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CCTV Surveillance in a Body Corporate

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Either a Body Corporate or lot owner may wish to install CCTV in a community titles scheme.  This wish may raise several questions about the Body Corporate and the lot owners responsibility, as well as concerns about recording and privacy.  Legal advice may be required before installation of security cameras, however here are some facts to consider;

In Queensland it is not illegal for someone to video you or your home unless:

  • They trespass on your land to do so
  • They are videoing your private body parts or activities
  • They are recording a private conversation without your permission
  • It amounts to stalking or domestic violence

Recording private body parts and activities

If someone is in a private place, or doing a private act in circumstances where they would reasonably expect privacy, it is a criminal offence to film them without consent.  Private acts might include things like undressing, using the toilet, showering, bathing or being intimate in a place where a person would reasonably expect privacy.  It is also a criminal offence to film body parts without someone’s permission.

Recording Private Conversations

In Queensland a person is not permitted to record private conversations that they are not involved in.  Therefore if CCTV surveillance is likely to capture a private conversation, the audio part of the recording system should be disabled and the surveillance equipment should be positioned to avoid the conversation being lip-readable.

CCTV surveillance must not cause a nuisance

The Body Corporate Community Management Act 1997 states that an occupier of a lot in a Community Titles Scheme must not use or permit the use of the lot or common property in a way that causes a nuisance or interferes unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of another lot or the common property included in the scheme.  Lot owners therefore have a responsibility to ensure that if they are allowed to install CCTV equipment on their property, it does not interfere with another lot owner’s use and enjoyment of their lot or common property.

Record keeping requirements

While Body Corporate legislation does not specifically make mention of video footage, adjudicators have made orders where footage from CCTV that is operated by the Body Corporate is a Body Corporate record.

Bodies Corporate should be aware of both the potential for footage to be a record and of the record keeping requirements under the Act, and consider how they will manage these requirements if they are considering installing CCTV.

Reasonable camera placement

The primary purpose of the surveillance should be considered when positioning CCTV cameras.  Security is the primary purpose of most surveillance so cameras should be installed to cover the main entrance and exits, any special target areas and any opportunity to identify any offenders.

If an owner or occupier in a scheme can demonstrate that a Body Corporate’s decision to install a camera in a place, or facing a particular location, is unreasonable, they may be able to dispute it.

This information was taken from a fact sheet provided by the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management.

Invoice Hub

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Invoice Hub – What is it & why you should consider using it

Invoice Hub is a fantastic system where Committee members and Building Managers can view and approve invoices before they are paid.

On the Invoice Hub, approvers are able to view invoices that have been entered into the accounting software by Sunstate Strata.

If the approver is happy with the invoice to be paid they can approve the invoice.  If however the approver feels the invoice is incorrect and should not be paid they can send it back to the team at Sunstate Strata for review, editing or deleting.

The Invoice Hub system allows the Committee control over invoices that are paid.  Invoices will not be paid unless they are approved.

When an invoice is entered into the system at Sunstate Strata it is coded, described and then uploaded to the Invoice Hub.  An approver will then receive an email alerting them that there is an invoice or invoices on the Hub awaiting approval.

For more information about Invoice Hub please click here and watch the video created by StrataMax.

If you think Invoice Hub may be perfect for your Body Corporate please contact our accounts department today!  accounts@sunstatestrata.com.au or 07 5450 5300.

*Image belongs to StrataMax.

Body Corporate Fined for Fire Safety Breaches

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A Brisbane Body Corporate has been fined for a litany of building fire safety offences that exposed residents to serious risks.

The Brisbane Magistrates ordered that a Body Corporate pay $21,000 plus costs  after it pleaded guilty to 21 breaches of the Fire and Emergency Services ACT and Building Fire Safety Regulation.The ruling is the result of a successful prosecution by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services which took legal action after its inspectors uncovered the failures.The Magistrate criticised the Body Corporate for not acting quickly enough to rectify breaches relating to evacuation doors, providing evidence of compliance and ensuring that the required fire safety installations were maintained.

The Magistrate also said that the ever-present risk of fire required timely remedial action and that inattention or ignorance was not a mitigation factor.

The notices that Queensland Fire and Emergency Services issue should be a trigger for all Bodies Corporate to act swiftly.

The full article from the Queensland Fire and Emergency website can be found here.

 

 

 

Combustible Cladding Laws in Queensland Announced

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If you don’t know whether the cladding on your building is combustible (or to use the less scary word – non-conforming), you are soon going to be forced to find out.

The issue over what cladding has been used on buildings crystallised after the Grenfell Tower fire in the UK in 2017.  Australia’s equivalent (without the horrific loss of life in Grenfell) was the Lacrosse Tower fire in Melbourne in 2014. The ABC’s Four Corners covered the issue in this excellent episode.

