Frequently asked questions - Strata schemes

The following responses to frequently asked questions are based on model by–laws provided under the Schedule 3 of the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016. You should check with your owners corporation as to whether different by–laws are in place for your scheme.

Find the answers to frequently asked questions on the following strata scheme topics:

Common property

The major difference between owning a house and owning a unit or apartment (known as a 'lot') in a strata scheme, is that the external walls, the floor and roof do not usually belong to the lot owner. These areas are usually common property and generally the responsibility of the owners corporation.

Who is responsible for pruning trees on the property?

If the trees are common property, it is the owners corporation's responsibility. If the trees are part of your lot – you are responsible, as the owner.

I want to use the garden area outside my unit just for myself, can I do this?

If it is part of your lot, yes. If it is common property, you will need to get the permission of the owners corporation. This usually requires a licence or common property rights by-law to be passed by special resolution (75% of members of the owners corporation have to vote for it) at a general meeting.

Can I do my own repairs to common property?

Only if you have the permission of the owners corporation. If common property needs repair or maintenance, the owners corporation should undertake that work, not an individual owner.

Who is responsible for looking after the wheelie bins?

The owners (or residents) are responsible for putting their own bins out, bringing them in, and keeping them clean. The owners corporation usually owns the bins.

Who is responsible for installing and maintaining window safety devices?

As the window safety devices are installed on common property, the maintenance and repair of window safety devices is the responsibility of the owners corporation.

However, the owners corporation can adopt a common property rights by-law which confers the right and obligation to install and maintain any locking or safety device to individual lot owners. Under the common property rights by-law, lot owners are able to install and maintain the device without first obtaining consent from the owners corporation. This is important for tenanted properties, as it may be more appropriate for the lot owner to organise the repair and maintenance of the locking devices.

Alternatively, if the owners corporation has adopted the model by-laws, individual owners can install window safety devices without consent even if the device forms part of the common property. The model by-laws also provide that the owner must maintain and keep in a state of good and serviceable repair of locks installed in this way in their own lot.

Do I have to insure the contents of my strata unit?

While there is no obligation to do so, it is highly recommended that you take out adequate insurance on the contents of your unit. The insurance that the owners corporation organises covers the structure of the building and any fixtures inside lots (for example, sinks, baths, shower trays).

However other contents such as your furniture, electrical appliances, curtains and carpets would not be covered. Owners can suffer major loss if their personal property is not insured in the event of a fire or through water damage. In addition, contents insurance usually covers your paint finishes on walls and ceilings.

Refer to Common property and the lot for more information.

Can I do anything I like to my backyard?

If your backyard is part of your lot, you can do anything as long as it doesn't breach by-laws, for example, you must not damage common property or create disturbing noise.

I want to park in a section of the driveway that’s common property. Can I get permission to do this?

Send a written request to the secretary or strata managing agent. Permission should then be voted on at a general or strata committee meeting.

Owner's corporation and by-laws

The owners corporation is made up of all the owners in the strata scheme. By-laws are made or changed to meet the needs of all owners and to assist with the running of the strata scheme.

For more information on by-laws go to the By-laws in a strata scheme page.

What if I do not want to be part of the owner’s corporation. Can I manage my unit myself?

All owners are always members of the owners corporation. They have voting rights and obligations to pay levies and comply with by-laws. Owners cannot ‘resign’ from the owners corporation.

However you are free to manage your unit as you see fit. You can enter into a contract with a managing agent or caretaker to manage your unit, if you wish.

I want to get a dog. Do I need the owners corporation’s permission?

Check your by-laws first and visit our by-laws page for the most up-to-date information on pets in strata.

Someone is making a lot of noise and its disturbing my sleep. How do I get them to stop?

The best approach is to try to resolve the problem yourself, so talk to the person first. If that doesn’t work or, if you feel intimidated, you have two choices.

You can ask the owners corporation to issue them with a Notice to Comply with a By-Law (PDF, 279.38 KB) then seek a fine if they keep breaching.

Or you can apply for mediation through Fair Trading to have a mediator assist you to discuss the issue with them.

Is it a legal requirement to have a noticeboard?

Only if it is required in your by-laws. If the owners corporation does not have a noticeboard it must send all meeting and other notices to each owner directly.

