Choosing Management

01. Professional qualifications

Education, qualifications and licensing assures you that your Manager has been trained specifically in Strata Management. Your best assurance is engaging a Licensed Strata Manager dedicated solely to the management of strata and community schemes.

02. Experience

Is everything! Ensure that the individual Manager has the necessary experience in your particular type of building. The greatest number of years may not guarantee superior service, but it does demonstrate one’s commitment to their profession.gt;

03. Number Of Schemes Managed

Be careful with this one! Three questions you should ask here. Firstly, you should ascertain how long the company has been managing each Strata or Community Scheme in their portfolio. If this is number is too low it may indicate a high turnover in their portfolio and indicate inferior service.

Secondly ask the Manager you are interviewing who will be managing your property. The last thing you want is an excellent presentation from a senior Manager, only to find your property will be managed by inexperienced junior staff. Thirdly, ask how many Owners Corporations each Manager manages. If he or she manages a large number of buildings, then chances are they are competent, organised and skilled in their procedures.

04. References

Most firms should be glad to provide you with individual and corporate references.

05. Fees

Be specific with regards to fees and charges involved. Keep in mind that fees charged usually represents the type and quality service you can expect. Be concerned with fees that appear too low. The old saying “you get what you pay for” is equally true when applied to strata management services.

06.What is a Strata Manager & What do they do?

A strata managing agent, licensed under the Property, Stock amp;amp; Business Agents Act 1941, is a person who has the necessary academic and management experience to carry out the functions of an Owner’s Corporation as required by the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996.

An Owner’s Corporation must carry out certain functions under this Act such as maintaining common property, arranging building insurance, raising levies and managing by-law breaches. When the Owner’s Corporation appoints a strata managing agent, it delegates these functions to the agent for which the agent receives a management fee.

07. How much will Strata Managing Agent Cost

If the strata managing agent is being appointed to assist the Owner’s Corporation to manage its affairs and the asset it holds on behalf of all owners, the cost of this should be seen as contributing to that asset. In other words, the cost of professional management should enhance the value of the asset in the long-term.

At Strata Management Specialists, our fee structure is based on the number of lots in the strata scheme. The Agency Agreement’s Schedule of Services details those services inclusive in the management fee and mostly we find that if the executive committee works closely with the agent, there is usually no need for any extra services to be performed. The Schedule of Charges in the Agency Agreement lists the items such as postage, photocopying, facsimiles etc. for which a charge is made. A set fee inclusive of all costs can be negotiated if you prefer.

If you would like to know what professional management would cost for your individual strata, community or neighbourhood scheme, we can send you more information

08. How Do I Know The Agent

A quick telephone call to Property Services Licensing – Department of Fair Trading will confirm the licence details of an agent. It is vitally important that you appoint only licensed agents so that your Owner’s Corporation is protected under the Property Services Council Compensation Fund.

Of course all our managers hold either a strata manager’s licence or certificate of registration. All our managers operate under Strata Management Specialists’ Corporation Licence.

09. Does the Agent belong to a professional Industry Association?

An industry association or institute is a focal point for any profession and provides a source of training, information and networking that is essential for individual members.

Strata Management Specialists is an active member of the SCA of Australia, the Real Estate Institute of NSW, and the Association of Professional Strata Managers (NSW) and our managers and staff regularly participate in training seminars and conferences.

10. What experience does the Agent have in my type of complex?

By managing a very wide variety of buildings and schemes across the area, including residential, commercial and industrial complexes, Strata Management Specialists has built up an extensive background of strata management skills over many years.

All our managers have worked in strata management, property management or a diverse range of business and management enterprises. This experience is now centred solely in providing a professional service to Owners’ Corporations and the management of their schemes.

11. Does the Agent hold Professional Indemnity Insurance Cover?

Professional indemnity insurance is an essential cover for any agent. Strata Management Specialists maintains a professional indemnity policy with Real Cover Insurance Pty Limited (coverage $1 million) renewable at 24th March each year.