Since then the wheels of respective state governments have turned very slowly.  Victoria has their cladding task force and has now come up with a rectification solution that will allow lot owners in bodies corporate to pay back the cost of addressing the defective cladding through their rates.

Other states have equivalent bodies but no solutions yet.

The Queensland approach has been to create the Non-Conforming Building Products audit taskforce which led to the government addressing concerns with all of their own buildings.

Now it is the turn of the public at large.

It’s a seemingly innocuous title, but it has some real kick.  The new regulation is:

Building and Other Legislation (Cladding) Amendment Regulation 2018

And what it means for bodies corporate when it commences on 1 October 2018 is this:

The compliance zone

If your building:

  • is any of classes 2 to 9 (which covers basically everything residential and commercial other than houses); and
  • had a building development approval issued after 1 January 1994 but before 1 October 2018 to build the building or alter the cladding; and
  • is of Type A or Type B construction (essentially buildings of three storeys or higher)

then the building is caught by the new regulation.

Stage 1 – registration

If your building is one of those in the compliance zone you need to register and complete an online checklist via the QBCC that will run you through whether the building is likely to be one of those with non-conforming cladding.  Every building will have until 29 March 2019 to complete this.

If you don’t complete it, there is a maximum fine of 20 penalty units ($2,611).

If there is no issue, then all is well and you just need to keep that certification. If not, you are onto stage two.

And no – we don’t know what the checklist will include yet or even a link to where you will be able to find it, but when we do we will let you know.

Stage 2 – building industry professional

If your building is one that may have non-conforming cladding you have until 29 May 2019 to go back to the QBCC with a statement from a building industry professional about whether the cladding on your building is non-conforming.

If you know the cladding on your building is non-conforming you can skip the completion of the report, notify the QBCC you have non-conforming cladding and go to straight to stage three.

There is only two months between the last date to register and the date on which this first assessment is required.  We suspect it will not pay to be tardy in getting started, as there are fines for missing the deadlines.

There maximum fine for missing this date is the same as that for missing stage one.

Stage three – fire risk assessment

If you have non-conforming cladding then you must have a qualified fire engineer complete a fire risk assessment about the safety of the building. That assessment will determine whether the scheme as it is will essentially remain safe or whether rectification works are necessary.

Every building must give the name of their fire engineer to the QBCC by 27 August 2019 and have the final report to the QBCC by 3 May 2021.  That is less than three years away.

If you have not nominated your fire engineer or completed the risk assessment by the required dates the fines gear up to a maximum of 50 and 165 penalty units respectively ($6,527.50 and $21,540.75).

After assessment

If the building has non-conforming cladding then:

  • a notice to that effect must be displayed in a conspicuous part of the building for so long as the cladding remains in place; and
  • every lot owner and tenant must be given a copy of the notice – including new tenants and new owners.

The crystal ball

This is where the fun begins.  Not.

We see the following compliance headaches with all of this, but these are just the immediate issues.

Ignorance of the need to comply

Everyone will be out there trying to make bodies corporate aware of their obligations.  But some will simply ignore them.  Some strata managers may also simply ignore them.  It is ultimately the role of the committee to get this done, but no doubt fingers will be pointed at strata managers if it isn’t.

Strata managers need to be vigilant to make sure they have covered their backsides by addressing this with every body corporate they manage.  It may not be pretty when the government starts rounding up those buildings that have not participated in stage one by the required date.

It would also seem that there will need to be some form of evidence (termed ‘a proof of agency’) produced to the QBCC about the ability of anyone to complete the document on behalf of the body corporate.  What that looks like is also yet to be determined.

Stage two timing

There are only two months from the last date for registration to the time to return the building industry professional report.

If bodies corporate leave it to the last minute we suspect there won’t be enough experts to go around.  Get started and get started early, because when you allow for the Australian holiday season (Melbourne Cup Day through to Australia Day) there is also another three months that disappears very quickly during that registration period.

Fire risk assessment notifications

If a building has non-conforming cladding, notifying new owners is easy.  They appear on the roll, and (hopefully) the strata manager’s software programs then deal with the notification.

Tenants will be a lot harder.  For those with onsite management or professional property managers, it may be okay as they should have systems that will deal with it. Communicating what needs to be done with property managers will be important.

For people who self-manage or use a property manager who does not know what they are doing, the reality is tenants may not be told.  Our immediate interpretation is that holiday / corporate tenants probably do not need to be told (as they might not be ‘leasehold interest holders’), but time will tell.

The bigger issues

The uncertainty.

These are all guesses, but try these as flow on effects:

  • the fact that non-conforming cladding may be present is going to be a potential disincentive to prospective property buyers while it is not known, and a probable genuine turn off to them once it is certain.
  • what will banks do with their lending policies for potentially affected, or known to be affected, buildings?
  • strata insurers will now have to price the (soon to be) known risks for building insurance.

