From the Ground Up – The Application of New STRA

FROM THE GROUND UP – THE APPLICATION OF
NEW STRA LAWS IN NSW

About a year ago, some operators of short-term rental accommodation (STRA) in New South Wales started hearing a strange noise in the air and naturally assumed it was the sound of the sky falling. As the months passed, more and more operators started to hear the same noises and the growing consensus was indeed that the sky was falling. As of 1 November 2021, the sky fell. Or did it?

A new regime of laws that deal with STRA have been progressively coming into effect in NSW over the last 12 months, with the last piece falling into place on 1 November. At first glance, the latest batch of these new laws specifically targeting the use of dwellings for short-term accommodation, appear to affect every person who lets out a house, apartment or room on a short-term basis.

Under the new laws, established STRA operators understandably are focussing a lot of attention on the fact that if your dwelling is not registered and doesn’t have certain physical attributes or safety features, the dwelling cannot be used for STRA. However people who previously didn’t live next to a house, or in a complex, that provided STRA, are now more concerned by the fact that under the new laws, any residence could potentially start offering STRA if the owner ticks all the boxes.

Although the new STRA laws are primarily intended to regulate Airbnb style accommodation and other similar practices, the language used in the laws can be quite confusing and appear to make the scope of the laws reach well beyond the average Airbnb host. This has led many organisations that deal with STRA (such as online booking agencies) to require any and all STRA operators jump a number of hurdles if they wish to continue using their services after 1 November 2021.

This would be an appropriate response if the new STRA laws applied to all short-term accommodation. However, not all STRA operators need to take any action as a consequence of the new STRA laws, as the laws simply don’t apply to every operator. So who do the laws apply to?

The new STRA laws apply to residential buildings that have not been specifically approved by the local Council to be used as tourist or visitor accommodation. Instead of stressing about whether you are offering hosted or non-hosted accommodation, whether you have the right kind of door locks or fire alarms, or if your building is Class 1a or Class 2, the first question you should answer is “What does the Development Approval for my complex say?” Your Development Approval is one or more documents that have been issued by your local Council which states how your building may be used, provided the building is constructed in accordance with the Council’s requirements.

As stated in the STRA Frequently Asked Questions document dated September 2021, issued by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment:

“Approved tourist and visitor accommodation such as serviced apartments, bed and breakfasts, eco-tourist facilities, hotels, motels, resorts, camping grounds or caravan parks are not required to register for STRA.

They are allowed to continue to be listed on online accommodation platforms.”

If the Development Approval that applies to your building confirms that your building is allowed to be used as tourist and visitor accommodation (or some subclass of that use) it means that the new STRA laws do not apply to you at all. It also means that if you (or anyone else) are operating STRA in the building, the sky is not falling after all.

However, if the STRA laws do apply to your complex, the units you rent will need to meet new safety standards and be registered. You, and all other participants in the short-term accommodation arrangement, will need to comply with the STRA Code of Conduct (this includes the letting agent, the online booking agent, the owner of the unit and the guest). Plus there may be a limit on the maximum number of days the unit can be let each year set by yo

ur local Council (generally between 180 to 365 days a year).

Be sure to get legal advice if you are unsure how to interpret your Development Approval documents, or if you simply can’t find them. And like most laws, be aware that there are exceptions to the exceptions that might apply in your personal circumstances.

 

Article Written by Ben Ashworth of Small Myers Hughes Lawyers

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Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Can a Body Corporate Withhold An Owner’s Access to a Lawyer’s Written Advice?

CAN A BODY CORPORATE WITHHOLD AN OWNER’S ACCESS TO A LAWYER’S WRITTEN ADVICE?

 

Let’s take look at this scenario: A body corporate believes that an owner is in breach of the scheme by-laws or that a caretaker is in breach of the management rights agreement. The body corporate engages a law firm to provide advice in relation to the alleged breach by the owner or caretaker. The law firm provides written advice to the body corporate. The owner or caretaker wants to see that advice and applies to inspect the records of the body corporate.

