas added to the list are Noosa, the Gold and Sunshine coasts, Redlands, Logan, Gympie, Sunshine Coast, and the Fraser Coast.
Be on the lookout for water restrictions affecting your area and think about water saving measures you can introduce into your community.
In apartment buildings that use more than 300 litres per bedroom each day, bodies corporate may want to check for leaks on common property. They could also retrofit apartments with water-efficient fixtures and fittings and install ‘Smart’ meters.
Since the tragic fire at the Grenfell Tower in London in 2017, the fire safety risks associated with combustible and non-compliant cladding on high-rise buildings has been grimly highlighted.
And in 2019 especially, the plague of defects had been brought to the forefront of public consciousness with high profile cases such as the Mascot and Opal towers amongst others.
The five most common apartment defects are internal water leaks (42 per cent), cracking to internal or external structures (42 per cent), water penetration from outside (40 per cent), guttering faults (25 per cent) and defective roof coverings (23 per cent).
The saga has sparked widespread concerns about the quality of new developments and the approvals process behind high-rise apartment complexes across Australia.
The Opal Tower saga put the Australian high-rise construction industry firmly under the microscope with a subsequent loss of confidence from the apartment-buying public and policymakers left at a loss about how to respond to the crises of defects, combustible cladding and insurance.
A major hope for 2020 is for all levels of Government to produce an effective response to this crisis that doesn’t require lot owners forking out huge sums of money to rectify an issue that was in no fault their own.
The Queensland Government established an Audit Taskforce to conduct a targeted investigation into buildings using Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) cladding and other possible combustible products.
The cladding compliance in Queensland consists of a three-part process, with many of the deadlines taking place throughout 2019.
Part 1: The part 1 deadline was at the beginning of the year on 29 March 2019 and required buildings to register using an online system and complete the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Safer Building checklist. Upon completion of the checklist, you would be prompted to sign a declaration, and would either be finished with the cladding checklist, or pushed to progress into part 2.
Part 2: Buildings that were required to move on to part 2 were required to engage a building industry professional, complete the combustible cladding checklist (part 2) and upload the signed and witnessed checklist and building industry professional statement by 31 July 2019. Depending on the answers uploaded to the online checklist, you would again either be finished with the cladding checklist or pushed to progress into part 3 which was split into two parts.
Part 3 a: Buildings that progressed into part 3 were required to engage a fire engineer and register the fire engineer’s details on the Combustible Cladding Checklist by 31 October 2019.
Part 3 b: The Part 3 b deadline is not required to be completed until 3 May 2021. This step will require the fire engineer to complete a building fire safety risk assessment and statement. These two documents will then need to be uploaded and the online checklist will then need to be filled out and completed.
In 2019 Queensland got its first glimpse of the new Body Corporate and Community Management (Standard Module) Regulation and some of the proposed changes for the industry.
The new regulation modules will include reforms that will streamline Body Corporate procedures.
Some of the proposed changes released for consultation were:
• Committee members will no longer be able to receive direct or indirect benefits from a caretaking service contractor or service contractor without the authorisation from the Body Corporate.
• Facilitate voting in committee elections at a general meeting by electronic vote.
• Require minutes of general meetings to include the reason given for a motion being ruled out of order.
• Restrict inappropriate use of powers of attorney by providing that a person may only vote at a general meeting under the authority of power of attorney for one lot owner, unless the person is a member of the lot owner’s family, or the power of attorney is given.
As these are currently just proposals released for consultation, look out for more substantial changes that may occur in 2020.
Stratacare UDIA QLD Partnership
We are pleased to announce that Stratacare is a UDIA Queensland major industry partner for 2020.
The Queensland office of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) was established in 1971.
Since then it has become the State’s largest network of community creators.
We are proud to support such an integral part of Queensland’s property development industry.
Stratacare’s New Gold Coast Office
Stratacare now has a bigger presence on the Gold Coast than ever before after opening another location on the Gold Coast.
The new premises is a reflection of the growing needs of Stratacare, our clients and staff and allows us to offer second-to none body corporate management and consulting services to our Gold Coast clients.
Give us a call or drop by to discuss your body corporate needs.
Gold Coast Office Contact Details:
Ph: (07) 5531 2622
Address: Level 1, 3G Building, 27 Garden Street, Southport Queensland 4006
Keep up to date with strata and body corporate industry issues by following Stratacare on social media and by having regular contact with your Stratacare Community Manager.
If you’re not a Stratacare client and would like to see how easy it is to make the switch click here to request a quote today.
Author: Sam Aubrey