Strata Management in 2022 – A Perfect Storm & Proactive Management
When beginning my career in Strata Management all the way back in 2010, I could never have dreamed of the challenges which the industry would face over 10 years later due to a perfect storm of factors occurring simultaneously, namely ongoing severe weather events contributing to rising insurance premiums, a worldwide pandemic seeing a massive shortage of qualified and reliable trades people, access issues due to government mandated lockdowns, exponentially increasing costs of building materials, and increased legislative requirements such as those of the Design and Build Practitioners Act 2021 and tightened preventative fire compliance measures.
Due to the above numerous factors, the mental load on strata managers has increased by no small amount. Along with COVID19 lockdowns seeing more owners and occupants of strata schemes working from home, so too did this increase the day to day requirements of strata managers. Reports of noise complaints affecting the peaceful enjoyment of homes, coupled with an escalation in wear and tear of common property due to increased usage from the additional 8+ hours spent by occupants within their units who would have previously been in an office where these issues would be either entirely avoided or dealt with by commercial facilities management, leading to escalated requests for repairs and maintenance.
Across our company (and industry, from conversations with others in the strata sector), our email communications have soared to an average of easily over 200 per day per strata manager leading to additional phone calls, issuing of quote requests and work orders (many of which are significantly delayed due to the aforementioned strain on tradespeople who are facing their own challenges in this new era), and by-law breach enforcement requests. Whilst we find that our clients are mostly understanding of the challenges being faced across the industry and the globe, unfortunately there are those who become tired of waiting for results on remedial works due to trades shortages and new design requirements under the Design and Build Practitioners Act, leading strata managers to deal with heightened tensions and being required to de-escalate conflict. Whilst this has always been part and parcel of the role of strata manager, who has had to wear many hats (think lawyer, psychologist, mediator, secretary, project manager; the list goes on), this has only become more prevalent in this era.
Although this presents an unprecedented challenge for the industry, it also presents a unique opportunity for dedicated and customer-focussed strata managers and the agencies who support them to distinguish themselves and prove their value to clients and stakeholders in ways which have scarcely previously been available, allowing professional strata managing agencies to demonstrate their points of difference. To be successful in the strata management industry in 2022, we must work smarter (as well as harder!) to keep clients informed, with a focus on transparency of communication in the first instance to ensure clear expectations are set and an understanding of all matters is provided, leading to less opportunities for communications to breakdown later, matters to stall, and dissatisfaction to breed. It is of the utmost importance to set realistic expectations with clients initially, with all attempts being made to under promise and over deliver to exceed these expectations. It is essential that ongoing training is readily available and easily accessible to strata managers to stay abreast of the ever changing legislation, and to that end, I believe that the introduction of the Professional Standards Scheme for the strata management industry provides our clients with a level of assurance that their asset is being managed by qualified professionals who are held to a code of conduct backed by an industry body which offers comprehensive support and training.
Although these past 2 years have been more challenging than any I’ve personally experienced in my previous twelve years in the industry, it is also essential that proper support and training is provided for the newer members to the industry, as this will be a baptism by fire to those beginning their career in such turbulent and challenging times. Whilst this job is absolutely worthwhile and we have the privilege to help and guide owners to most effectively resolve disputes and maintain a harmonious living environment, as well as manage what is often their most valuable asset, we should take this responsibility seriously and act as diligently as possible and with empathy for all people as we are dealing with their homes, which is a very personal and important responsibility.
During these challenging times, as well as relationships with our clients being key, so too is prioritising the support of our colleagues in all aspects of mental and emotional wellbeing where burnout in the industry is apparent. Due to the prevalence of flexible working arrangements, it is even more essential to maintain open communication channels, ongoing training initiatives, and to ensure engagement when remote work is involved.
Strata management is certainly a long game, with many projects (such as defect remediation, fire order management, and major remedial repairs) potentially taking years from conception to completion. It is important to focus on what can be controlled and achieved day by day. How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time! I am excited to continue to bear witness to the ever evolving face of the strata industry, and look forward to being involved and engaged in what is sure to remain a growth industry for many years to come what with the ongoing development and increased housing requirements throughout NSW and Australia showing no signs of decreasing.