Fair Trading preps for unit onslaught

The NSW Department of Fair Trading is preparing for an onslaught of multi-unit dwellings in the near future and is shoring up procedures to strengthen the rights of individual unit or property owners in strata and community schemes.

Reforms to the Community Land Management Act and Community Land Development Act attempt to enforce 58 changes to the current laws, including a better explanation of obligations and expenses involved in maintaining a property through a stricter building maintenance schedule.

NSW Department of Fair Trading minister Matthew Mason-Cox said at the heart of the changes are measures to better protect residents, with a focus on ensuring transparency and accountability in decision-making.

“We are maximising participation for residents and tenants, giving them greater ownership of the issues that count for their schemes,” Mr Mason-Cox said.

“Community scheme law reforms will be delivered as part of a package of building industry reforms concerning the multiple occupancy of buildings, strata security of payments and home warranty insurance.

“We are establishing a framework for community schemes that is modern, flexible and removes the onerous requirement to have all owners agree unanimously on a decision about their property.”

Mr Mason-Cox said community schemes range from high-rise buildings to rural subdivisions as well as large closed communities with private roads, high security and extensive recreational facilities such as marinas and golf courses.

The difference between strata schemes and community schemes is easily defined, with strata responsible for the upkeep of common property and maintaining everything within ‘airspace’ of their lot. In contrast, community schemes require lot owners to be responsible for any structures on their lots, along with everything inside them, as well as the upkeep of common property.

Changes to the existing law include limiting proxy votes to prevent an individual or small group controlling a scheme, streamlining the enforcement of by-laws to give serial offenders a greater chance of being dealt with and to make it easier to recover enforcement costs.

Mr Mason-Cox said more than 25 per cent of the NSW population lives or works in strata and community schemes and in the near future more than half of Sydney’s housing stock will be multi-unit dwellings. He said the future framework will remove any onerous requirement for all owners to agree unanimously on a decision about their property.

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