Changes to strata laws are on the way or being considered all over Australia and the first cab off that rank will be modifications to NSW conveyancing laws due to come in within a couple of months.
Basically, these new laws will tidy up the “sunset clawback” regulations that were rushed in to prevent developers from deliberately delaying the completion of their buildings so they could invoke sunset clauses, cancel contracts and put the properties back on the market at a much higher price in a booming market.
That’s not really an issue these days, it has to be said, but the Conveyancing Legislation Amendment Act, which is just awaiting proclamation, introduces get-out clauses for people who’ve bought properties off the plan only to discover the finished apartment is substantially different from what they thought they’d get.
They will soon be able to cancel the contracts if the changes mean they wouldn’t have entered into the purchase in the first place or would disadvantage them materially.
Other changes include an extended cooling-off period of 10 business days (up from five) and limits on the vendors’ ability to get purchasers to sign those rights away.
And, as a side issue, conveyancing documents will be allowed to be sent and signed electronically, saving a few forests worth of paper.
Queensland has been reviewing its body corporate laws since 2013, but it’s hard to find a timetable for the introduction of its modest proposals, such as smoke drift by-laws and the ability of a majority of owners to sell their block to developers.
On a much bigger scale, as flagged in this column during the public consultation period, Victoria is preparing for the first major shake-up of its strata laws since 2006.
The proposed changes, which are still some way off from being made law, include dividing strata schemes into four tiers, depending on the number of units, each with slightly different regulations.
There will also be a concerted effort to make the owners corporation (strata) managers more professional, better trained and more accountable.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty of strata life, neither resolutions nor rules (by-laws) can be passed if they are oppressive, unfairly prejudicial or discriminatory.
‘Proxy farming’ and committee proxies will be restricted and committees will be reduced from 12 to seven members.
Contractual limitations on lot owners’ voting rights will be banned. It remains to be seen whether that will affect the vetoes on Airbnb-style short-term letting that some new buildings pre-impose on purchasers
Maximum penalties for rule breaches will be increased to $1,100 with the fines paid to the owners corp. Meanwhile voting thresholds for legal action will vary depending on the level of courts involved.
Defaulting owners will have to pay more of the costs of pursuing their debt but, on the other hand, payment plans can be arranged for those suffering hardship.
Rogue renovators will be curbed with the owners corp able set conditions under which renovations must be conducted, while rules that unreasonably prohibit the installation of sustainability measures will be invalid.
Rules to combat cigarette smoke drift will be allowed and residents will be held responsible for their guests’ behaviour, including being fined for their breaches.
These are by no means all the proposed changes – you’ll find more information at consumer.vic.gov.au/OCBill — but they reflect many of the regulations currently in place across the border in NSW.
On that note, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but if these changes go through we’ll be a major step closer to uniform national strata laws. Yikes!