Recently, I had the opportunity to present at the Brisbane Living in Strata Body Corporate Trade Show along side Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and the Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleije. It was a fantastic opportunity to offer insight and education to attendees on the Property Law Review, which is set to change the way Queenslanders manage strata property well into the future.
The review is big news for the Queensland strata industry and with the Body Corporate and Community Management Act back under the microscope, it is important to remain educated and up to date with how it will all unfold. I thought it was only right to take this opportunity to share with you some of the key points that were discussed on the day, so that you too can gain a better understanding of the review and the potential improvement on offer for bodies corporate.
I believe the upcoming legislative review of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act has the potential to be one of the most significant policy reviews in this parliamentary term. Our strata industry has long been riddled with complicated amendments and superfluous regulations and what the market needs now is simplicity and certainty. The review is a step in the right direction for all industry stakeholders, including owners, body corporate managers and resident managers.
It was March 19, 2013, when Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie first announced there would be a full review of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997. In the announcement Mr Bleijie said his aim was to solve the issue of body corporate in the state once and for all. But this posed the question; can anyone really solve all issues relating to body corporate?
In short, the answer is no. As we know, people are always going to disagree on certain policies and procedures relating to their strata scheme. It would be impossible to write legislation that could effectively balance conflicting concerns of all owners, in all areas. When it comes down to it, some people just don’t get along. They don’t like feeling as though they are being controlled. They don’t like sharing. They don’t like decisions being made on their behalf.
It would be infeasible to say the review will make everyone happy, but this is not to say the review is superfluous. I strongly believe it will help implement some much-needed changes. I have a great sense of positive anticipation about what it might deliver for bodies’ corporate.
Take for example, the role of the committee in a body corporate. Committee members bear a huge responsibility. These people have to make decisions on behalf of all owners (both resident and investor owners) and often the combined value of the property they are looking after is in the tens of millions of dollars. Committees need legislation that is clear, streamlined and free of confusion. One of the fundamental ways the Act currently falls down, is the way it imposes self-management on apartment owners, but then restricts the duly elected committee members from getting down to business.
For instance, often an elected committee at a meeting cannot make a decision because the matter is a restricted issue and needs to go to a general meeting of owners. This is usually because of the spending limit placed on committees. Furthermore, under current legislation, the committee is deemed incompetent to make a decision on service contractors, irrespective of spending limits.
Add to that the ‘two-quote rule’. Currently, under this rule, a committee can spend months researching contracts and service providers (like painters) to find the best option for their scheme, then spend further weeks negotiating with the service provider to formulate what the committee believes to be ideal terms. Yet they are still required to call a general meeting and submit two quotes to owners for consideration. The legislation deems the committee insufficiently astute to select and negotiate. The two-quote rule is generally an administrative waste of time and all it encourages is lowest common denominator thinking.
With this said, if a committee wants to go a certain way, of course they will select a tenderer who is quoting ‘apples to oranges’. They can get around the rule easily, if they want to. Which begs the question, why have the rule at all? Committees need legislation that is clear, streamlined and free of confusion. This is a perfect example of why I warmly welcome the review. It’s time to get policy settings right.
There is a dire need for balance in this review. There needs to be a focus on solutions in all the aspects of the Act. What I have discussed is just one of the many aspects that will need to be analysed, and what we need to do is settle on a system and stick with it. People do not enjoy having the rules changed on them.
The good news is all Queenslanders are invited to have their say on the changes they would like to see, whether that be self-management, committee powers, representation of unit owners, management rights and so on. This is a rare opportunity we all have to help shape future legislation.
The Newman Government will collaborate with the Queensland University of Technology to review the State’s property law and obtain input from those who live and work in the industry.
Whatever the outcome of the review, a good working relationship between all stakeholders is paramount. We have a system well established on the basis that a good working relationship between the body corporate, on site manager and committee, produces exceptional results for lot owners. The review should maintain this advantage. Make sure your position is represented when the policy debate takes place!