WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What is a strata managing agent and what do they do?
A strata managing agent is licensed under the Property, Stock & Business Agents Act 2002 and is a person who has the necessary academic and management experience to carry out the functions of an Owners Corporation as required by the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. This also applies to the management of Community and Neighbourhood Associations as required by the Community Land Management Act 2021. (For the sake of simplicity the following information refers to Owners Corporations, but also equally applies to Community or Neighbourhood Associations.)
An Owners Corporation must carry out certain functions under the Strata Act such as maintaining common property, arranging building insurance, raising levies and managing by-law breaches. When the Owners Corporation appoints a strata managing agent, it delegates these functions to the agent for which the agent receives a management fee.
2. How much will a strata managing agent cost?
As a strata managing agent is being appointed to assist the Owners Corporation to manage its affairs, and the asset it holds on behalf of all owners, the cost of the managing agent should be seen as contributing to the value of that asset. The agent’s role is to ensure that all statutory requirements of the Strata Act are complied with; that all other legislation that impacts on an Owners Corporation is complied with; and that the property is properly maintained at the lowest reasonable cost.
It is our intention that the only “work” that an owner or Strata Committee member should have to do is to make decisions on the operation of the strata scheme. All other activity such as collecting levies, paying invoices, obtaining quotes, issuing work orders, preparing meeting agendas, etc is the responsibility of the strata agent. Of course owners and Strata Committee members are free to take on additional responsibilities should they wish.
At Waratah Strata Management, our fee structure is based on the number of lots in the strata scheme. Our Agency Agreement’s Schedule of Services details all of the services included in the management fee. In most cases, we find that if the Strata Committee works closely with the agent, there is usually little need for any extra service charges to be incurred.
In addition to the Management Fee, the Owners Corporation is required to reimburse the expenses incurred in running the Owners Corporation, such as photocopying, postage, computer system expenses etc. These charges, known as disbursements, are also charged on a fixed amount per lot so that owners have certainty on their strata management expenses each year.
To obtain a detailed quote package, tailored to suit your scheme please click HERE or go to the quotations page on this website.
3. How do I know the agent’s licence is current?
You can conduct an online licence check on the website of Fair Trading NSW www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au or call them on 133 220. It is vitally important that you appoint only licensed agents so that your Owners Corporation is protected under the Property Services Council Compensation Fund.
Waratah Strata Management’s Corporation Licence number is 10008316 and our Licensee-in-Charge is Robert Crosbie, Licence number 242561.
4. Does the agent belong to a professional industry association?
An industry association or institute is a focal point for any profession and provides a source of training, information and networking that is essential for individual members. Waratah Strata Management is an active member of Strata Community Australia (NSW), Member Number 11539 and our staff regularly participate in training seminars and conferences.
5. What experience does the strata manager have in my type of complex?
By managing a wide variety of buildings and schemes across the Sydney metropolitan area, including residential, commercial, industrial, retail and mixed-use complexes, Waratah Strata Management has built up an extensive background of strata management skills over many years. We have extensive experience with Owners Corporations; Community and Neighbourhood Associations; and Building Management Committees (BMCs).
Our managers have worked in strata management, real estate management and construction management. This experience is now centred solely on providing a personal, professional service to Owners Corporations, Community and Neighbourhood Associations.
6. Does the agent have professional indemnity insurance cover?
Professional indemnity insurance is an essential cover for any agent.
Waratah Strata Management maintains a $2,000,000 professional indemnity policy and a $20,000,000 Public Liability policy with Vero Insurance.
7. Does the agent have any commission arrangements?
Under the Agency Agreement between an Owners Corporation and a strata managing agent, full disclosure of commissions received is required.
