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News

Mixed-use regime needs urgent overhaul

Time is running out to establish a suitable regime for the proliferation of mixed-use developments across Canberra, says newly-elected president of the ACT branch of the Strata Community Association, Chris Miller. Mr Miller said the ACT Government had been dragging its feet on developing a new legislative framework for the growing number of developments that combine residential, commercial and retail uses, and the issue was at the top of his to-do list.  He will be engaging with major stakeholders, including the Owners Corporation Network, and knocking on the doors of Government.
The Riot Act
Ian Bushnell

Student accommodation developer GSA abandons Sydney strata renewal purchase

British student accommodation giant GSA has walked away from an $80 million site purchase in Macquarie Park after a long fight to execute a collective strata sale fell through. The sale of two unit blocks at 1-3 Cottonwood Crescent and 2-4 Lachlan Avenue were one of the first big deals to take advantage of NSW laws introduced in late 2016 that allow 75% of a strata ownership to carry ouf the sale or redevelopment of properties which have become too old or costly to maintain. Just over 90 per cent of the block agreed to sell but the owner of three units, Sydney developer Hyecorp, has fought the sale for the past two years.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

New laws better protect off-the-plan buyers

NSW home buyers purchasing residential properties off-the-plan will benefit from stronger protections under new laws endorsed by Parliament last night. The changes to the Conveyancing Act affect disclosures, cooling off periods, holding of deposits and sunset clauses. “Buying off-the-plan has become more popular among first home buyers in recent years. While it works well in most cases, we’ve all heard the horror stories when things go wrong,” Finance Minister Victor Dominello said. "The new laws will bolster existing protections for buyers, by establishing minimum disclosure standards and ensuring that developers are held accountable for delivering what they promised at the time of purchase." The reforms follow a public consultation and are supported by stakeholders including the Owners Corporation Network and the Law Society of NSW.
Mirage News

Schoolies 2018: ‘Ghost host’ busters to target silent rentals

Hundreds of ‘ghost host’ busters will this weekend crack down on Schoolies renting units via sites like Airbnb without building management being notified. Peak body, the Strata Community Association, estimated hundreds of strata communities may be caught unaware by raucous parties when Schoolies 2018 kicks off this Saturday on the Gold Coast.   SCA chief executive Alisha Fisher warned that unnotified Schoolies rentals in units of “ghost” hosts created risks for the entire community.
News.com.au
Sophie Foster

Surry Hills developer ordered to pay legal costs after losing bid to tear up contracts

A developer who failed in a court action to wrest apartments back from off-the-plan buyers so they could be resold at higher prices has had indemnity costs for the landmark case awarded against him. In a final blow to the builder-developer who finished the quarter-built boutique project in Surry Hills, and then lost a bid to cancel sales to 12 buyers, the NSW Supreme Court has now awarded all costs against him. Lawyer Stephen Goddard, a spokesman for apartment-owners peak body, the Owners Corporation Network, said he felt this was a landmark decision for property buyers. “It’s a watershed moment for consumer protection,” he said. “It’s uplifting to see the NSW Parliament understanding the need for greater consumer protection in the strata space.  This process has affirmed that buyers should have more confidence in the future in choosing to buy into strata and making it their lifestyle of choice.”
Domain
Sue Williams

Who you gonna call? Stratabusters have solutions to apartment problems

It doesn't matter how long you've lived in strata or whether you are a resident or a committee member, sooner or later you are going to need to ask for advice. So where do you go? Interestingly, there is a growing number of places you can get the advice you need at low or no cost.  Some are issue-specific, like BmBGuard which will tell you if there are illegal short term lets in your building, or contultants like Strata Answers and Strata-Worx. Or you can call on the Owners Corporation Nettwork, the peak body for strata owners where membership gives you or your building access to advice and policy making at the highest level.
The Australian Financial Review
Jimmy Thomson

When bad by-laws are bullies’ blunt weapons

There are a million ways to get things wrong in strata, especially when it comes to devising the by-laws with which we try to moderate or even control the behaviour of our neighbours. These sins of commission and omission fall into three main categories: the ignorant, the arrogant and the vindictive. We are talking about a block that on the one hand is pushing through a special levy to cover a shortage of funds and on the other is proposing to pay committee members tens of thousands of dollars for their efforts over the last year. Something seriously wrong here … but with their strata managers on-side and strata lawyers turning a blind eye (except when they are paid to pursue bogus claims), who is going to step in and say “enough!”?
Flat-Chat
Jimmy Thomson

