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The smooth operation of our small residential plan has at least once been thwarted by conveyancing practices which I suggest should be reviewed. Readers would be aware that such plans operate on funds levied from owners; these levies are generally made every 3 months. We employ a large strata management firm who issue levy notices to owners, either by e-mail or by post at the option of each owner.
Section 76 of the Interpretation Act 1987 provides that postal notices must be sent seven business days before they need to be delivered. While that does not apply to e-mail, the e-mailed notices are sent simultaneously because it is obviously simpler for the manager to have a single mailout. We had an instalment due on 1st January 2020; the levy notices were issued on 20 November.
Section 22 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 describes the notice which purchasers of strata lots (in practice, their solicitors or other conveyancers) give to the Owners Corporation. There is no requirement that this notice be given immediately upon purchase or at any particular time. Our manager tells me it is not unusual for such notices to arrive a month after settlement or not to arrive at all unless requested. Requesting is problematic, simply because the manager does not know who to request until the purchasers identify themselves. Sometimes no-one knows that a particular lot has been sold.
As an experiment recently, we wrote to the vendor’s solicitor shortly after sale of one of our units at a well-publicised auction. We asked for particulars of the purchaser’s conveyancer. There was no reply.
There are generally 42 days between contract and settlement. Add a month’s delay for the s.22 notice, allow for levy notices issuing 42 days before they are due and it is apparent that notices frequently reach vendors around settlement time but are not due until well after settlement. Vendors generally don’t forward these notices to purchasers.
Some time after settlement, purchasers can find that they owe significant money (plus interest etc. under s.86) to the Owners Corporation. Some purchasers feel they shouldn’t have to pay s.86 extras because the delayed invoicing wasn’t their fault. And the Owners Corporation suffers irregular cash flow, which can be embarrassing.
Do others agree that strata conveyancing procedures need attention. How about requiring a notice foreshadowing sale to be sent to the Owners Corporation within a week of contracting? I know that sales can theoretically fall through but put your hand up if it’s happened in your street. Thought so!
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