Waratah Strata Management lists the following insurers, underwriters and brokers in the Agreement:
CHU Underwriting Agencies Pty Ltd
Strata Unit Underwriting Agency Pty Ltd
Strata Community Insurance Pty Ltd
Finn Foster & Associates Pty Ltd (Insurance Brokers)
Whitbread Insurance Brokers
Driessen Insurance Brokers
Austbrokers Sydney (Insurance Brokers)
Honan Insurance Brokers
CRM Brokers Pty Ltd (Insurance Brokers)
BCB Insurance Brokers
As an Authorised Representative or Distributor for these insurers, if policies are taken out or renewed with one of these companies, a remuneration is paid to Waratah Strata Management, with the amount disclosed in the Annual General Meeting agenda each year. This remuneration helps to defray the cost of obtaining insurance valuations, attending to renewal of the policy (including obtaining alternative quotes) and making insurance claims during the year. It is important to understand that if an Owners Corporation renewed its insurance directly with the insurance company it would pay the same premium as it does through Waratah Strata Management, therefore the fee we earn does not increase your insurance cost.
Waratah Strata Management receives no commissions, other than those listed above, from any individual or organisation in connection with management of its strata and community title portfolio.
8. How do we contact the agent and get help?
Communication is the key to successful management. Once appointed, every owner needs to be able to discuss issues with the agent.
At Waratah Strata Management, each manager is assigned a specific group of buildings to manage and that person becomes the day to day contact for the owners and Strata Committee of those complexes.
Email is the preferred method of contact, so that a permanent record of activity is maintained. Our managers endeavour to respond to all emails within 24 hours (excluding weekends). Where more detailed investigations are required before a response can be provided, we will acknowledge receipt of your email and advise the likely timeframe for a detailed response.
Our managers are also available for telephone contact during normal business hours. Should they be unavailable when you ring, telephone calls are returned as soon as possible, but usually no later than within 24 hours (excluding weekends).
Our managers are available for onsite meetings to inspect and discuss issues that may be occurring at your property.
Appointments to meet at our office can also be arranged; however you should make contact beforehand to make sure your manager will be available.
9. Where does the agent hold its trust accounts?
There are strict guidelines laid down in the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 concerning trust accounts. And that’s good – after all, the strata managing agent is looking after money on behalf of a strata scheme – the owners’ money.
Waratah Strata Management operates a separate trust account for each scheme with Macquarie Bank Limited. Separate interest bearing investment accounts and term deposits can also be arranged for surplus funds. The accounts are operated by our authorised personnel only, and we recommend for your peace of mind, that the Owners Corporations accounts be audited each year.
10. How do I pay my levies?
Paying your levies by the due date is easy. Using DEFT Online (www.deft.com.au) or DEFT Phonepay (1300 301 090), you can pay your levies by credit card, or by debit direct from your bank account. If you want to use the direct debit facility, you need to register your bank account details with DEFT Payment Systems. Contact www.deft.com.au or ring 1800 672 162 for a brochure. Paying by credit card may incur a small surcharge, depending on the credit card you use, however the amount will be advised before you finalise your payment. Using DEFT Payment Systems also allows you to schedule future levy payments, so that you can make sure levies are paid on time, or view past DEFT levy payments. The best part is that you can access DEFT 24 hours a day. You can also pay your levies by Bpay from your cheque or savings account and by Postbillpay over the counter at any Australia Post outlet by cash, cheque or EFTPOS.
These are the quickest and simplest means of paying your levies on time as the payments are processed in the banking system overnight. Your strata plan is credited with your payment overnight, and your personal levy account is updated. However, if you use Bpay or one of the DEFT options late at night, your levy payments may not be processed until the following night which causes a small delay in the funds reaching your strata plan’s bank account. Paying your levies by cheque in the mail is also an option but remember to allow time for the payment to be received by the due date.
If you misplace your levy notice, simply call 9114 9599 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will promptly arrange for a replacement.
11. How much will our levies be?
Probably the most frequently asked question of all! As a strata managing agent we do not have the authority to decide the amount of your levies – only the unit owners can do this at your Annual General Meeting each year. Our role is to provide guidance and advice to the owners, so they can decide what funds are needed to meet the Owners Corporation’s expenses.
We prepare a detailed budget based on the Owners Corporations last years expenses such as cleaning, gardening, insurance premium, routine maintenance, etc and what we anticipate this year’s expenses will be, with these funds going into your Administrative Fund. The Strata Act requires a 10-Year Capital Works Fund Forecast report which recommends how much should be put into the Capital Works Fund (formerly Sinking Fund) for future long term maintenance such as painting, gutter replacement, fence replacement, etc.