12. Does the Agent have commission or rebate arrangements?

Under the Agency Agreement between an Owner’s Corporation and a strata managing agent, full disclosure of commissions received is required. Strata Management Specialists lists the following insurers, underwriters and brokers in the Agreement:

CHU Underwriting Agencies Pty Ltd. (as agent for QBE Insurance (Australia) Limited) Strata Unit Underwriters Pty Ltd. (as agent for CGU Insurance) Austbrokers Southern As an agent of these insurers, if policies are taken out or renewed with one of these companies, a fee is paid to Strata Management Specialists which helps to defray the cost of managing the policy and claims during the year.

A question commonly asked is whether the policy premium includes a commission which could mean an Owner’s Corporation may be able to get a lower premium if it approached the insurer direct. The answer is that the premium does not include a fee for services undertaken by the Strata Manager on behalf of the agent, and the premium offered by the insurance agent or broker would be the same if you approached them directly.

Strata Management Specialists receives no other commissions from any individual, contractor or organisation in connection with management of its strata and community title portfolio.

13. How do we talk to the Agent and get help?

Communication is the key to successful management. Once appointed, every owner needs to be able to discuss issues with the agent. At Strata Management Specialists, each manager is assigned a specific group of buildings to manage and becomes the day to day contact for the owners and executive committee of those complexes.

Our managers are readily accessible during business hours, Monday to Friday, but should they be out when you ring, telephone calls are returned as soon as possible on their return to the office. You are most welcome to call into our office as well, but it may be worth ringing first to make sure your manager will be there.

14. Where does the Agent hold the Trust Accounts?

There are strict guidelines laid down in the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act concerning trust accounts. And that’s good – after all, the strata managing agent is looking after money on behalf of a strata scheme amp;ndash; the owners’ money.

Strata Management Specialists operates a separate trust account for each scheme at Macquarie Bank Limited. Each account is operated by authorised personnel only.

15. How do I pay my levies?

Australia Paying your levies by the due date is easy. Using DEFT Online (lt;a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.deft.com.au”gt;www.deft.com.ault;/agt;) or DEFT Phonepay (1300 301 090), you can pay your levies by credit card, or by debit direct from your bank account. If you want to use the direct debit facility, you need to register your bank account details with DEFT Payment Systems. Visit lt;a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.deft.com.au”gt;www.deft.com.ault;/agt; or ring 1800 672 162 for a brochure.

Paying by credit card may incur a small surcharge, depending on the credit card you use, however the amount will be advised before you finalise your payment. Using DEFT Payment Systems also allows you to schedule future levy payments, so that you can make sure levies are paid on time, or view past DEFT levy payments. The best part is that you can access DEFT 24 hours a day.

You can also pay your levies by Bpay from your cheque or savings account and by Postbillpay over the counter at any Australia Post.

16. How will I know where my money is being spent?

Financial reporting is a vital aspect of communication between a managing agent and a strata or community scheme. Every six months, the Treasurer receives a statement of all drawings from the trust account, together with a balance left in the bank. Password access is also given so that the Treasurer or nominated executive member has access to weblink and the financials on a monthly basis.

Every year, a full income and expenditure statement together with balance sheet is sent to all owners. The best way to know where your money is going is to check these reports and if there are any queries, talk to your manager straight away.

17. How much will our levies be?

Contrary to popular belief, levies are determined at each Annual General Meeting by the owners, not the agent. However, the role of your strata managing agent is to assist the owners in determining adequate levies to manage the strata scheme.

The first step is to prepare a proposed budget for the based on historical costs, an estimate of the future receipts and payments likely to occur in the next year, and the long term capital items that will need replacing. The owners then decide whether to accept or amend that budget, and the levies are determined according to their decision.

Another common misunderstanding is that your levies are the fee paid to the strata managing agent for providing its management service to the strata scheme. The levies are, in fact, set by deciding how much money the strata scheme will need in the next year to pay all its running costs, including insurance premiums, repairs and maintenance, electricity, water and managing agent’s fee.

18. What does the Agent do about unpaid levies?

Unpaid levies attract statutory interest of 10% p.a. if they are not paid one month after they fall due. If one or more owners do not pay their levies on time, the strata scheme will not be able to pay its way, jeopardising the investment of all the owners.