 

Whether a body corporate may withhold access to legal advice or other record requires an understanding of legal professional privilege, joint privilege, agency, and the circumstances that may constitute a waiver of that privilege.

 

What is legal professional privilege?

 

Legal professional privilege is a right that exists to protect communications passing between a lawyer and a client.

 

It is often thought that all communications between a lawyer and client are protected by privilege. However, a valid claim for privilege only applies to those communications made for the dominant purpose of providing legal advice or legal services to a client, or for use in current or anticipated litigation.

 

The Body Corporate and Community Management Act (Qld) 1997 does not override that right so it can be claimed by a body corporate when an owner applies to inspect records.

 

The body corporate has the responsibility of proving its claim of privilege.

 

The difficulty in the strata context is not so much whether legal professional privilege exists but rather who that privilege may be asserted against. This is answered by the principle of joint privilege.

 

Joint privilege

 

A body corporate may share privilege with some or all of its owners that have a common interest in the subject matter of the communication. Often parties can have more than one interest in obtaining legal advice and it is not enough to simply identify a common interest.

 

That common interest must have sufficient strength or quality to allow the protection of privilege to be shared.

 

If the interests of the body corporate and an owner in obtaining that written advice are diverged, then the body corporate can claim privilege against that owner and withhold access to that communication against that owner.

 

Agency

 

If a body corporate has a valid claim of privilege and the interest in the communication is not shared with an owner, that owner may ask another owner to obtain access to that communication to get around the claim of privilege.

 

The law closes this gap by providing that a body corporate can still withhold access to a communication if that communication is being accessed by an owner that is acting as an agent for an owner to which a claim for privilege exists.

 

Even if the above analysis results in a body corporate being able to claim privilege, it must be considered whether that privilege has been waived.

 

Waiver

 

As the owner of privilege, a client can choose to waive that right to privilege. In our experience this is often done inadvertently without an appreciation of the impact it may have on that person’s claim of privilege.

 

At its highest, privilege may be waived by conduct that is inconsistent with maintaining confidentiality in a communication. Applying this to an owners corporation, the type of conduct that may have the effect of waiving privilege includes:

  • making references to the content of legal advice in correspondence to all owners;
  • including copies of legal advice in meeting minutes;
  • proposing motions that refer to the outcome of legal advice.

 

However, if the conduct relates to limited actual or purported disclosure of the contents of a privileged communication, and an express understanding that the communication is not to be shown to anyone else, the conduct may not have the effect of waiving privilege.

 

If there is conduct that ordinarily constitutes a waiver of privilege, it is necessary to consider whether circumstances exist that would make it unfair to determine that privilege has been waived.

 

Fairness

 

If a body corporate has acted inconsistently with maintaining confidentiality in a communication, a court has discretion to consider the circumstances surrounding that conduct and whether it would be unfair to determine that privilege is waived. This will usually be most relevant where there has been no intentional waiver of privilege.

 

Summary

 

The application of legal professional privilege to communications in a strata context is complex and often overlooked. If a request to inspect the records of a body corporate is made and the body corporate is considering withholding access to records, the body corporate will no doubt obtain legal advice (which itself may be privileged) regarding the body corporate’s ability to not allow a communication to be inspected.

 

Failing to do so may result in the protection of privilege being lost forever.

 

 

 

 

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Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

New Disclosure Requirements for NSW Sales and Qld BC Records that may be accessed

NEW DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR NSW SALES

and

WHAT QLD BODY CORPORATE RECORDS CAN BE ACCESSED

 

  1. New Disclosure Requirements for NSW Sales

 

Real Estate agents in NSW should be aware of a recent change to the Property and Stock Agents Regulation 2014 in relation to agents’ material facts disclosure obligations.

 

From 1 September 2021, agents must disclose any order that is in force under the Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Act 2020 (the RAB) to prospective purchasers.