The people above me pulled up their carpet without permission of the owners corporation and put down a floating floor which is very noisy, what can I do?

Under some by–laws that apply to schemes, owners do not require permission to remove the carpet in their lot airspace.

However the by–laws may require them to notify the owners corporation before proceeding.

If a noise problem results, you can talk to them about it or ask the owners corporation to serve them with a Notice to Comply with a By–Law (PDF, 279.38 KB).

If the unit is tenanted, you can usually take action against the owner seeking to have the floor carpeted or covered to reduce noise.

The new Act allows owners to install carpet on their floors without permission. However, permission of the owners corporation must generally be obtained to install or replace wood or other hard floors.

I want to install window safety devices in my own lot, do I need permission from the owners corporation?

Lot owners can install a complying window safety device in their own lot despite any by-laws which may be in place and without obtaining the consent from the owners corporation.

The device must be installed in a competent and proper manner and must be in keeping with the building’s appearance. Lot owners who install window safety devices must give written notice of the installation to the owners corporation within 7 days after completion of the installation.

Furthermore, lot owners who install their own devices are responsible for the maintenance of those devices within their own lot.

Our by-laws don’t deal with things I think are important. What can I do?

You can draft your own by-law and put it on the agenda for the next general meeting.

It requires a special resolution – 75% or more to vote in favour. Once it is passed, the by-law must be registered with NSW Land Registry Services, then it is an enforceable by-law that must be obeyed. You may want to get assistance from your managing agent or a solicitor.

For more information, refer to The owners corporation and the Schedule 3 model by–laws section of Common property and the lot.

Meetings of the owners corporation

The Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 sets out how meetings are called, who can attend and vote, how they are to be run and how decisions are made.

I am an owner – what meetings do I have to go to?

While it is not compulsory for any lot owner to attend owners corporation meetings, a strata scheme operates better if those concerned take an interest in its affairs.

There would usually be several meetings of the owners corporation a year, however the annual meeting, when contributions are set for the coming year and the strata committee is elected, is the only meeting required to be held by law. It is helpful if people are willing to make themselves available for election to the strata committee.

I am a tenant – do I have to go to any meetings?

Tenants are not required to attend meetings. However, if a tenant is registered with the owners corporation they can attend meetings of the owners corporation.

They do not have voting rights, and must be given permission to speak, and can be excluded when certain financial issues are to be discussed.

If registered tenants make up more than 50% of the occupants of a Scheme, they can nominate a tenant to be their representative on the strata committee.

However, whilst the representative can speak at the meetings, they similarly do not have voting rights and can also be excluded when certain financial matters are to be discussed. An owner could choose to give their tenant a proxy vote on the owner’s behalf.

How do I get to have a say in the meetings?

In order to speak and vote at meetings you need to be an owner. Your name needs to be on the Strata Roll and you also need to be up to date with payment of levies.

We discussed repairs to the garages at the last meeting and I thought we had made a decision, but then I got the minutes and it had been left out. What should I do?

Tell the secretary or strata managing agent. The minutes should then be amended. If they are not, the matter should be raised at the next meeting. If it remains unresolved, you can apply for mediation through Fair Trading to settle the matter.

How many meetings should we have a year?

Each year the owners corporation must have one annual general meeting and also one strata committee meeting to appoint office bearers. Other meetings can be held as the need arises.

What can we do about people who refuse to attend meetings?

Encourage owners to get involved in the management of their scheme. However there is no requirement for them to attend and they can choose to stay uninvolved if they wish.

Is there a deadline for providing minutes?

General meeting minutes and records of motions must be sent out within 14 days of the meeting.

Each member of the strata committee must be given a copy. Each owner must be given a copy, if the scheme is not a large strata scheme. If the scheme is a large scheme, then a copy must be provided to each owner who request a copy of the minutes.

Refer to Meetings of the owners corporation for more information.

Meeting procedures

When can I use a proxy to have my say?

A proxy is where you authorise someone else to vote on your behalf when you are unable or choose not to attend a meeting.

Download the prescribed proxy form (PDF, 172.69 KB).

Are there any circumstances when I cannot ask someone to act as a proxy for me?