Four months, one rectification order: ACT's building crackdown

The ACT government's much-vaunted building regulatory taskforce has issued just one rectification notice to a Canberra construction firm since it began operating in July. But the larger audit team has cut down a backlog of construction complaints, and issued more stop work notices in its first four months, at 10, than the zero issued in the first six months of 2018. Owners Corporation Network president Gary Petherbridge said while he understood some things were happening, much of the government's reforms had had little effect. He said in the 10 years he had been advocating for improvements to building quality regulation, he had heard a lot of rhetoric from the government about changes, but seen little evidence quality had improved in that time.
The Canberra Times
Daniel Burdon

New laws award extra protection to off-the-plan buyers

It looked like it would be a stunning apartment in a fabulous complex, with its own running track, swimming pool and tennis court.  But, when first-home buyer Paul Pierpoint went to inspect the finished unit he bought off the plan, he was shocked. In place of the glamorous promised facilities was a bare concrete slab, and it turned out the developer hadn’t even submitted a DA for the eye-catching enhancements.  Inside the apartment, things were even worse. Such nightmare off-the-plan scenarios could become a thing of the past with a new bill introduced into the NSW Parliament, and expected to pass in November. "People buying apartments off the plan previously had less consumer protection than they would have had buying a toaster,” said Owners Corporation Network spokesperson Stephen Goddard.
Domain
Sue Williams

Developers Banned from Rorting Unit Owners

Thousands living in strata units could have their power bills reduced with the state government to ban developers from locking entire blocks into long-term energy contracts.
The Daily Telegraph
Linda Silmalis and Ben Pike

Cracks showing as Fair Trading loses friends

Fair Trading, the unheralded and little-loved corner of the NSW department of Innovation and Better Regulation has always had its resources stretched to breaking point. It’s a vital service cursed by crazy variations in its responsibilities, ranging from dodgy retailers to real estate agents, from building regulations and broken toasters to, of course, strata. Now it seems the strain of the two headline issues of the past two years – Airbnb and flammable cladding – have taken their toll. I was hugely impressed earlier this year when Minister Kean stayed behind for an hour after introducing an Owners Corporation Network (OCN) seminar, standing in the foyer, answering questions from (mostly) angry strata owners. But there’s only so much one man can do. His portfolio covers something like 80-plus different pieces of legislation.
Flat-Chat
Jimmy Thomson

Untrained amateurs running million-dollar strata budgets - and your lives

They oversee annual budgets of millions of dollars, make decisions that have profound influence on the lives of hundreds of people, pursue policies that could have devastating effects on the value of your investments and most do it with zero training in any of the significant skills required for a modicum of certainty or authority. I'm talking about strata committees, as they're known in NSW and Victoria, executive committees in Queensland and the ACT, management committees in South Australia and Tasmania, strata councils in WA and just "the committee" in NT. Surely they get professional help? In fact, about half of the strata schemes in NSW – mostly the smaller, older buildings – don't have a strata manager, and the proportion may be even higher elsewhere.  Owners' organisations like the Owners Corporation Network as well as City of Sydney Council run seminars for strata residents.  However, these tend to be highly focused on specific issues – like pets, parking, noise and defects – and rarely if ever address the basics of how to run an efficient committee. So what do we do to bridge the knowledge gap? 
The Australian Financial Review
Jimmy Thomson

Hyecorp uses "granny" strata renewal protections in Macquarie Park

Loopholes have emerged in NSW's new strata renewal laws as developers thwart the sale of old properties, defeating the protections intended for vulnerable homeowners. The owners of 42 units in one of the earliest amalgamated sites sold under the new laws in Macquarie Park, Sydney, have fought a two-year battle with the owner of three units, Sydney developer Hyecorp, which refused to sell.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

NSW Supreme Court rules against sunset clawbacks in landmark win for buyers

Off-the-plan buyers today won a massive victory in a landmark Supreme Court judgment and major test of new legislation to protect property purchasers. A developer had taken a group of buyers of a new building in Surry Hills to court to argue it was entitled to rescind their contracts because problems with the development had pushed the completion beyond a sunset clause date. The buyers argued the developer was merely trying to cancel their contracts so he could resell the apartments for higher prices in the rising market. Justice Rowan Darke on Wednesday ruled the developer had not acted justly or equitably in trying to rescind the contracts. He dismissed the bid to tear up the contracts, and awarded costs against him.
Domain
Sue Williams

What Members Say

"The whole strata community owes a huge debt of gratitude to you and the OCN executive. Much appreciated."