 

These orders can include a:

  • Building work rectification order – requiring the developer or builder to carry out or refrain from carrying out building work to eliminate, minimise or remediate serious defects or potential serious defects, or
  • Prohibition order – prohibiting the issuing of an occupation certificate for the apartment building, or its registration as a strata plan. The Building Commissioner may make such an order when:
  1. an expected completion notice was not given or was given less than 6 months before the application for the occupation certificate was made;
  2. an expected completion amendment notice was not given or was given less than 6 months before the application for the occupation certificate was made;
  3. a serious defect in the building exists;
  4. a building bond has not been given.
  • Stop work order – to ensure building work stops due to the likelihood of significant harm or loss to the public or occupiers, or significant damage to property.

Agents who are aware of a material fact set by the regulations, or ought to reasonably know, and fail to inform prospective purchasers (whether intended or not), face a maximum penalty of $22,000.

 

NSW Fair Trading is introducing these changes to restore confidence in the residential construction industry and to make sure that apartments being built are trustworthy. The Department will continue its compliance and enforcement role to ensure real estate agents are meeting their disclosure obligations to buyers. This will include targeted audits of agents who are selling properties where RAB orders have been issued.

 

  1. Qld Body Corporate Records that may be Accessed

 

What constitutes a “record of a body corporate” is much broader than the compulsory list of documents set out in the Queensland regulation modules, and has ramifications for the duties of a body corporate and the breadth of access allowed to an owner or prospective purchaser.

 

The Three categories

 

Consistent with the approach of department adjudicators, the Queensland body corporate legislation in effect creates three categories of records:

  1. records that must be kept;
  2. records that should be kept;
  3. records that are

 

‘Records’ are defined to include the rolls, registers and other documents kept by the body corporate under the Body Corporate and Community Management Act (Qld) 1997 and applicable regulation module. They include paper and electronic documents.

 

What records must be kept?

 

The body corporate regulation modules set out a long list of documents that a body corporate must keep, with varying requirements about the length of time each document must be kept.

 

Examples of these documents are:

  • accounting records for each financial year;
  • insurance policies;
  • orders made against or in relation to the scheme or body corporate;
  • correspondence received and sent by the body corporate;
  • minutes of committee and general meetings.

 

These are however, not the only documents that form part of the records of a body corporate.

 

What records should be kept?

 

A body corporate has a statutory duty to act reasonably in anything it does in carrying out its function given to it under the body corporate legislation and community management statement.

 

Acting reasonably, a body corporate would be required to keep:

  • additional maintenance records;
  • records relating to its obligations under workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation;
  • any other document retained by the body corporate for the purpose of discharging its functions.

 

If records are not kept that are records that a body corporate, acting reasonably, should have kept, then a department adjudicator may find that the body corporate has not acted reasonably in responding to an owner or prospective purchaser’s request to access records.

 

Records that are kept

 

There are often records that are kept by a body corporate that are beyond the scope of records required to be kept under the body corporate legislation.

 

These records also form part of the records of a body corporate and an owner or prospective purchaser may be allowed to access these records.

 

However, there are ways that a body corporate may withhold access to records under certain circumstances, and if a body corporate is unsure as to what documents constitute body corporate records or how to withhold access its records, it should seek assistance before or during the seven day turnaround time for record requests.

 

Article Written by Col Myers of Small Myers Hughes Lawyers

 

 

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Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Who Pays the Costs to Defend a Defamation Claim Involving a Committee Member?

Who Pays the Costs to Defend a Defamation Claim Involving Committee Members?

 

Committee members naturally think that any claim made by or against them while performing their duties should be defended, at the cost of the body corporate (or its insurer). 

However, this is not necessarily the case.

Insurance

Insurance policies for community titles scheme will generally include cover for office bearer’s liability. This policy is designed to provide protection to committee members against losses arising from their conduct performed (or not performed, as the case may be) during the course of carrying out their committee duties. 

However, this policy will generally contain an exclusion from protection for defamation. This means that if a defamation claim is made against a committee member, the insurer will generally not provide cover for any costs incurred in defending that claim. 

Body Corporate 

There are statutory restraints regarding how a body corporate may apply its funds. 

The primary functions of a body corporate include administering the common property, enforcing the community management statement and carrying out other functions – as required by the body corporate legislation. 