You will not be able to use a proxy if your name is not on the strata roll or if your contributions are not paid in full.

We spend half the meeting talking about a matter that was not even on the agenda and then people voted on it. Is this OK?

Only matters on the agenda can be voted on and resolved. Matters not on the agenda may be discussed, but would need to be put on the agenda for the next meeting for the matter to be voted on.

I asked the secretary to put an issue about parking on the agenda of the general meeting but it was not included. What should I do?

Seek to raise it at the meeting and ask again to put the motion on the agenda for the next meeting. Alternatively lodge an application for mediation through Fair Trading to resolve the matter.

What is the difference between a special resolution and a unanimous resolution?

Both are votes required for certain motions at general meetings (not at strata committee meetings).

A special resolution is where there must be at least 75% of owners in favour of the motion, based on unit entitlement.

A unanimous resolution is where everyone votes for the motion.

Does the chairperson have the deciding (casting) vote at any meetings?

No, there are no deciding votes at general meetings (includes AGM) or strata committee meetings.

Do we need a quorum to hold a meeting?

Yes. A quorum for a general meeting is 25% of people entitled to vote or owners who hold 25% or more of unit entitlement (or duly appointed proxies).

A quorum for an executive committee meeting is at least 50% of the executive committee members.

If no quorum is present within the next half hour after the relevant motion or business arises for consideration at the meeting, the chairperson must either adjourn the meeting for at least 7 days, or declare that the persons present either personally or by duly appointed proxy and who are entitled to vote on the motion or election constitute a quorum for considering that motion or business and any subsequent motion or business at the meeting.

Refer to Meetings of the owners corporation for more information.

Strata committee

The owners corporation must elect an strata committee which can make many of the day-to-day decisions about running the scheme on its behalf.

How do I get elected to the strata committee?

The strata committee members are elected at the AGM. Your nomination must be submitted before or during the AGM.

Any owner can nominate themselves. Owners can also nominate a non–owner as long as they do not nominate themselves as well. Co–owners may be nominated by another co–owner of their lot who is not standing for election, or by an owner of another lot.

Note: Anyone nominated for election to the strata committee must disclose any financial, business or family connections they may have with the original owner or building manager. After being elected, committee members must also disclose any financial, business or family connections they may develop with the original owner or building manager.

How do we get someone removed from the strata committee?

The strata committee member can resign, otherwise that person’s position can be terminated by a special resolution (where 75% vote in favour) at a general meeting.

The Tribunal may also make an order removing a person from the strata committee if satisfied the person has failed to comply with the Act or failed to exercise due care and diligence, or engaged in serious misconduct whilst holding office.

Can I attend an strata committee meeting?

You can attend the meetings if you are an owner (or company nominee) but will need the permission of the strata committee to speak. You will not be able to vote.

Refer to Strata committee of the owners corporation for more information.

How do you replace an strata committee member?

The position can be filled by having a member of the owners corporation fill the vacancy in an ‘acting capacity’. This is generally the easiest solution as it can be done by passing a motion by the executive committee.

Alternatively, the vacancy could be filled by holding vote on the new appointment at a general meeting of the owners corporation.

Repairs and maintenance

The owners corporation is responsible for repairs to common property, owners are responsible for repairs within their individual lots.

Where does the money for repairs and maintenance of common property come from?

Contributions must be levied to do repairs. A motion is put to a general meeting to raise contributions to cover the cost of the work. The amount that needs to be paid by each owner is based on their unit entitlement.

What if the damage was accidental rather than caused by negligence? Is there a difference in who has responsibility to fix it?

The owners corporation must generally repair common property and an owner must repair their lot – it does not make a difference how the damage occurred (whether accidental or negligent).

The owners corporation can delay maintenance and repair if it determines by special resolution that it is inappropriate to do so, and its decision will not affect the safety of any building, structure or common property or detract from the appearance of any property in the scheme.

If an owners corporation has commenced action against a person in relation to damage to the common property, it can defer compliance until the completion of the action.

An owner can recover as damages for breach of statutory duty, any reasonably foreseeable loss suffered by the owner as a result of contravention of these requirements by the owners corporation, provided any such action is brought within 2 years after the owner first becomes aware of the loss.

