Can strata managers charge to view books and records? | Strata managers | Flat Chat Forum: Your Questions Answered




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Can strata managers charge to view books and records?
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linnie
Perth WA
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21/07/2017 - 1:30 am
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We are in Perth.

 At the recent Council of Owners (COO) meeting held after the AGM our strata management company raised the following in general business with the newly elected council (same members as previous year) and this is what is recorded in the minutes (obviously identifying names and details have been omitted).

 General Business

[strata managers representative] spoke to the Council of Owners members and advised that [ an owner] had made several appointments to attend the [strata managers] office and inspect the Strata Company books and records. These inspections are for time periods between 2 and 5 hours each time. [Strata managers] believes that these requests are now becoming unreasonable and they will have to look at charging for the collation of the records for viewing and time spent. [Strata managers] will provide costs to the incoming Council of Owners members for consideration and approval prior to the inspections.

 We are the owner mentioned, and my partner is also a member of the Council of Owners.

Fact: we asked to view records on two previous occasions in the last 16 months with the view to assembling some kind of record of historical maintenance works carried out at the property. 

First visit was for two hours, and after seeing 30 plus years of records in such disarray and in no chronological order, we requested a second visit of six hours which was granted after much resistance.

My understanding is that any owner is entitled to view Strata Company records upon request and allowing reasonable time for strata management to assemble such records.

 Are there any circumstances under which strata managers can charge owners for viewing the records?

 I believe this to be a service strata mangers need to provide to owners under the legislation and that the cost should be factored into their business plan; not an add-on cost to either the strata company or individual owners.

 Thank you and I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

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JimmyT
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21/07/2017 - 10:48 am
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Over here in NSW there is a fixed fee set by Fair Trading ($28, I think) for strata managers to give access to owners to view records.  They are also permitted to charge more for photocopying etc.

As far as what you consider to be their duties, you have a point.  But if your strata manager was one of those guys who in NSW makes the bulk of their profit on Schedule B charges, it could be a much more expensive proposition.

Getting back to your situation, if it isn't in the contract or part of strata laws (and I have no idea if it is) then it isn't a duty.

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linnie
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21/07/2017 - 9:00 pm
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Thanks for your reply Jimmy T and my apologies as I should have been clearer.

The charges proposed are above and beyond the normal charges to view records that would apply to each and every other owner.

These extra charges are directed specifically at us, and yet, even after stating they are not allowed to pass these charges to an owner, they are proposing to pass the charges to our COO. 

Our COO are asking us to justify why we want to inspect the records and why they should 'approve' this proposed charge to 'allow' us to inspect the records.

We have told the COO that they should stand up to the Strata Managers and refuse to accept any charge for what is a right of each and every owner.

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Gus Kernot
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25/07/2017 - 10:45 am
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Jimmy

The charge in NSW is $31 (plus GST if applicable) per hour.    After the first hour this is charged in half hourly blocks.

Strata managers also charge extra for printing and photocopying but this varies as the more advanced offices are entirely electronic and allow searchers to copy files.    Professional searchers carry portable scanners for paper documents.

A full historical search of the type mentioned above would probably require a good deal of photocopying or scanning as historical records (where kept) will not have been transferred to any electronic system.

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linnie
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25/07/2017 - 3:52 pm
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Our Strata Manager here in WA charges:

For an application made under Section 43(1)(a) Council Information $10

For the inspection of records under Section 45(1)(a) by a person other than the proprietor or mortgage $40

For Copies provided under Section 43(1)(a)

1-5 pages $40

Each subsequent page $1

Agree with you Gus about taking a large investment of time to put together some kind of historical information.

I spent 6hrs and laboriously copied by hand relevant dates/facts/figures.

The charges I mention in the original post are above and beyond the charges I have outlined here that would apply to every owner in the complex and are similar to your NSW charges.

The extra cost proposed were directed at us because they believe we have exceeded what is 'reasonable'.

Since we have just discovered our strata managers have recommended an unregistered painter for a complex repaint job (19 units over three levels), I imagine they are doing what they can to 'deter' us from looking too closely.

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Lady Penelope
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25/07/2017 - 6:20 pm
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I am just wondering whether the SM Contract lists these fees or whether they are 'made up' by the SM to suit both the occasion and their opinions of the person seeking the access. Not all SMs charge a fee for this type of access. There is no requirement under the Act to charge a fee. 

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/l.....3/s43.html

If there is nothing in the Contract then perhaps your OC can ask the SM to justify the fees that they are charging and make this transparent via a Motion at a General Meeting.

I personally can't see why extra fees are being charged for extra time spent looking over the records? It is your time - not theirs.

Whenever I have searched records the records have all been dumped on a desk somewhere by a member of staff and it was up to me to sort through them all, without any assistance being provided by the SM staff. Whether a person spends a long time or a short time looking at the records should not matter at all to the SM. 

If the SM becomes belligerent about this access then there might be a case for removing them at the next General Meeting and seeking out a friendlier company to deal with.

Rather than writing copious notes at the SM's office perhaps you can take a photo of the docs with your smart phone and do the bulk of your work at home.

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linnie
Perth WA
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26/07/2017 - 11:30 pm
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Thanks Lady Penelope.  There are no fees listed in the SM contract for accessing the records that I can see.

I am incredibly confident our SM does not like us very much and these fees are ‘made up’ to intimidate us as we ask way too many questions. Our SM has repeatedly stated they do not like to be ‘micromanaged’.

Our SM referred these ‘extra’ charges to the COO (OC) for approval.

In essence, our SM were asking some owners (OC of which my partner is a member) to give approval for other owners to view the records. School yard bully behaviour.

Rather than support every owners right to view records regardless of their reasons, the other members of the OC have asked us to tell them what information we are looking for that might justify the charges.

 Are smart phone photos for taking photos or document scanners allowed? Or is this a case of ‘just do it’?

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Lady Penelope
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27/07/2017 - 9:19 am
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In my opinion the SM are changing their Contract conditions if they begin to ask a fee to access the OC records when previously the contract was entered into with no such conditions. This could trigger a breach of contract claim by your OC.

If your SM is unhappy with the conditions of their contract then they have an option to seek to terminate the contract.

Does the SM contract give any guidance as to the methods by which variations in conditions are to be managed? If one of these is to seek OC approval at a General meeting, and your OC was to agree to fees being charged then the fees should apply to all those who are seeking access not just specific people, such as yourself. The issue of fees is not a matter for the committee to decide but is for the whole of the owners to decide at a general meeting.

The SM should be asked to justify why fees should be imposed on access.

The OC owns these records. The SM is merely storing them on behalf of the OC. You, as an owner, have a right to access these records. Photocopying of these records is permitted (usually for a fee imposed by the SM for use of their equipment) therefore you should be able to scan or photograph them.

You shouldn't need to reveal what you are searching for.

I am not a lawyer.   

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linnie
Perth WA
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09/08/2017 - 5:03 pm
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Just wanted to give an update.

We contacted a local strata community consultant and began the email with "Upon independent advice....."

Seemed to do the trick as the reply came back "While we disagree with the independent advice provided in terms of some of your points raised below, we are however now pleased to confirm we are in a position to now provide access, as required".

Appointment made to view the records next week. Really shouldn't have been this difficult. Even though we originally asked for a few purchase orders to be emailed, having now been put through all this drama we are going to be asking for a lot more information and digging a whole lot deeper.

Thanks again Flat Chat. 

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