Queensland Strata Reform

Reform to the Queensland strata legislative environment has been a key priority of SCA (Qld) over the past two years. The reform impetus has come for a host of reasons, not the least of which being legislation drafted in the late 1990s remaining largely unchanged and arguably ‘not fit for purpose’. There is also a housing crisis driving a need to fix a range of problems and issues in strata living.

Making strata attractive and keeping it affordable has been a key solution to the problem of housing in Queensland and that has seen the drive for reform traversing the spectrum of strata issues – from insurance to defects and everything in between.

Whilst there has been some significant progress, many big-ticket items remain and we are expecting to see some frenetic activity over the remaining part of the term for the Queensland Labor Government, driven by an AttorneyGeneral who is pleasingly determined to bring about sensible change.

A seat at many tables

Effecting change for the sector has seen the SCA (Qld) team participate in many forums and work with a wide range of stakeholders to implement the views of our membership.

A key part of the success of our advocacy program is the high level of engagement we have with our members and the sector more broadly. This ensures we understand the issues important to them, and we create and find the best possible solutions to problems, and produce highly relevant reform proposals for Government to consider.

Perhaps our most important contribution to the reform agenda comes from our participation in the Community Titles Legislation Working Group, which was convened by the Attorney-General to examine our strata legislative framework.

We also participate on the sub-committee of the Ministerial Construction Council to reform Home Warranty Insurance in Queensland and drive the ‘fix’ for combustible cladding.

These committees combined, examine almost every issue affecting our sector.

Queensland’s unique strata legislative environment and the importance of BUGTA reform

Queensland, uniquely in the Commonwealth, has two major “categories” of strata legislation. The Body Corporate and Community Management Act (1997) (“BCCMA”) and accompanying regulation modules regulate about 99% of schemes, whilst the Building Units and Group Titles Act (1980) (“BUGTA”) and the Mixed Used Development Act (1993) (“MUDA”) along with a host of development specific acts regulate the balance.

The BUGTA and MUDA legislation was modified six months ago in response to the ongoing and very public issues with respect to Couran Cove, a scheme based on South Stradbroke Island on the Gold Coast. Whilst these modifications have taken effect and unfortunately failed to stabilise that situation, we are pleased the Government showed the political will to reform strata.

More reform on the Government’s agenda

Early last month the Attorney-General also announced the first in what will be two reform bills for this calendar year. This Bill will consist of:

• Proposed changes to body corporate legislation that will make it easier for units to be redeveloped.

• Changes to allow for the termination of a community titles scheme with the support of 75 per cent of lot owners.

• Changes to allow for Bodies Corporate to be able to prohibit smoking in outdoor and communal areas, to better protect residents from second hand smoke.

• Changes that will prevent Bodies Corporate from banning pets, except in specific circumstances.

This package of reforms will also improve body corporate governance and management, including by making it easier for residents to lodge disputes, and expanding adjudicators’ powers. These changes also include allowing bodies corporate to tow vehicles which are preventing access or causing a hazard. Consultation on the draft legislation will occur this year.

Whilst none of this is particularly ‘earth shattering’ for the sector it will provide clarity for the public and help our managers resolve brewing body corporate issues.

What’s next on the reform program?

High on our agenda are some very ambitious reforms which will change the lives of the more than 1.2 million people who live in strata title property in Queensland.

SCA (Qld) has ambitions to ensure equitable reform to management rights. Our goal is restoring property rights to owners and protect our strata managers from being forced to manage schemes with entrenched disfunction that all too often arises out of near perpetual management rights contracts.

SCA (Qld) also has aspirations to regulate strata managers in our State in a similar fashion to New South Wales, with a coregulatory model of both a professional standards scheme and a licensing regime.

We are also advocating to have as much of the dispute resolution work for strata done in the Office of the Commissioner as is feasible. Strata is technical, it is specialised, and it should not be dealt with by people without the requisite training. It is unreasonable to expect generalists to deal with specialists’ problems.

SCA (Qld) will also work diligently as a voice for consumers when it comes to reform of the Home Warranty Scheme. The defects epidemic must end, and only through accountability will this come to fruition.

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