These amounts are presented as a proposed budget at each Annual General Meeting and it is then up to the owners to accept or amend the budget as they wish. The levy amount that each owner pays is determined by the approved budget and each owners share of the property based on the Units of Entitlement recorded on the Strata Roll for each property.
A common misunderstanding is that your levies are the fee paid to the strata managing agent for providing its management service to the strata scheme. Our fees are only a small part of your Administrative Fund expense and in most cases would only be around 5 – 10% of your total levy.
12. What does the agent do about unpaid levies?
Unpaid levies are a problem for any scheme, becoming more and more serious the longer they remain unpaid. Having owners who do not pay their levies on time can have a serious impact on the cashflow of an Owners Corporation, particularly in small schemes.
Waratah Strata Management actively monitors unpaid levies every month and commences appropriate action to recover these monies. Usually a friendly reminder is all that is necessary, but in a few instances, debt recovery action has to be instigated. We have a pre-determined process for escalating action based on the dollar amount outstanding and the period the levy is overdue. The cost of this action is borne by the defaulting owner.
The Strata Act also permits owners to be charged 10% interest for any levies not paid within 30 days of the due date. Our accounting system automatically charges this interest when applicable.
Owners Corporations can also elect to provide a 10% discount to owners who pay their levies before the due date to provide further incentive to owners to pay on time.
13. How will I know where and when our money is being spent?
Apart from the day to day contact involved in managing your property, probably the most vital aspect of communication between a managing agent and a strata or community scheme is financial reporting. Accurate and timely reports have always been vital in running a business and it’s no different for a strata scheme.
Waratah Strata Management provide an Owners Portal which allows all owners to access up to date financial information whenever they want. Every year a full Balance Sheet and Income & Expenditure Statement is sent to all owners with the Annual General Meeting Agenda. Financial reports are also available on request, such as prior to Strata Committee meetings.
The best way to know where your money is going is to check these reports and if there are any queries, talk to your manager.
14. How can I be sure that our building is insured for its correct value?
The Strata Schemes Management Act no longer specifies that an insurance valuation is to be obtained on a regular basis, however Waratah Strata Managements policy is to obtain a valuation every 3 years. This valuation calculates the cost of replacing the building should it be totally destroyed and includes the cost of demolition and removal of the debris; architects, engineers and Council fees to have the building redesigned and approved; and the cost of any delays in completing the rebuilding work (up to 18 months).
As most insurance companies recommend an annual increase in the building cover amount, the compounding effect of these increases can result in the building becoming over-insured and you paying higher insurance premiums than necessary. It is for this reason that Waratah Strata Management recommend obtaining a valuation once every 3 years to ensure your building is neither over, nor under insured. We will arrange for written valuations to be prepared by professional valuers on behalf of your scheme and adjust your insurance coverage in line with the valuation report.
15. If we appoint an agent, can we keep our contractors?
We are often asked this question where a strata scheme has a favourite cleaner or handyman. The answer is absolutely YES! While we have an excellent group of tradespeople to call upon, if a scheme wishes to continue using one you are happy with and who knows your property, that is fine with us. However, remember that for your protection it is always best to employ tradespeople who are suitably qualified, licensed and insured for the work they are doing.
16. Suppose we have an emergency – what happens?
We have a 24 hour emergency service for owners if they have the misfortune to experience a problem such as a burst pipe, blocked sewer or damaged security door. During business hours, you simply ring our office number 9114 9599 and we will arrange the necessary repairs to be undertaken as quickly as possible.
After business hours, on weekends and Public Holidays you can contact our 24/7 emergency service on 1300 730 214.
17. What about our strata scheme’s records?
Accurate records are vital in the management of your strata scheme asset. We use the class leading Rockend STRATA Master software to maintain all records in accordance with the Strata and Community Acts. All records are updated on a daily basis so that anyone wishing to view the information can be assured of accurate and reliable information. Access to a large volume of the records is available 24/7 via our Owners Portal. Our computer records are securely backed up both onsite and offsite each day, so in the event of a major computer issue we can be fully operational again very quickly. The original Certificates of Title for each property are retained in a fire-proof safe with access granted only to authorised personnel.
