VIC State Recap – Summer 2020

The Strata Community Association in Victoria seeks to raise the bar, improve standards and accountability. It aims to support its professional, well qualified Members stay up to date on regulatory changes to ensure compliance. Owners Corporations Managers are the custodians for Lot Owners – they manage $300 billion dollars of their assets.

Legislation Update

The review of legislation and regulation is crucial in ensuring that laws remain relevant, not overly burdensome and reflect changes in industry practices and the community as a whole.

In May 2019 after 3 years of review, an Exposure Draft Bill was presented to SCA (VIC) and we made a fulsome and thorough submission advocating on behalf of Owners Corporations Managers and Lot Owners alike.

Finally, the Owners Corporations and Other Acts Bill 2019 was introduced to the Victorian Parliament on 10 September 2019. For no explicable reason the proposed legislation, so long in the making, was not debated before the Parliament rose for the year. It remains listed for resumption of debate on the Notice Paper for the first day of sitting 4 February 2020 and we hope to report on its passage and enactment in the next publication.

The Strata Community Association (VIC) consistently raised 3 issues of grave concern on the proposed, then introduced, Bill:

1. Excessive compliance costs to businesses and significant financial burden on owners corporations to comply with the preparation of financial statements in accordance with Australian Accounting Standards.

2. Limiting the number of proxies for all tiers of owners corporations will significantly impede an owners corporations ability to achieve a quorum, make decisions and unfairly limits the number of proxies that can be held by a single person. This proposed limitation is a restriction on a person’s fundamental right.

3. Failure to introduce minimum professional standards of education and training, including ongoing compulsory professional development (CPD) and a pathway through accreditation to a registration regime.

We will continue to lobby the Victorian Government to address these matters by amending the Bill. In anticipation of the Bill being passed into law, we look forward to working on the Regulatory Impact Statement with government to ensure the implementation of the new provisions are fair, have no unintended consequences and balance the needs of Managers along with Lot Owners.

Life Safety in The Built Environment is Everyones’ Responsibility

Among the most serious obligations of an Owners Corporation is the maintenance of Essential Safety Measures (ESM). Owners Corporations Managers need to have a practical understanding of system requirements, suppression and risk mitigation for every building under their management.

The Victorian Building Authority is embarking on an audit of ESMs and the Municipal Building Surveyor and Chief Fire Officer have a statutory responsibility to enforce legislative and regulatory requirements. SCA (VIC) will be holding a number of seminars on ESM in the coming months to ensure members are fully aware of compliance requirements.

SCA (VIC) is establishing protocols with Local Government, the Victorian Building Authority and Cladding Safety Victoria. This will ensure that all Members, including Suppliers, are kept up to date on audits, activities and training opportunities.

Future-Proof Your Building

To ensure buildings and assets are maintained as required and Essential Safety Measures are compliant, building input information needs to form a ‘living’ document, recording product recalls, replacements and rectification works for equipment and systems on an ongoing basis. Currently, building product and user manuals can be non-existent, incomplete or difficult to access. This makes organising and contracting works inefficient, time consuming and more costly. Strata managers procure routine maintenance and other works at the direction of and on behalf of Lot Owners.

SCA (VIC) welcomes its national peak body development of the Australian Building Manual Guideline in conjunction with Engineers Australia and WebFM to ensure that all building documentation from permit stage and soil testing, to application for an Occupancy Permit, includes a register of all: 

• building materials, plans, modifications, substitutions 

• products used 

• appliances, fixtures and fittings; and 

• equipment and system manufacturer maintenance and warranty information.

We have advocated strongly in our recent submissions to the Victorian Building Policy Review for the withholding of an occupancy permit until and unless all relevant documentation is satisfactorily provided to the new strata lot owners and Owners Corporation Committee.

Cladding Calamity

It is now two years since the release of the Building Confidence Report by Shergold Weir.

While the time for blame, finger pointing and criticism about the calamities arising from systemic building regulatory failure in the built environment serve no purpose, these legacy issues must be addressed. Cladding is the tip of the iceberg. There are also product safety issues, for example, spontaneously combustible infinity cabling and exploding glass.

There will always be some building industry operatives who seek out and take advantage of legislative and regulatory loopholes – you can’t regulate against greed and dishonesty.

Strata Community Association is part of the solution to the cladding and non-compliant building product crisis, with our Victorian CEO Maree Davenport representing our national peak body on the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) Industry Leaders Forum.

The Strata Workforce Career Ladder and Education Pathways.

SCA (VIC) top priority is empowering through education – to equip our members with the right tools to be highly effective and successful in the Strata Industry.

Our member-centred planning focusses on what members need and want, how they want it delivered and when they need it by.

Strategic focus group are underway that will evaluate the following areas of our value proposition: 

• Education 

• Communication

• Career and Professional development 

• Networking 

• Mentorship

• Events; and more.

This year, we are also progressing into the next phase on the exciting Strata Workforce Competency Framework (SWCF) project which will see us providing members with a clear way to plot their education pathways to advance their skills and careers, aligned with their personal and professional development plans. The SWCF outcomes are linked to growth in professional competence and will certainly transform our Owners Corporations workforce to deliver greater output and value to consumers.

In seeking to raise the bar on professionalism in our sector, we aim to create a suite of strategic products to enable and lead change in the strata industry.

By improving professional practice, the Professional Indemnity Insurance profile for the industry improves, premiums are reduced, barriers to entering the strata sector are minimised and consumers benefit.

I look forward to reporting to you further on this process, as we come together as the keepers of professional standards for the sector.

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