NSW strata legislation – Where will the proposed changes leave you?

Dean Claughton

Over 90 proposed changes to strata legislation have been announced by the NSW Government this year and if you’re living in strata accommodation you may be wondering if this legislation will apply to you and what changes will be of specific interest to you. Keep reading to (potentially) set your mind at ease, and learn how you’ll be affected.

Who does this legislation apply to?

Strata legislation and any associated proposed changes apply to people who live in or own shared building accommodation or property, including: apartments, townhouses, retirement villages, offices and some dual occupancies.

What are the biggest changes I need to consider?

Group Sales

The proposed strata legislation would allow 75% of apartment owners in older buildings to agree to sell to a redeveloper, regardless of the wishes of the remaining 25% of owners. Previously a 100% vote was needed from all apartment owners. This change has been prompted by a series of cases in which certain residents have held out against other parties, making a joint sale impossible. Although the government has said fair compensation will be offered to those who are effectively ‘forced’ from their homes, this change is being critiqued as benefiting developers over individual owners.

Renovations

There is no point watching ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ if you have to jump through hoops for the smallest of changes. A proposed three step permissions scheme would allow certain minor work to be carried out without permission, however significant renovations could occur with a simple ‘go-ahead’ and majority vote from the owners’ corporation. This will hopefully ease pressure on individuals and prevent them from going through lengthy procedures to do simple in-house renovations. 

Smoking

Smoking will be considered a potential “nuisance” under the law, which will allow strata committees to make their own rules regarding this. This gives more power to individual owners to decide what to do about a neighbour’s smoking habits. If you are a smoker, or don’t want to live in an environment with people who smoke, you should consider how this could effect you.

Pets

Pets will now be allowed! Your delightful cat Albert may now roam freely around your apartment. Subject of course, to the decision of your strata committee; although they won’t say ‘no’ to you unless they have ‘good reason’. The aim of this change is to create a default situation for apartment owners that will essentially allow pet ownership under reasonable conditions.

Overcrowding

The changes to strata legislation regarding overcrowding will allow owners’ corporations to create bylaws that limit the number of people who can live in an apartment, with attached fines for this increasing to $5500.00. The intention is to hopefully curb overcrowding in apartment blocks near universities and prevent the detrimental effects this kind of occupancy can have on neighbouring apartments. Similarly, this will prevent owners from cramming too many renters into smaller apartments, which can have detrimental health and safety affects on renters and owners alike.

Parking

Under the changes, councils and owner corporations will be able to have council parking inspectors fine people who park improperly or illegally on common property. This has been critiqued as dangerous for residents in that their own parking will be more policed than ever before. Although aimed at non-residents’ poor parking, inviting inspectors onto the scene will force residents to shape up their own bad habits - definitely a change to watch if you think your own parking might come under the hammer!

Defects Bond

Developers will also have to put down a bond of 2% of the value of the building to cover potential defects after completion under the proposed changes. This will hopefully protect buyers, in particular first-timers. This means that owners of new apartments, upon discovering defects, will no longer face the costs of rectifying damage themselves or pursing costly court proceedings against developers. A win for the individual, although it has been critiqued as a nuisance for the developer.

Where to from here?

These proposed changes to the current strata legislation are just some of many being introduced, all of which could impact you. Read up on current changes on the Fair Trading website or feel free to call our offices for more information on where these changes may leave you.

For more information on strata please read our Plain English Guide to Community Living

Dean Claughton, Lawyer
Phone: 02 9895 9276
Email: dclaughton@colemangreig.com.au