This NSW article is about spending limits & unapproved fees.
Table of Contents:
- QUESTION: Does the Owners Corporation have a spending limit for items not in the budget?
- QUESTION: Our strata was involved in a matter with the Lands and Environment Court. The Barrister’s fees were never approved at an EGM. Who is responsible?
Question: Does the Owners Corporation have a spending limit for items not in the budget?
Answer: The strata committee may be restricted on spending limits or any other matter or type of matter determined by the Owners Corporation.
In NSW, the strata committee may be restricted on spending limits or any other matter or type of matter determined by the Owners Corporation.
Further, there are limits on spending by large strata schemes in NSW and safeguards for all schemes in relation to obtaining legal services. For example, a general meeting approval to obtain legal services is not required, if the matter is not urgent and the costs do not exceed $3,000.
This post appears in the October 2020 edition of The NSW Strata Magazine.
Question: Our strata was involved in a matter with the Lands and Environment Court. The Barrister’s fees were never approved at an EGM. Who is responsible?
We are a small strata of 5 townhouses all with different unit entitlements. All owners are members of the Executive Committee.
Recently we were involved in a matter in the Land and Environment court. The fees of the solicitor who was selected to represent the OC were approved at an EGM. The total estimate from him was approximately $36,000. However the fees of the barrister were not approved at an EGM or ECM. His bill has come in at $43,000.
His invoice states his rates had been approved. It does not say who has signed the agreement. The admin fund is already in the negative.
It seems the appropriate processes have not been followed. Who is responsible for paying for the Barrister in these circumstances? Is it the individual who signed without the approval of the Owners Corporation?
Answer: The legal process may have been followed but you may not be aware.
Was there a meeting where the approval took place? I am wondering if you may have overlooked some paperwork or even unreceived minutes. We’ve had this happen recently where someone didn’t get an agenda. The legal process may have been followed but you may not be aware.
I don’t see the barrister’s engagement any different from any other legal fees – this is per regs:
Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016
Part 3 Clause 26
- The amount of $15,000 is prescribed for the purposes of section 103 (2) (b) of the Act.
- For the purposes of section 103 of the Act, approval is not required under that section to the obtaining of legal services in relation to a matter that is not urgent if the cost of the legal services does not exceed $3,000.
However, one needs to be mindful that litigation was afoot and hence the scheme needs to be best represented. The legislation also provides….
STRATA SCHEMES MANAGEMENT ACT 2015 – SECT 103
103 Legal services to be approved by general meeting
- An owners corporation or strata committee of an owners corporation must not obtain legal services for which any payment may be required unless a resolution approving the obtaining of those services is passed at a general meeting of the owners corporation.
- An owners corporation or strata committee may obtain legal services without obtaining approval under this section if:
- it is of the opinion that urgent action is necessary to protect the interests of the owners corporation, and
- the cost of the legal services does not exceed $10,000 or another amount prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection.
- Approval under this section is not required for the following:
- to obtain legal advice before commencing legal action,
- to take legal action to recover unpaid contributions, interest on unpaid contributions or related expenses,
- to take any other legal action prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this section.
- A failure by an owners corporation or the strata committee of an owners corporation to obtain an approval under this section does not affect the validity of any proceedings or other legal action taken by the owners corporation.
- In this Division:
“legal services” includes obtaining legal advice and taking legal action.
So whilst one can ask all the questions – it is highly likely that the scheme is still stuck with the bill.
The case law on this is 2 Elizabeth Bay Road Pty Ltd V The Owners – Strata Plan No 73943  NSWCA 409. The question is has the decision to have them been ratified.
This post appears in the August 2020 edition of the NSW Strata Magazine.
Have a question about spending limits & unapproved fees or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
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Looking for strata information concerning your state? For state-specific strata information, take a look here.