Often it falls on the strata manager to play the role of ‘bad guy’ – be it in collecting overdue levies, enforcing by-laws or letting owners know that something they want to do is in contradiction with the law. It’s not something we like to do. Strata Managers are generally customer service advocates, wanting to deliver the best service we can. And the reality is, that best service means being truthful, even if that truth isn’t the desired answer.
Of course, we also need to talk about the fact that strata managers act under instruction. We don’t, nor do we want to, make decisions on behalf of our owners and committee members. Our role is to inform and empower so the committee in turn can confidently make decisions for the betterment of the scheme.
Sometimes those decisions directly affect individual owners, say in circumstances where an application for a renovation is being considered. The committee needs to consider the Strata Schemes Management Act as well as the schemes by-laws. If an application does not meet requirements under either, the committee are obligated to reject it. And in turn instruct the manager to inform the owners. Ideally, we can than work with the owner to put together an application that will comply, this may require compromise, but can often be achieved.
One of the tasks where strata managers are likely to be accused of poor service is when collecting overdue levies. Take the 10% interest rate payable on levies more than 30 days overdue. This rate is determined by the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, not by the owners corporation, the committee and definitely not by the strata manager. Sure, it’s a high rate. Clearly legislators are encouraging owners to pay on time. It isn’t our rate. And where does all that interest end up? In the owners corporations trust account, not the pocket of the strata manager. Which is also why the strata manager cannot simply waive interest on request. It isn’t their money to refund.
All strata schemes rely on the prompt payment of levies to pay their bills. Essentials like insurance, electricity, water usage, cleaners and maintenance of assets and facilities. So you see, in following up unpaid levies, when we send out letters, emails and call owners, we are in fact providing a great service. We’re making sure the building can function. That residents are safe, insured, the lights are on and the lift is running.
Strata Schemes as we know are a democracy, and like any democracy, sometimes an individual’s interest must be put aside for the betterment of everyone. In strata, this is usually because the by-laws dictate it that way. And while it may sometimes seem like not everyone can win, a well governed building will be more highly valued than one where the single agenda rules over the greater good.
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