29 Oct Managing a strata unit – Michael Teys
Why would you want to look after your own management, whether it is a single property or the the strata management of a block. In today’s show Michael Teys from Block Strata tries to answer that for me in in the process you’ll see, I think, why you would have to be crazy.
Kevin: There’s an old saying that people who are really good at their job make the job look easy. That’s probably why some people believe they can do the job even better. But when it comes to managing a strata unit, I think you have to be really careful.
Michael Teys joins me. Michael, of course, is from Block Strata.
Good day, Michael.
Michael: Hi, Kevin. It’s nice to be with you again.
Kevin: Thank you for your time. Michael, you’d have to be foolhardy to do this, wouldn’t you? Why would you want to do it?
Michael: Yes, absolutely you’d have to be foolhardy, but I think a lot of people get into a habit. Some people took this on, perhaps, because they were semi-retired. But it’s a rare beast indeed that can withstand the complexities of the current strata laws, wherever you’re based in Australia. There are safety issues, there are privacy issues, there are discrimination issues, well beyond the basic strata law issues.
Kevin: We’ll have a look at a few of those in a moment, but I think in some cases, it’s a matter of last man standing. I know that on a number of occasions, people I’ve spoken to have said, “Well, no-one else will do it. I might as well do it,” or “I have to do it.”
Michael: Yes, I hear that view from time to time, but I think as the various state governments undertake review – there are strata law reviews going on up and down the east coast of Australia at the moment – I think these days, they pretty quickly come to the view that it’s time to get a professional in.
Kevin: Let’s have a look at a couple of the reasons why you should get a professional in. Where do you see some of the really big mistakes being made, Michael?
Michael: Look, the biggest mistake is in failing to undertake the repairs and maintenance that a strata entity has to undertake in a timely way. There are cases bouncing around where mold has started because repair and maintenance cracks haven’t been fixed quickly. That leads to tenants leaving and damages cases.
Safety – fire safety – is a big issue. People have died recently in strata title buildings, although admittedly newer buildings that are unlikely to be privately managed. Nevertheless, these are very real risks.
One of the real risks of any apartment building at the moment is the incidence of a meth lab – believe it or not – because that can be done in a domestic kitchen.
These things are rare, but they do happen, and you don’t want that on your watch as an individual who is doing this. It’s a very thankless task. You don’t make a lot of friends by undertaking strata management.
Kevin: You probably bring on more enemies than anything else. What about liability if you were to take it on? How liable are you?
Michael: The laws are different in each state, but the general consensus is that so long as you’re not reckless, then you’ll be okay. The problem is I see cases of recklessness. When you refuse to get a fire certificate, that’s recklessness. When you refuse to do a safety report, that’s recklessness. It’s going to be the extreme case of a death on the common property that is going to lead to some sort of prosecution and bring these chickens home to roost.
I think more than anything – more than liability – is a sense that this is just too hard, and why should I, as the willing worker, take the burden for the building that is getting a free carry?
Kevin: In a lot of the cases, too, the most urgent matter is the one that’s going to be attended to, as opposed to having some kind of a management plan in place.
Michael: Correct. The other thing that I think is common with self-managed schemes is that they’re presently being done by older people. They might have been 60 and semi-retired when they moved into the apartment, but they’re now approaching their 80s, and things like the complexities of laws and the demands of people become just a little bit harder to bear as we get older.
Kevin: As legislation comes on, does it become harder to manage these on your own than it would have been, say, a decade ago?
Michael: Absolutely. Once upon a time, you would have had a meeting in someone’s lounge room, someone would have belted out a set of minutes, there’d be a very simple bank account, and you’d pay the bills when they come in.
These days, you need to have certificates issued so that when people are buying in and out, they get a certificate from the strata about what rates and taxes and other things are due on the apartment. There are liability issues that are carried with that. There are fire safety issues, there are workplace health and safety issues. Privacy laws are being used in strata at the moment as a new weapon of warfare.
Kevin: In what way, Michael?
Michael: I’m acting for a couple of managers who have been caught where they’ve disclosed details about a particular unit owner to other people. In one case I’m in at the moment – and I’m actually acting for the owner –the strata manager alleged that this person was bipolar and did so in an e-mail. There’s an action there with the Human Rights Commission, and there’ll be a substantial fine imposed.
That strata manager is acting as the agent of the owners corporation. I guess that’s a case in point where you can get into trouble even when you are professionally managed, let alone when you’re not.
Kevin: If you’d like to know a little bit more, and maybe you need a management plan in place, I’d suggest you make contact with Michael and his team at Block Strata.
Michael, what’s the web address to get in touch?
Kevin: Or you can call 02 9562 6500.
Michael Teys, thank you so much for your time.
Michael: Thank you, Kevin.