Strata Management Specialists monitors unpaid levies every month and commences appropriate action to recover these monies. Usually a friendly reminder is all that is necessary but in a few instances, debt recovery action has to be instigated to make sure all owners share the continuing cost of maintaining the scheme. The cost of this action is borne by the defaulting owner.

19. How can I be sure that our building is insured for the correct value?

Under the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996, insurance valuations are to be carried out at least every five years. Strata Management Specialists, on behalf of your scheme, compare this valuation figure with your current insurance policy to ensure that your cover is adequate.

20. If we appoint an agent, can we keep our contractors?

Certainly you can. While we have an excellent group of preferred tradespeople to call upon, if a scheme wishes to continue using one of their own, we are more than happy to be instructed. However, we advise that for your protection it is imperative that we contract tradespeople who are suitably qualified, licensed and hold the appropriate insurances.

Strata Management Specialists adhere to strict guidelines for ensuring that contractors hold current qualifications.

21. What happens in an emergency?

We have a 24 hour emergency service for owners if they have the misfortune to experience a problem such as a burst pipe, blocked sewer or damaged glass.

During business hours, you simply ring our office number where we can arrange the necessary repairs as quickly as possible. By ringing the same number after hours, you will be given details of where to ring for a quick, co-ordinated response to your emergency.

22. What are the Strata Scheme Records?

Accurate records are vital in the management of your strata scheme asset. At Strata Management Specialists, maintaining records, both paper based and electronically, is viewed as an integral role within our team. All records are updated on a weekly basis so that anyone wishing to view the information can be assured of accuracy and reliability.

Our lt;a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.stratams.com.au/weblink/”gt;Weblinklt;/agt; facility is available to all owners so that that they can securely view or amend their information. Minutes of meetings are forwarded to owners as quickly as possible after meetings so that everyone can be kept up to date about important issues.

23. Who has access to my Strata Scheme Records?

We are more than happy to convey lot account details relevant to your selling agent – i.e. the current quarterly levies payable by your lot. This is a simple phone call to any staff member. Our aim is to assist in your sale, not hamper it.

We are regulated by legislation as to the extent of other information we are at liberty to divulge. Most information sought applies to the common property and the owners corporation as a whole, not the individual lot owner.

Therefore, any information that your agent on behalf of a prospective purchaser may request about the common property is obtainable by carrying out a book inspection under sec. 108 of the Strata Schemes Management Act (NSW), which is outlined below.

An inspection of the books can be carried out by the purchaser (or their agent) in our office, but must be accompanied by an authority in writing from you as the vendor.

An appointment with our office can be made, and we will endeavour to accommodate as soon as possible after your request. The prescribed fee under the Regulation is $26.00 per hour with a minimum fee of $26.00.

24. Where and when will meetings be held?

There are ample facilities for holding meetings at our office. We convene Annual General Meetings on a Saturday (except long weekends and Public Holidays) at an agreed fee, and if the Owner’s Corporation or Executive Committee wish to meet on a more regular basis with the managing agent in attendance, there may be an additional fee but only after consultation with the executive committee.

25. How can our Strata Scheme enforce the By Laws?

The by laws registered with your strata scheme are the “rules and regulations” by which all residents are supposed to abide. Our advice to the owner’s corporation is that each incident needs to be dealt with promptly, but in a non-confrontational manner.

Once again, a friendly reminder about the by-law requirement is usually sufficient to produce the desired result. If there is a continued breach of the by-law, we can offer our experience to the owner’s corporation in managing the dispute efficiently and professionally.

26. Can I renovate?

If you are considering renovations, you will need to check your strata scheme by-laws to make sure that any alterations you wish to make to your unit are permitted.

You will also need to notify the owners’ corporation in writing of the proposed renovations prior to works beginning. If the alterations are not addressed in the by laws, the request may need to go to a General Meeting to be discussed with other owners. Owners can then vote on whether the alterations should be permitted to go ahead.

You should be able to explain exactly what work will be done and to assure your fellow owners that the renovations will not harm or devalue the property in any way. If you are unsure about what parts of your unit you can alter and what parts are common property please provide details to your strata manager who will be able to guide you.

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