Frequently Asked Questions
The following information is derived from NSW Fair Trading.
COMMON PROPERTYThe major difference between owning a house and owning a unit or apartment (known as a ‘lot’) in a strata scheme, is that the external walls, the floor and roof do not usually belong to the lot owner. These areas are usually common property and generally the responsibility of the owners corporation.
+ 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 – you are responsible, as the owner.
+ I want to use the garden area outside my unit just for myself, can I do this?
If it is part of your lot, yes. If it is common property, you will need to get the permission of the owners corporation. This usually requires an exclusive use by-law to be passed by special resolution (75% of members of the owners corporation have to vote for it) at a general meeting.
+ 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.
+ 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 secretary or strata managing agent. Permission should then be voted on at a general or strata committee meeting.
+ Can I do my own repairs to common property?
Only if you have the permission of the owners corporation. If common property needs repair or maintenance, the owners corporation should undertake that work, not an individual owner.
+ Who is responsible for looking after the wheelie bins?
The owners (or residents) are responsible for putting their own bins out, bringing them in, and keeping them clean. The owners corporation usually owns the bins.
+ Do I have to insure the contents of my strata unit?
While there is no obligation to do so, it is highly recommended that you take out adequate insurance on the contents of your unit. The insurance that the owners corporation organises covers the structure of the building and any fixtures inside lots. However other contents such as your furniture, electrical appliances, curtains and carpets would not be covered. Owners can suffer major loss if their personal property is not insured in the event of a fire or through water damage. In addition, contents insurance usually covers your paint finishes on walls and ceilings.
Owners corporation and by-lawsThe owners corporation is made up of all the owners in the strata scheme. By-laws are made or changed to meet the needs of all owners and to assist with the running of the strata scheme.
+ What if I do not want to be part of the owner’s corporation. Can I manage my unit myself?
All owners are always members of the owners corporation. They have voting rights and obligations to pay levies and comply with by-laws. Owners cannot ‘resign’ from the owners corporation. However you are free to manage your unit as you see fit. You can enter into a contract with a managing agent or caretaker to manage your unit, if you wish.
+ I want to get a dog. Do I need the owners corporation’s permission?
Check your by-laws first. Some schemes allow pets with the permission of the owners corporation – the strata committee can give this approval. Other schemes do not allow pets at all. If your by-law allows for pets then make a written request to the owners corporation and include any information to support your request, for example, information on the type of dog, how you will look after it and so on.
+ Someone is making a lot of noise and its disturbing my sleep. How do I get them to stop?
The best approach is to try to resolve the problem yourself, so talk to the person first. If that doesn’t work or, if you feel intimidated, you have two choices. You can ask the owners corporation to issue them with a Notice to Comply with a By-Law, then seek a fine if they keep breaching. Or you can apply for mediation through Fair Trading to have a mediator assist you to discuss the issue with them.
+ Is it a legal requirement to have a noticeboard?
Only if it is required in your by-laws. If the owners corporation does not have a noticeboard it must send all meeting and other notices to each owner directly.
+ My neighbour’s boyfriend is parking his car in the visitors’ parking space every night, taking up the space. Is he really a visitor?
That is a matter for the owners corporation to decide at a meeting.
+ The people above me pulled up their carpet without permission of the owners corporation and put down a floating floor which is very noisy, what can I do?
Under the model by–laws that apply to most schemes, owners do not require permission to remove the carpet in their lot airspace. However the model by–laws require them to notify the owners corporation before proceeding. If a noise problem results, you can talk to them about it or ask the owners corporation to serve them with a Notice to Comply with a By-Law. If the unit is tenanted, you can usually take action against the owner seeking to have the floor carpeted or covered to reduce noise.
+ Our by-laws don’t deal with things I think are important. What can I do?
You can draft your own by-law and put it on the agenda for the next general meeting. It requires a special resolution – 75% or more to vote in favour. Once it is passed, the by-law must be registered with the Land & Property Information Office, then it is an enforceable by-law that must be obeyed. You may want to get assistance from your managing agent or a solicitor.
Meetings of the owners corporationThe Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 sets out how meetings are called, who can attend and vote, how they are to be run and how decisions are made.
+ I am an owner - what meetings do I have to go to?
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. There may be several meetings of the owners corporation a year, however the annual meeting, when levies are set for the coming year and the strata committee is elected, is the only meeting required to be held by law. It is helpful if people are willing to make themselves available for election to the strata committee.
+ How do I get to have a say in the meetings?
In order to speak and vote at meetings you need to be an owner. Your name needs to be on the Strata Roll and you also need to be up to date with payment of levies.
