This article about strata manager complaints in WA and has been supplied by Strata Community Association WA.
Question: I’ve been living in a small strata complex for the last 10 years and it’s a constant fight for owners rights. I have suspicions that our money is mismanaged and the Strata Manager is not working in our best interests. Where can I make strata manager complaints in WA?
I’ve been living in a small strata complex for the last 10 years and it’s a constant fight for owners rights.
From insurance for common property driveway, unlawful parking on common property and obstruction and access to my garage and it appears as a never-ending story.
We have been a few times at the State Administrative Tribunal and whatever is said or ordered by the tribunal is a different story in real life. There are few owners who absolutely don’t know anything in regards to Strata titles Act and don’t care about any by-laws. There are few (holding councils position) who constantly oppose anything even if it benefits all owners.
I recently requested and questioned expenses which should be in agreed services so logically free of any charges like for example issues of quarterly’s notices of levies or distribution of minutes. When I referred my concerns to Strata management I got the response “we concur with you STA WA standard contract is confusing….” However, the was no straightforward response to my question requesting for itemized services in agreed services fee of thousands of dollars.
Could you please advice what I can do in this matter as I have my suspicions that our money is mismanaged? At a recent AGM when I asked for an invoice for recent pest control I was told it was a mistake and strata funds will be reimbursed, but what would happen if I didn’t ask?
I asked to be on Strata council this year but can’t see any improvement as two others council members are blinded by Strata manager and don’t care about the best interest of the whole complex.
Where can I make strata manager complaints in WA? Is there an institution where I could lodge a complaint about issues of the miss-use of Strata funds by Strata manager?
Kindly appreciate if you could help.
Answer: Strata Management is currently, unfortunately, an unregulated industry in WA and therefore there is no regulating body that you can refer to.
The Strata Titles Act 1985 (WA) (the Act) sets out the obligations of each strata company, and all Strata Managers in WA should be very familiar with those obligations and duties.
The use (or mis-use) of common property & parking is covered in detail by the standard Schedule 1 & 2 by-laws (and by any subsequent amendments that may have been made to them under Section 42 of the Act). Additionally, Section 35 of the Act requires the strata company (meaning the owners collectively, not to be confused with the Strata Management company) to enforce those by-laws. A professional & competent Strata Manager should be able to guide the Council of Owners in that regard.
The insurance obligations of each strata company is detailed in Sections 53 to 59 of the Act and again a professional & competent Strata Manager should be able to guide the Council of Owners in that regard.
It does, however, appear from your question that due process has already been followed in regards to the strata company’s obligations via applications to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT), but your frustration is that you feel this process has not resolved the issues you’re experiencing. Proposed reform to the Act is currently before Parliament and one of the primary intentions of this reform is to make dispute resolution simpler and easier. We eagerly await the passing of the amended Bill to make these matters easier for owners to resolve. In the meantime, however, if you believe the orders issued by the SAT have not been complied with, you may consider seeking legal advice in regards to the appropriate next steps.
The SCA WA Management Agreement template has been designed as a proforma that SCA WA Strata Manager Members may use if they feel it suits the needs of their business. It is important to note that Members do not have permission to alter the Terms & Conditions of the SCA WA template, however, they are permitted to alter the Schedules to suit the individual needs of their business and their particular service offering and fee structure. A Strata Manager should ensure they understand the Terms & Conditions, and the service offerings outlined in the Schedules, before entering into the agreement with a client.
There is also a comprehensive ‘Client Guide to the Management Agreement’ available to all SCA WA Members that helps to explain the template agreement to Members, and they can also use this to explain the agreement to their clients. The Council of Owners must also ensure that they understand the Management Agreement that they have in place with the Strata Manager and hold the Strata Manager accountable to this agreement, just like any other contract for service.
Should you have any further queries regarding the SCA WA Management Agreement template, we encourage you to contact the SCA WA office who can assist you with this.
Strata Management is currently, unfortunately, an unregulated industry in WA and therefore there is no regulating body that you can refer to. However, the following activities are good practice in ensuring your funds are being appropriately managed:
- The Council of Owners (notably the Treasurer) should request to receive regular financial reports from the Strata Manager, and may also opt to approve all invoices before they are paid. You noted an example where a pest control invoice was paid in error, and because you asked, the error was rectified. It is important to note that human error will occur from time to time and generally speaking, the process of entering and paying invoices is a manual task carried out by a person. This is why it is good practice for the Council or Treasurer to regularly review the financial reports so that if any errors have occurred, they are identified and rectified.
- The strata company may decide to have an annual independent financial audit undertaken by a suitably qualified auditor. A provision for this expense would need to be included in your annual budget which is confirmed at the Annual General Meeting.
- If you are a concerned owner and you are unable to achieve a consensus from others on the above two points, you are entitled to inspect the records of the strata company which should include financial reports and all invoices paid. You are therefore able to check for yourself that the invoices paid align with the financial reports, and you’re also able to check the Management Agreement to see if the fees that have been charged are aligned with the Agreement.
Although the Strata Management industry is unregulated, SCA WA Members are bound by a Code of Conduct and a complaint process is available if a client of an SCA WA Member believes they have breached that Code of Conduct. This highlights the importance of choosing an SCA WA Member when seeking a Strata Manager. For more information on making a complaint against an SCA WA Member, please contact the SCA WA office. We also offer an advice line service to our members, which you are able to join. This advice line is very helpful to provide you with independent general information and guidance when queries such as these arise.
Disclaimer: The above information is provided solely for general information purposes and should not be taken as constituting legal advice or advice that is specific to your particular circumstances. You may consider seeking independent legal advice to see if the information provided relates to your circumstances.
Strata Community Association WA (SCA WA) is the peak industry body representing people who own and work with strata property in Western Australia by providing education and advocacy. Our members consist of strata lot owners, council of owners’ members, professional Strata Managers and associated service providers. Strata is a complex area of the property industry and it can be difficult to navigate without having access to professional assistance. To support our members, we offer a member-only Advice Line that provides general advice, information and guidance. Join SCA WA today from only $60* per annum to gain access to the Advice Line and other member benefits. Contact us to find out more!
This post appears in Strata News #210.
- WA: How to handle a strata manager or council of owners who are not working in your interest
- WA: Resolving Strata Disputes Under the Strata Title Act Amendments