Robert, Darlinghurst

"I am very pleased with my membership of OCN, the discussions through sharing emails is very valuable in increasing my knowledge of strata living, the laws and EC responsibilities. I think I am better armed to tread the minefield of the managing agent responsibilities and the necessary action of the EC to monitor the contradictory interests of the agent."

Jim, Wollstonecraft

"I so appreciate being part of the OCN email forum. It provides a great opportunity for sharing ideas and learning"

Ingrid, Neutral Bay

"I must say that I have enjoyed and found consolation in the discussions that have been part of the email chain (forum). I did attend one general meeting and found that it was informative and the people "running the show" were knowledgeable and dedicated to the tasks that had taken on. In short, well done. You and the committee have and continue to support the Strata Community in a very professional manner."

Greg, Parramatta

"Nothing is easy in Strata World and we have been in building defects “mode” for some years – hopefully almost at an end but that process has been most demanding and difficult but again – greatly helped by the experience and wise counsel of other members of OCN."

Pat, St Leonards

"Keep up the good work, as many (if not most) strata schemes need your help, advice and representation at all levels of government."

Jann and John, St Ives

"I belong to OCN because of its professionalism.  I have found the meetings I have been to extremely well presented, to the point, and of course very topical and informative. Speakers on the whole certainly know their topic.  My role of Secretary last year was certainly assisted with the coverage regarding TPG & other subjects. Member newsletters are also of benefit as the topics are specific to strata matters."

Graham, East Balmain

I have enjoyed attending the quarterly OCN meetings and the exchange of emails between other Executive Committee Members and think OCN is playing an increasingly important role as a voice for strata dwellers and representing us at Government level. I wish the organisation continuing success in the future."

Pauline, Kings Cross

"The [forum] response to my question was amazing and really useful.  The OCN community is wonderful so thanks."

Jenny, Killara

"I would like to thank you all for the important effort that you are all putting in to look after apartment owners and tenants. It is so valuable and you are heroes. I would not have been able to deal with my duties as a strata chairman without your advice and assistance." 

Angela, Mascot

"The OCN is invaluable – many thanks."

Bill, Surry Hills

"OCN is proving invaluable"

Sue, Neutral Bay

"Thanks to all at OCN for your continuing efforts to keep us up to date with current strata information and advice...it has been very helpful to us"

Kate, Coogee

"When my wife & I first encountered a problematic Executive Committee I heard that OCN was a great help (from a Strata manager whom I knew) so we both joined and have gratefully used the on-line information sources. We continued to happily rely on OCN’s assistance when we progressed to Committee status & later as Chair & Secretary of our Committee. I still use OCN in my current role as Treasurer."

Peter, Chiswick

"Thanks to OCN for being such a rich resource of trustworthy information about strata matters."

Peter, Chiswick

"I wanted to extend my personal thanks for the very informative & interesting event today. The OCN team did an outstanding job in the organisation of this event & I enjoyed it thoroughly. The quality of speakers, the flow of conversation & interaction from the attendees - first class …& of course, the amazing Jimmy T - always a delight."

Sue, Epping

"OCN does a great job in providing a really valuable service to Strata owners."

Lois, Wollongong

"I am sure my appreciation of your good works is echoed by many in the Stratasphere. Keep up the good work."

John, Elizabeth Bay

"Once again, being able to discuss such things through this forum, helps clear the mind, puts things into perspective and helps one to understand their rights and to form a strategy if needs be. As a simple EC member trying to do what is in the best interests of lot owners, I truly value OCN and am grateful."

Pamela, Point Lookout

"The OCN is probably one of the best, most informed and most informative groups I have been involved with."

Alan, Maryville