QLD State Recap – Winter 2020

As we move towards the new normal, it is important to look back and appreciate what we have learned and the obstacles we have been able to overcome. As the peak industry body, SCA (Qld) has put much effort into providing its members with the best possible support, in form of pop up webinars and customised information and advice. Through the last few months while the pandemic essentially shut down strata communities, we played a pivotal role in ensuring that managers can sufficiently inform bodies corporate to assist them to comply with the Health Directions and understand their role in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Businesses are re-opening under restrictions, employees are returning to the workplace, and consumers are keen to get the economy moving again but there are still some lasting restrictions on Queensland bodies corporate, probably well beyond 2020.

SCA (Qld) was well positioned to transition to online delivery for all meetings and seminars as we have run them virtually in parallel with face-to-face for the last three years. Soon we will welcome members in person again, but the Board is first conducting risk assessments and planning how we will support our member’s education needs while complying with the new rules. The risk assessment includes evaluating possible attendance restrictions, new hygiene protocols and contingency provisions for larger events.

Member Assistance Program

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the Board acted quickly and introduced a new program to support member mental health. As bodies corporate face unprecedented scenarios, while trying to also navigate their usual duties, it can become stressful for many members dealing with the needs of their schemes. Since 1 June, all individual members registered under a corporate membership can access the Acacia Member Assistance Program (M.A.P.), a confidential counselling service offered to help members with any personal or work-related issues. Members can access up to 3 free sessions per annum included in their membership. The M.A.P. can provide support for various issues including employee assistance, financial support service, legal referral, and dietitian support. This service builds on our recent member survey “Let us walk in your shoes” which demonstrated the urgent need for avenues to deal with bullying and harassment in the sector. Making this program available within a short implementation time is a testament to how important members are to us at SCA (Qld).

Advocacy During COVID-19

SCA (Qld) have been hard at work during COVID-19 advocating for our members and ensuring that they are addressed and looked after as restrictions are eased. I have raised a few issues around electronic meeting attendance with the Attorney-General as early as mid-March as well as raising our concerns about communal facilities being treated as commercial premises in stage 2 of the Roadmap to Recovery. It has been hard for governments to cut through the noise but I am confident that our existing relationship helped make sense of some of the issues affecting strata communities.

2020 Election Priorities Announced

As we are now moving towards a State election, the Board has finalised seven critical issues and submitted these to the major political parties and key stakeholders. This election in my opinion represents a prime opportunity to highlight body corporate matters to ensure that lot owner rights as consumers are being prioritised. What we have seen in the last two or three years is the cracks in the system becoming evident and having a serious detrimental effect on lot owners both financially and emotionally. The built environment has many facets that need urgent attention, such as systemic construction issues resulting in widespread building defects, coupled with a lack of an effective statutory warranty scheme for most multi-owned properties. Further, there is a need to address the human side of communal living to enhance community harmony. Also, there is the ever-increasing volume and complexity of compliance and safety issues facing strata schemes and their occupants. How can consumers keep up with the rapid change and increasing complexity of living in a body corporate?

The first step is to engage a professional body corporate manager and we are working on disseminating the value proposition widely. Now more than ever, body corporate managers play a vital role as trusted advisors in facilitating functional, cohesive communities. Because of the pivotal importance of the body corporate manager’s role, the Board and I are committed to drive for constant and continual professional development of body corporate managers. We have been calling for better regulation of strata managers for a long time and will continue to do so, whether this is in the form of registration, licencing and/or setting minimum accreditation and continuing professional development requirements.

More than ever before do we need a robust legislative framework that protects owner’s investments and builds strong strata communities. Consumer protection from defects is unsurprisingly a major priority for SCA (Qld) for the upcoming State election. Faulty building products, defective building work and the lack of an effective statutory insurance scheme for buildings over 3 storeys are just some of the systemic issues preventing strata schemes from holding the construction sector to account and causing serious erosion of the value of lot owners’ collective investment in their buildings. These must be addressed with better systems for building design, construction, maintenance as well as stronger consumer rights and more efficient methods for enforcement of such rights.

In Queensland there are now 700 strata manager members who administer a total sinking fund balance of $165 million. By bringing these issues to light towards the upcoming state election we are hoping for a large-scale positive change in strata management and strata living. We believe that the 1.2million Queenslanders who occupy our strata schemes are significant enough to stand up for.

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