If someone else damages your property, then like any damages claim, you may take legal action to recover the cost of repairs from that person.

I have filled out a maintenance form to get a repair done which is taking time. What should I do?

Speak to the secretary or the strata managing agent to find out how the matter is progressing. If the repairs are being delayed you can lodge an application for mediation with Fair Trading to try to settle the matter.

Some of my possessions were in the garage and they have been damaged. Who is responsible?

The owner or occupier is responsible for things inside their lot. They may be able to claim on their contents insurance policy.

Contributions, administrative and capital works funds

The owners corporation is responsible for setting up an administrative and capital works fund and can raise contributions from owners to pay for the expenses of running the strata scheme.

The owners corporation keeps putting up the contributions. What can I do?

Contributions are decided at general meetings and must be discussed and accepted by a vote of the owners. You can vote against the increase or put up a motion for a different contribution amount if you wish. A managing agent may put a motion for an increase in contributions on the meeting agenda but cannot impose contributions.

Contributions are normally only increased if there is a need to do new works or there are additional expenses. Ask why the increase is being made if you are not sure.

If you are concerned about rising costs you could try to negotiate paying in instalments. If you think the contributions are really too high, you can lodge an application for mediation with Fair Trading to try to resolve the matter.

I did not get a contribution notice so I have not paid anything for ages. Is this a problem?

Your contributions must be paid whether or not you receive a notice. Unpaid contributions mean you will not be able to vote at meetings.

Make sure your current address is on the strata roll so you can receive notices of both contributions and meetings.

You can pay your contributions any time up until a meeting starts, in order to be financial and therefore eligible to vote.

What can we do when people do not pay their contributions?

The owners corporation can impose a charge of 10% simple interest for contributions not paid within 1 month of their due date. The owners corporation can also take debt recovery action through the local court.

Why do we need to have a capital works fund plan?

All buildings need to be maintained regularly to retain their value and stop minor damage and deterioration becoming major problems.

Developing a 10–year capital works fund plan means that future repairs and maintenance are anticipated well in advance. The owners corporation can then agree on the best way to raise contributions to cover these future costs.

For more information about contributions, administrative and capital works funds, refer to the Levies and capital works funds page.

Strata managing agents

The owners corporation can engage a strata managing agent to work on behalf of all owners to help manage the scheme.

How much influence do we have over the managing agent?

The managing agent is the employee of the owners corporation. They can offer advice and direction, but final authority lies with the owners corporation. The owners corporation delegates the responsibilities it wants the managing agent to do on its behalf, and can retain responsibilities for itself if it wishes.

Our strata manager is terrible. He never follows up on our requests for repairs and we think his fees are too high for the work he does. Sometimes we aren't certain he is following the Act exactly.

You should discuss the matter with the agent. You can also hold meetings of the owners corporation to make decisions and the agent will be bound by these.

If this does not change things you could terminate the agent’s contract, but check first to see what termination provisions apply. The strata committee can always hold meetings to vote on carrying out the repairs themselves.

We sacked our managing agent – now they will not give us the financial records. What do we do?

Write to the agent. The owners corporation can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order for the agent to return the records.

How do we find a good managing agent?

Finding a good strata managing agent can be a key contributor to harmonious strata living. To find a good manager you could ask for recommendations from owners in other schemes, speak to local agents or contact Strata Community Australia, the Real Estate Institute of NSW or the Owners Corporation Network.

We recommend that you choose at least three potential agents and then interview them. Check to make sure they have a strata managing agent’s licence, that you understand their fee structure, and that you know what services they will be providing.

Find out whether they follow a code of ethics, and ask if they can provide references or contacts in other strata schemes so that you can check on the customer satisfaction of their existing clients.

There must be a written contract between the owners corporation and the strata managing agent, so make sure you know what is in the contract. It may be a good idea to get a legal advisor to check the contract before signing.

We have decided to manage our property ourselves. How do we organise this?

Validly terminate the agent’s agreement, then hold strata committee and general meetings to make decisions on your management issues.

You may need to convene a general meeting to vote in a new strata committee who will then appoint the chairperson, treasurer and secretary at their first strata committee meeting. The strata committee will probably then take over many of the duties that the agent has been doing.

Refer to Strata managing agents page for more information.

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