+ How many meetings should we have a year?
Each year the owners corporation must have one annual general meeting and also one strata committee meeting to appoint office bearers. Other meetings can be held as the need arises.
+ What can we do about people who refuse to attend meetings?
Encourage owners to get involved in the management of their scheme. However there is no requirement for them to attend and they can choose to stay uninvolved if they wish.
+ Is there a deadline for providing minutes?
General meeting minutes must be sent out with the notice of the next general meeting if not issued sooner. Strata committee minutes must be placed on the noticeboard, or sent to all owners if there is no noticeboard, within 7 days.
+ When can I use a proxy to have my say?
A proxy is where you authorise someone else to vote on your behalf when you are unable or choose not to attend a meeting.
+ Are there any circumstances when I cannot ask someone to act as my proxy?
You will not be able to use a proxy if your name is not on the strata roll or if your levies are not paid in full.
+ We spend half the meeting talking about a matter that was not even on the agenda and then people voted on it. Is this okay?
Only matters on the agenda can be voted on and resolved. Matters not on the agenda may be discussed, but would need to be put on the agenda for the next meeting for the matter to be voted on.
+ What is the difference between a special resolution and a unanimous resolution?
Both are votes required for certain motions at general meetings (not at strata committee meetings). A special resolution is where there must be at least 75% of the quorum of owners in favour of the motion, based on unit entitlement. A unanimous resolution is where everyone votes for the motion.
+ Does the chairperson have the decising (casting) vote at any meetings?
No, there are no deciding votes at general meetings (includes AGM) or strata committee meetings.
+ Do we need a quorum to hold a meeting?
Yes. A quorum for a general meeting is 25% of people entitled to vote or owners who hold 25% or more of unit entitlement. A quorum for an strata committee meeting is at least 50% of the strata committee members.
Strata committeeThe owners corporation must elect a strata committee which can make many of the day-to-day decisions about running the scheme on its behalf.
+ How do I get elected to the strata committee?
The strata committee members are elected at the AGM. Your nomination must be submitted before or during the AGM. Any owner can nominate themselves. Owners can also nominate a non–owner as long as they do not nominate themselves as well. Co–owners may be nominated by another co–owner of their lot who is not standing for election, or by an owner of another lot.
+ How do I get someone removed from the strata committee?
The strata committee member can resign, otherwise that person’s position can be terminated by a special resolution (where 75% vote in favour) at a general meeting.
+ Can I attend an strata committee meeting?
You can attend the meetings if you are an owner (or company nominee) but will need the permission of the strata committee to speak. You will not be able to vote.
Repairs and maintenanceThe owners corporation is responsible for repairs to common property, owners are responsible for repairs within their individual lots.
+ Where does the money for repairs and maintenance of common property come from?
Levies must be raised to do repairs. A motion is put to a general meeting to raise levies to cover the cost of the work. The amount that needs to be paid by each owner is based on their unit entitlement.
+ What if the damage was accidental rather than caused by negligence? Is there a difference in who has responsibility to fix it?
The owners corporation must repair common property and an owner must repair their lot – it does not make a difference how the damage occurred (whether 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. They may be able to claim on their contents insurance policy.
Levies, administrative and capital works fundsThe owners corporation is responsible for setting up an administrative and capital works fund and can raise levies from owners to pay for the expenses of running the strata scheme.
+ The owners corporation keeps putting up the levies. What can I do?
Levies are decided at general meetings and must be discussed and accepted by a vote of the owners. You can vote against the increase or put up a motion for a different levy amount if you wish. A managing agent may put a motion for an increase in levies on the meeting agenda but cannot impose levies. Levies are normally only increased if there is a need to do new works or there are additional expenses, including implementing a capital works fund plan.
+ Why do we need a capital works fund plan?
All buildings need to be maintained regularly to retain their value and stop minor damage and deterioration becoming major problems. Developing a 10–year capital works fund plan means that future repairs and maintenance are anticipated well in advance. The owners corporation can then agree on the best way to raise levies to cover these future costs.
+ I did not get a levy notice so I have not paid anything for ages. Is this a problem?
Your levies must be paid whether or not you receive a notice. Unpaid levies mean you will not be able to vote at meetings. Make sure your current address is on the strata roll so you can receive notices of both levies and meetings. You can pay your levies any time up until a meeting starts, in order to be financial and therefore eligible to vote.
+ What can we do when people do not pay their levies?
The owners corporation can impose a charge of 10% simple interest for levies not paid within 1 month of their due date. The owners corporation can also take debt recovery action through the local court.