18. Where and when will our meetings be held?
Important issues are decided at meetings of the Owners Corporation or Strata Committee, therefore it is important that meetings be held at a time and location convenient to the majority of owners. We convene meetings (Annual, Extraordinary and Strata Committee) during the day Monday to Friday and evenings Monday to Thursday. Meetings can be held at your premises, at meeting rooms convenient to the property (such as a local club or association), by Zoom video/audio conference, or by appointment at our office.
Our management fee includes conducting your Annual General meeting, plus an agreed number of additional committee or general meetings. If the Owners Corporation or Strata Committee wish to meet with the managing agent in attendance more often than the agreed number of meetings, there may be an additional fee, but only after approval of the costs by the Strata Committee.
Minutes of meetings are forwarded to owners within 7 days after meetings so that all owners are kept up to date about important issues.
19. What happens if our strata scheme becomes involved in a dispute?
Living and/or working in a strata title property means that everyone lives closely together, which sometimes leads to conflict.
Waratah Strata Management has had extensive experience in handling a wide variety of such disputes and can assist your strata scheme in resolving the issues. Most disputes can be resolved through effective communication and making all parties aware of their rights and responsibilities under the Strata and Community Acts, and other legislation that can impact on strata schemes.
Where disputes escalate we are able to assist with the Mediation and Tribunal procedures available through Fair Trading NSW, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) and the Local Court, as appropriate. Additional charges may apply, but will be discussed with and approved by your Strata Committee prior to any expenses being incurred.
It is also possible that the Owners Corporation may become involved in a major legal or building defect matter. We can arrange access to experienced strata solicitors, engineers and consultants who have specialised knowledge relevant to each issue and who can help resolve these problems.
20. How can our strata scheme enforce the by-laws
The by-laws registered with your strata scheme are the “rules and regulations” by which all residents are supposed to abide. However human nature being what it is, by-laws are seen by some as rules that apply to everyone else – except themselves! This is probably the most difficult situation for any Owners Corporation.
Our advice to the Owners Corporation is that each incident needs to be dealt with promptly, but in a non-confrontational manner. Once again, a friendly reminder about the by-law requirement is usually sufficient to produce the desired result. If there is a continued breach of the by-law, we can offer our experience to the Owners Corporation in managing the issue efficiently and professionally as outlined in the previous item.
21. How do we appoint a managing agent?
Whether or not you have one already, a strata managing agent may only be appointed (or have their services terminated) at either your next Annual General Meeting or a specially convened Extraordinary General Meeting. In other words, this is a decision that has to be made at a meeting to which all the current owners have been invited and with the correct motions on the agenda.
It is vital, however, that these meetings are convened in accordance with legislation by the Secretary of the Owners Corporation, or current managing agent acting as Secretary. We can advise and assist you with this procedure. Contact us on 9114 9599 or email@example.com for a detailed explanation of the options available and draft documents and motions that can be used for this purpose.
22. Voting at General Meetings
To be able to vote at a general meeting you must be financial as at the date of the meeting, based on any amounts owing at the date the notice for the meeting was issued. This means that your levies and any other outstanding amounts, such as special levies, penalty interest and debt collection costs, must be paid up to date otherwise you will be able to attend, but not vote, at general meetings.
23. Who’s Responsible? A guide to common property.
There are many structural elements, fittings and fixtures in the construction of strata buildings and it is important to know whether they are the responsibility of the Owners Corporation or the Lot Owner. Strata Community Australia (NSW) (formerly the Insitute of Strata Title Management) has published a document that explains who is responsible for each item. Following is a link to the SCA NSW publication ‘Who’s Responsible? – A guide to Common Property’.
As you can appreciate an Owners Corporation is subject to many Acts, both State and Federal and it is our responsibility to assist the Owners Corporation to understand and abide by the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 and its Regulations.
Should you have any questions regarding the responsibility for the repair of any item it is well worth your time to contact us and clarify your responsibilities.