What do strata managers do? Your strata manager is mostly an administrator. They collect levies, pay bills and deal with compliance. They can also be useful guides on many process matters, drafting and financial reporting. But, with some exceptions, they have no special expertise in strata law or building management. Do not rely on them for legal advice, advice on important decisions, or to manage your building. A good strata manager will not purport to provide advice they cannot substantiate. If they advise on an issue that is substantial or may have unpleasant consequences (either for the committee, the owners corporation, an individual owner or occupier) ask them to supply the relevant acts, clauses, legal cases, web pages or detailed examples.
|Do not accept ‘unsolicited’ legal advice from your strata manager on important courses of action. For example a strata manager incorrectly advised a strata committee, saying “it could not withhold consent to the application” and that “the committee may wish to reconsider its position following the threat of legal action.” On gaining expert legal advice both of these comments were found to be ill-founded.|
That said, some strata managers are attempting to differentiate themselves by offering advanced skills and experience in managing the building's affairs. Because of the number and style of buildings they manage, good staff hiring and ongoing training and communications, they may have some very good knowledge and experience that you can tap into. Large strata management companies often have legal experts on retainer. They may have other trusted service providers they can recommend, knowledge of the latest defect solutions or sample by-laws, building management templates, residents handbooks or operation manuals. If you have hired them for this purpose and they have proven they have the requisite skills, you may want these strata managers to be more hands on in their dealings and advice.
“Warring committees ... tight-fisted owners unwilling to pay to maintain their buildings ... plumbing emergencies in the middle of the night ... meetings that don’t reach a quorum ... legal stoushes. No one would seriously argue that strata managers don’t have a tough job.”
Gerry Chia Secretary, Owners Corporation Network of Australia
Always remember that your strata manager is contracted to the owners corporation. They can offer advice and direction, but final authority lies with the owners corporation or the strata committee that makes the decisions in the same way a board of directors does for a company.