Body corporate funds may only be used to undertake these statutory purposes, and cannot be used for other purposes, no matter how worthwhile those other purposes may be. 

Adjudicators have previously determined that paying for costs incurred by a committee member defending (or initiating) a defamation claim, are not usually considered costs that fall within the functions of a body corporate. 

A body corporate’s duty to act reasonably also applies to the way that the body corporate chooses to spend its money and the circumstances where it might be reasonable for a body corporate to pay the legal costs of a committee member arising from a defamation claim are limited.

In the event that a body corporate was to pay the costs of a committee member arising from a defamation claim, it is likely that an adjudicator would order a body corporate to recover those costs, should an adjudication application be made. 

What to do? 

Before a body corporate makes any payment for costs incurred by a committee member in a defamation claim, it should obtain legal advice, otherwise the body corporate may be embroiled in a dispute in the Commissioner’s Office, despite any good intentions. 

If you are a committee member (including a non-voting building manager) and you are not protected from liability for a defamation claim by the body corporate legislation, it is unlikely that a body corporate will be allowed to pay for costs incurred by you to defend that claim. 

However, if a committee member is required to defend a defamation claim, the circumstances surrounding the claim may make it appropriate for the body corporate to pay for any costs incurred, and legal advice should be obtained about the committee member’s position about the recoverability of costs.

Article Written by Col Myers (August 2021)

 

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation
Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

 

 

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Terminated Caretaking Agreements – is it the Courts Problem

TERMINATED CARETAKING AGREEMENTS – IS IT THE COURTS PROBLEM?

 

We all know that disputes about terminated caretaking and letting agreements are heard by QCAT. However the Supreme Court of Queensland has recently considered whether the Courts have jurisdiction to hear claims arising out of a terminated caretaking and letting agreement (Dunlop Case). 

If they do, it would appear likely that access to litigation by caretakers and letting agents may increase.

The facts

  • Mr Dunlop conducted a caretaking and letting business at an apartment complex in Port Douglas;
  • Mr Dunlop was subsequently convicted of an offence, and at the time of the conviction, Mr Dunlop’s property licence was cancelled;
  • The Body Corporate made enquiries in to Mr Dunlop’s cancelled licence and, upon confirmation, resolved to terminate the caretaking and letting agreement;
  • Mr Dunlop filed a claim in the Supreme Court for the lost value of the caretaking business, alleging that there was a breach of contract and Australian Consumer Law;
  • Mr Dunlop’s claim was against the Body Corporate, committee members and solicitor;
  • The Body Corporate sought an order setting aside Mr Dunlop’s claim on the basis that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction, as the claim should be considered a “complex dispute” within the meaning of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (Qld) (BCCMA);
  • The Body Corporate alleged that the “only remedy” for resolution of the dispute is by an order of a specialist adjudicator or QCAT.

 

What did the Supreme Court think?

The Supreme Court largely agreed with the Body Corporate’s position, given the very precise wording of the BCCMA, by commenting:

“The applicants submit the claim against the body corporate is a complex dispute … namely a dispute between the body corporate and a caretaking service contractor and letting agent about a contractual matter, namely the termination of the engagement of the contractor and letting agent. From this it follows… that pursuant to s 229 the “only remedy” for resolution of the dispute is by an order of a specialist adjudicator or QCAT.” 

The Judge further commented that “these conclusions trend in favour of granting the application to set aside the claim and statement of claim in respect of the body corporate for the reason that it is a complex dispute to be resolved pursuant to s229(2)”. 

The Court considered that some aspects of the claim may be heard in QCAT and the remainder heard in the Supreme Court. However this outcome would be less than desirable, given that each claim has some connection to the other claims put forward by Mr Dunlop. 

In these uncertain circumstances, the Courts ultimately refrained from reaching a conclusion on the matter of jurisdiction pending further submissions on the matter. 

What does this mean? 

Whilst the outcome of this case is yet to be determined, it is of particular note to any Strata Manager that should the Courts take the view that such matters are within the jurisdiction of the Courts, it would appear likely that access to litigation may increase for a terminated caretaker/letting agent. 

