New Strata by-laws

New by-laws allowing pets in units, curbing smoking on apartment balconies and preventing the installation of noisy timber and tiled floors are among the changes in the biggest overhaul of strata laws in more than 50 years. Currently nearly 30 per cent of people in NSW live in strata apartments. By 2033 it is expected that half the state’s population will live in apartments or townhouses.

One of the biggest changes proposed is to allow apartment to be sold to a developer with only 75% of owners being in favour of the proposal.

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The new by-laws will make it easier to keep animals in apartments.
The new model bylaws will, for the first time, cover smoke drift and allow pets by default, rather than banning them as is now the case. The issue of noisy timber and tiled floors will be addressed before the floors are laid, rather than after they become a problem, as happens now.

 

Along with an end to proxy harvesting – where one owner rules a whole building using votes mostly from non-residents – and encouragement for tenants’ participation in apartment block affairs.

And the “disgusting” business practice of phoenix companies – where developers deliberately go into insolvency to avoid the financial consequences of shoddy work and defective buildings, only to reappear with a new name but the same owners and directors – will soon be no more.

 Effectively curbed elsewhere in Australia, proxy farming in NSW often leads to individuals ruling their buildings as their personal fiefdom, their voting power bolstered by “blind” proxy votes from investor owners.
Noting that proxy farming created mistrust, resentment and ultimately disengagement from communities that are supposed to run their own affairs, Mr Roberts said the new laws will restrict proxy votes in schemes of more than 20 units to 5 per cent of the ownership. In buildings of 20 units or fewer, owners will only be allowed to carry one proxy vote.

Other possible changes include postal votes and secret ballots as part of the package, as well as online teleconferencing, electronic voting, flexibility in the timing of annual meetings and greater transparency.

Executive committee members will have to declare conflicts of interest and then remove themselves from voting on issues where any exist. Anyone who has a professional financial interest in the building – such as strata managers, building managers, caretakers and agents – will no longer be allowed to sit on executive committees.

The length of strata management contracts will be reduced, making it easier for dissatisfied owners to change managers, and there will be complete transparency about issues such as insurance commissions so that owners corporations know exactly what they are getting.

Some contentious issue shave been consigned to the ”too-hard” basket: extinguishment of strata title and other policies that intersect with other government departments – such as the thorny issue of short-term or holiday lets in residential buildings, and the perennial problem of rogue parking – have apparently been set aside for a second tranche of law changes mooted for later next year.

The new laws are slated to come into force by mid-next year.

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