Hold on – help is closer than you think

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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.

OK, you can approach your strata manager or committee – but if they are part of the problem they’re unlikely to be part of the solution.

Government agencies will tell you what the law says but not how it applies to your specific issues. Lawyers will advise you and even fight your corner for you, but they don’t come cheap.

So where do you go? Interestingly, there is a growing number of fringe dwellers in the stratasphere where you can get the advice you need at low cost or even free.

Some of them are quite issue-specific, like Bnbguard who will tell you if there are apartments in your block that are being rented out illicitly on short term holiday letting websites, (like Airbnb and Stayz and their ilk) – and how to get rid of them.

They can also tell individual investors if their tenants are sub-letting their apartments or houses short-term, without permission.

This business started when one of the directors was thinking about letting his unit on Airbnb and realised that, while it was banned in his building, there was no way anyone could catch him. This, he realised, was an opportunity and BNBguard was born.

If lack of communication is the issue, web-based Stratabox will set up a system for your residents that’s an alternative for those blocks where someone has set up, say, a Facebook page or strata specific website to general approval then moved on or got bored.

Stratabox is ideal for blocks that want to self-manage or want an internal communications system that’s separate from whatever their strata managers provide.

It offers subscribers the opportunity to discuss issues, post agendas and even vote online.  And, for blocks that are professionally managed, they are looking to hook up with strata managers so that everybody is on the same page.

The Fifth Estate, Green List and Green Strata websites are terrific resources for owners and renters who want to make their blocks more environmentally responsible and energy efficient.

If you’re looking for something more hands-on than just general advice, some experienced strata people are setting up consultancies.  One is a company called Strata Answers.

You can call on these long-time members of the Owners Corporation Network – the main body for strata owners in NSW – when, for instance, your committee is so consumed by infighting that no sensible decisions are being made.

Another OCN stalwart, Nick Penny, has started his own company, Intensive-Care, and will give a free initial consultation in strata conflicts. He can be contacted at NickP@intensive-care.com.au.

Then, of course, there’s the OCN itself, where membership gives you or your building access to advice and policy making at the highest level. For strata advice in Victoria you could contact WeLiveHere while in Queensland you’d turn to the Unit Owners Association.

Free advice websites include Strataman which has been around for years and is basically an FAQ website about NSW strata laws, by-laws and regulations.

Lookupstrata is a combination blog and Q&A forum style website covering the whole country, so it’s particularly useful for people living outside of NSW.  That said, it’s mostly written by strata managers and lawyers so sometimes the facts, while totally accurate, can get in the way of the answer.

And finally, there’s Flat Chat, the mothership for this column.  We’ve been around for about 15 years and have about 22,000 posts on our forum and news pages, so we must be doing something right.

This column originally appeared in the Australian Financial Review.

2 Replies to “Hold on – help is closer than you think”

  1. Jimmy-T Jimmy-T says:

    Just received this from the ACT:
    Your article left out OCN ACT in Canberra.
    Nearly 40% of ACT housing is now apartments and townhouses. The management sector is poorly developed and not skilled enough to deal with the bigger mixed use complexes (600+ units) now being built.
    Employee managers know scripts but not the law and certainly not how to solve problems.
    The ACT Government is still congratulating itself for striking off the worst manager after years of complaint, but more rogues need to be pushed out of the sector.
    Recent amendments have complicated the situation for existing mixed use complexes rather than alleviated the problems, because they will eventually be orphan developments.
    So problems come thick and fast to OCN ACT via Contact Us on our website. (www.ocnact.org.au)
    We offer assistance to members and non members. Membership fees are low at $20 for individual and $20 plus $2 per unit for corporate membership.

  2. Avatar Jimmy-T says:

    This is now being discussed in the Flat Chat Forum

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