Regardless of the outcome, the case serves as a timely reminder to ensure that any Body Corporate considering taking such steps to terminate a caretaker/letting agreement seek the professional advice of a Body Corporate lawyer.

 

Article Written by Brendan Pitman (1 July 2021)

 

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Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

 

 

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Fixing the Lottery this is Building Defects in NSW Strata Buildings

FIXING THE LOTTERY THAT IS BUILDING DEFECTS IN NSW STRATA BUILDINGS

 

We have all heard about the appalling building defects that have occurred in a number of new strata buildings in Sydney in recent years. Complexes such as “Opal Tower” and “Mascot Towers” are shocking examples of innocent mums and dads buying their dream residence, only to find that their unit and their complex were shoddily built and their dream has turned into a financial nightmare. Karen Stiles, from the Owners Corporation Network (which represents apartment owners) has said it “beggars belief that buildings so badly built received occupation certificates which allowed developers to settle on apartments.” How was this allowed to happen?

Design and Construct Contracts

Contractual arrangements for multi-storey projects differ, but commonly developers engage a builder to undertake a design-and-construct project. This means the builder is responsible both for the development of the design and the construction of the building. Whilst the developer might initially engage architects and engineers to prepare early designs to obtain planning approvals, these consultants then become subcontractors. Once contracted, the builder will work to find efficiencies and cost savings in the development of the design and construction of the building.

Although building approvals are required, the nature of a design-and-construct project means that many aspects of the design change after the initial approval is obtained. Many certifiers approve, allow, or are not aware of, variations that have been made. The result is that changes to approved design occur frequently, at the discretion of the builder, project manager and/or contractors and without independent certification.

The Shergold Weir Report commissioned by the NSW Government found that inaccurate designs mean that certifiers can never fully ensure compliance because they then must rely on inspections and some of the most important safety elements are hidden from view and a point-in-time inspection cannot properly assess essential construction processes.

Changes Implemented

The NSW Government has supported the vast majority of the Report’s recommendations and has (or is) implementing the following major reforms across the construction industry:

  1. Appointment of an expert Building Commissioner to act as the consolidated building regulator in NSW;
  2. Putting in place new laws that require building practitioners involved in designing buildings to submit building plans to the Commissioner (so that they may be audited), declare that the plans are BCA compliant and meet other relevant requirements and provide reports explaining why that is the case for performance solutions. Builders will also have to declare that their buildings are constructed in accordance with these plans. It will be an offence to knowingly or recklessly declare non-compliant plans or fail to lodge the documents on time. Disciplinary action will be able to be taken against practitioners who improperly make these declarations. The Building Commissioner will not need to sign off on building plans;
  3. The Building Commissioner will register the building practitioners who can lawfully make a declaration that plans are compliant or make a declaration that plans accurately reflect a building’s as-constructed design. These practitioners will have to maintain the necessary skills and insurance to meet the registration requirements and will be subject to disciplinary action for professional misconduct;
  4. Ensuring that building practitioners owe a duty of care to Owners Corporations and subsequent titleholders of residential developments, as well as unsophisticated construction clients who are small businesses. This means that homeowners will have a right to pursue compensation when they suffer damage because of a building practitioner’s negligence.

From 1 July 2021, most of these changes took effect for Class 2 buildings. These are typically multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings where people live above and below each other.

The NSW Government see Class 2 as the highest priority right now, but the NSW Government will expand the reforms to other classes of construction in the future.

Also, previous changes to the Strata Schemes Management Act relating to residential strata properties that are four or more storeys now require that:

  • Developers must lodge a building bond equal to 2% of the building contract price, before an application is made for an occupation certificate;
  • Developers must give documents to the building inspector that help with their inspection;
  • There is a means for the developer and owners to agree on the amount of the building bond to be released for repairs, if they can’t agree;
  • A debt recovery mechanism has been put in place that enables the recovery of unpaid or insufficient bonds from a developer

Conclusion

Strata building defects have resulted in enormous extra workloads for Strata Committees and Building Managers – not to mention the emotional and financial hardship caused to unit owners. David Chandler was appointed the NSW Building Commissioner in 2019 after an impressive forty year career in the Australian construction industry.

Hopefully, he is the right man to clean up all of this shoddy construction, workmanship and design in strata buildings.

Article Written by Col Myers (July 2021)

 

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Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

 

 

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ARAMA Service Provider Finalist

ANNOUNCEMENT

ARAMA Service Provider Finalist 2021

ARAMA FInalist 2021

ARAMA FInalist 2021

 

 ARAMA Australian Resident Accommodation Managers’ Association congratulates Col Myers on becoming a finalist in ARAMA’s Management Rights Industry Top Awards.

These Awards are designed to Target Outstanding Performers and this acknowledges that Col is certainly one of them.

 

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Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

 

GET IN TOUCH

Tel:          +61 7 5552 6666

Fax:         +61 7 5528 0955

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Postal:      PO Box 1876, Southport QLD 4215

 

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Pros and Cons of Pooled Letting

PROS AND CONS OF POOLED LETTING

 

When an owner lets out their unit through an on-site letting agent, there are two ways that the owner’s letting income is typically calculated. These can be described as the “direct income” method or the “pooled income” method.

The method to be used is set out in the letting appointment (i.e. the agreement between the letting agent and the owner of the investment unit).

The majority of letting appointments pay an income to owners using the direct income method, where the income collected from the unit bookings is paid directly to the owner, after deductions of all expenses.

The pooled income method is used predominantly for short term lettings in a hotel style business. When using pooled income, the combined income and expenses for all units in the letting pool are aggregated and then a share of the profit is paid to all the owners in the letting pool.

In a perfect world, the pooling of income would seem the fairest way for Managers to operate their letting businesses. By pooling the income, owners can’t accuse the Manager of favouring certain owners over others when allocating bookings, and all owners rise and fall together with the success of the letting business. However, as we all know, we don’t live in a perfect world!

There are a number of common issues that can arise when operating a pooled letting business. The types of questions you will encounter include:

  • How to fairly determine the income ratio? Do you allocate based on the number of beds, unit entitlements (which are designed to reflect value), quality of the unit, sea views or some other unique quality? Or do you divide everything equally regardless?
  • How to share expenses? Do you share any or all expenses across the letting pool? Do you share expenses only up to a certain cost? Do you use the same ratio for sharing income to also sharing expenses?
  • How to determine who authorises significant expenditure? Do you ask a committee or one or two owner representatives, or should you be asking all owners – as all owners are sharing the costs?
  • How to operate a maintenance fund? Do you deduct a maintenance levy each month or just withdraw expenses as and when incurred?
  • What happens when an owner leaves the pool or has only just joined the pool? Should part of the retained maintenance funds be returned to the leaving owner? What if an owner leaves the pool after the general maintenance fund has just paid out for a new hot water system or installed new carpet in their unit?
  • How to adjust income when the owner uses their unit? Do you make no adjustment, or do you pro rata adjust for the days used?
  • How to change the terms of the letting appointment? What do you do if not all owners agree to your proposed change?

If you elect to go the pooled income route with your letting business, all of the above questions need to be thoroughly considered and appropriately addressed in your letting appointments with your owners. Unfortunately, we see a lot of letting appointments providing for pooled income where the issues raised above are not sufficiently answered.

When these issues are not suitably addressed we see unfair scenarios arise where owners are not receiving an income that truly reflects their unit’s contribution to the letting pool income. For example, if two bedroom units are in demand far more often than three bedroom units, the owners of the two bedroom units are effectively supplementing the income of the owners of three bedroom units. To add insult to injury, if the distribution of the pooled income is based on unit entitlements (i.e. the value of the units), the three bedroom units will also receive a higher return from the pool than the two bedroom units.

When you look at the questions and examples above, you can see there are many situations where a disgruntled owner could easily start asking some difficult questions. Questions that will be uncomfortable to answer if the terms of your letting appointment are either vague or silent on the issue.

If you operate a letting business that pools the income given to owners and your letting appointment doesn’t have the answers to these questions, it’s definitely recommended that you prioritise a revision of your letting appointments, as it only takes an issue with one owner to be an issue with all owners.

Article Written by Col Myers (June 2021)

 

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Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

 

 

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Resolutions Without Dissent

THE POWER OF ONE

 

The Queensland strata legislation, like other States’ legislation, includes varying motion types which necessitate different levels of voting support in order to become resolutions. Each State has unique categories of motions and different threshold voting requirements for such motions to be approved. Whilst there is some overlap, a special resolution in one jurisdiction may have a different meaning in another (at least in terms of the way votes are calculated).

In Queensland, the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 prescribes the following resolution types (for general meetings):

  • Ordinary resolution
  • Majority resolution
  • Special resolution
  • Resolution without dissent

The most common resolution type is an ordinary resolution. Such a resolution is calculated quite simply in terms of a majority of those voting. The motion passes if there are more votes in favour than against. The qualifying aspect to this is if somebody (anybody entitled to vote) requests a ‘poll’. In such circumstances, the motion is passed if the total contribution lot entitlements in favour of the motion are more than the total contribution lot entitlements against the motion. An ordinary resolution is the only resolution type where a poll can be requested.

One infrequently used resolution type is a majority resolution. Because they are rarely required, there seems to be a tendency to assume (incorrectly) that a majority resolution is the same as an ordinary resolution – after all, it talks about a ‘majority’ doesn’t it? However, they are quite different things. A majority resolution is calculated based on the total number of lots in the scheme. The resolution carries only if the votes in favour of the motion are more than half of the lots entitled to vote on the motion. Given the general apathy and low voting turnout at general meetings, obtaining the required support for a majority resolution can be quite difficult.

Another misconception that owners and others in the strata sector frequently seem to have is the voting requirements for a special resolution. There appears to be a common assumption that such a resolution requires a simple 75% majority. Whilst perhaps that might be useful as a ‘rule of thumb’, the counting of votes for a special resolution is quite different. The test is a three-tier one, and requires all of the following requirements to be satisfied:

  • At least two-thirds of the votes cast are in favour of the motion.
  • The votes counted against the motion are not more than 25% of the number of lots in the scheme.
  • The contribution lot entitlements for lots voting against the motion are not more than 25% of the total contribution lot entitlements for the scheme.

That brings us to the final resolution type and the purpose of my commentary in this newsletter – the resolution without dissent. Such a resolution quite simply requires that no vote is cast against the motion. What’s more, this resolution type does not prohibit owners who owe a body corporate debt at the time of the meeting from voting on the motion. Accordingly, a single owner (financial or unfinancial) can ensure that such a motion does not carry – and this frequently occurs. 

It holds true that there will be very serious decisions that a body corporate will need to make from time to time that should require strong majority support – even beyond the requirements of a majority or special resolution. However, the question arises as to whether a unanimous voting requirement is a step too far? 

Of course, there will be those that point out that any failure of a resolution without dissent to pass can be the subject of challenge in the Commissioner’s Office – the relevant test being whether it failed to pass ‘because of opposition that in the circumstances is unreasonable’ – a test for which we have High Court authority (Ainsworth v Albrecht [2016] HCA 40).

However, that still means that valuable time and resources are consumed in seeking to have an unreasonable vote overturned in the Commissioner’s Office. Conversely, if one or two votes were insufficient to prevent the passing of the motion, it would be up to those ‘aggrieved’ owners to take the initiative and commence dispute resolution proceedings to challenge the passing of the motion. Without good cause and reasons for their dissent, most owners will probably not take up this option – particularly as frivolous or vexatious applications can be dismissed with costs. 

That brings us to another question about whether the current statutory maximum of $2,000.00 is sufficient to discourage the lodging of frivolous or vexatious applications. Certainly not in my opinion. However, that is a debate for a different day – and a different newsletter!

Article Written by Jarad Maher (26 May 2021)

 

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation
Disclaimer – This article is provided for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

 

 

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