It wouldn’t surprise us if there was some change to the disclosure regime to specifically address this issue.  After all, the statutory disclosure at the moment includes who the body corporate secretary is. Whether the building has non-conforming cladding is probably a tad more important.

Rectification costs

The Lacrosse Tower owners are still fighting about who wears what cost five years after their fire.  The statutory position is that if rectification is required, then the body corporate must do it.  It may well have a right to recover those costs from parties involved in the construction process, but that right is independent of the immediate obligation to sort the issue out.  We will leave limitation periods aside for the moment too.

This means owners are going to have to pay special levies, or bodies corporate borrow money, to bring their building back to having conforming cladding.  Bodies corporate will not be allowed to delay that while they try to recover the costs from a third party.

The statutory obligation to disclose defects

And for you faithful readers who have come this far, this is the biggest issue we see for property sellers.

Just because cladding is non-conforming might not mean it needs to be removed.  The other fire safety mechanisms may cover any risk appropriately.  Having said that, the non-conforming cladding could still very well be considered a defect in common property (although we are still debating that internally).  There are arguments for and against this, but if it is not a defect, why is there the need for the conspicuous sign in the building about it?

Section 223 of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 imposes an obligation on sellers to disclose to buyers latent or patent defects in common property that the seller is aware of or ‘ought’ to be aware of.

Sellers ‘ought’ to be aware of issues identified in the body corporate minutes.  Committee members who are actively involved in the decision-making process around this have nowhere to hide under any definition.

If buildings have non-conforming cladding, which is not disclosed in the sale contract by a seller, and there are subsequent rectification works required along with the special levies or borrowings, we can see a raft of litigation about the lack of that disclosure against sellers, sales agents and those who prepared contracts for sale (such as lawyers).
We like providing solutions, but with this one there is a long way to go before the air clears. We will keep you updated as this one evolves.

Article provided by Hynes Legal 

Body Corporate Debt Recovery Clarified

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The confusion over the time limit a Body Corporate has to commence recovery of outstanding Body Corporate debts has now been clarified by the Court of Appeal.

 

The Body Corporate and Community Management (Standard Module) Regulation 2008 says the following;

If the amount of a contribution or contribution instalment has been outstanding for 2 years, the Body Corporate must, within 2 months from the end of the 2 year period, start proceedings to recover the amount.

A recent decision by the District Court had interpreted that the above  section from the Body Corporate and Community Management Standard Module meant that if a Body Corporate did not commence recovery proceedings within that time frame that it was barred entirely from doing so.

The Court of Appeal has now restored the previous industry wide interpretation that whilst a Body Corporate is obliged to commence recovery proceedings within 2 years and 2 months of the original debt being due, it does not lose the right to do so if the proceedings are not commenced in that time.

 

*Information from Hynes Legal 

 

Quorum

What is a Quorum?

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In the world of Strata, a quorum is the minimum number of voters who must be present at a General Meeting in order to have a valid meeting.

In this article written by Frank Higginson of Hynes Legal, Frank explains what a Quorum is and the outcome if you do not get a Quorum at a General Meeting.

Frank also goes on to describe who a voter at a General Meeting is and the requirement of that voter to ensure their vote can be counted.

Click on this link to read more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Direct Debit to pay your Body Corporate Levies

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Did you know that you can pay your Body Corporate levies via Direct Debit?

This can be a very viable option for those lot owners whom travel and are away from home, or are just sometimes forgetful.

The  Direct Debit is set up through ‘Stratapay’.

There are two options for lot owners to select when setting up a Direct Debit through Stratapay;

  1. Autopay – The payment for your levies is taken from your bank account approximately 5 business days from the due date of the levy.  The amount taken is the exact amount of the levy that is due.
  2. A reoccurring payment amount of your choice, reoccurring on a date and interval you choose.

Option 1 is often utilized by lot owners as it is ‘Set and Forget’ .

As long as the funds are available to debit from your nominated bank account or credit card, your levies will always be paid by the due date.  This ensures you will always meet discount dates (if applicable to your Body Corporate), avoid penalty interest (if applicable to your Body Corporate) and avoid overdue fees which are processed on overdue notices and final notices.

If Direct Debit is something you would like to establish for payment of your Body Corporate levies then please follow the steps set out hereunder;

  1. Click on this link to obtain the Stratapay Direct Debit form for completion.
  2. Phone our office on 07 5450 5300 or email accounts@sunstatestrata.com.au  and request your ‘Stratapay reference number’.
  3. Complete the Stratapay form and then post the form to the address at the bottom of the first page.

Once your direct debit is set up with Stratapay, your future levy notices will have Direct Debit notated on them.

 

 

 

Balustrades and Railings

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In Queensland there are strict requirements when it comes to balustrades

Where a deck or balcony is one meter or higher above the ground then balustrades are required to be at least one meter high.

The openings in balustrades cannot be greater than 125mm.

If a deck is more than four meters above the ground, balustrades cannot have elements located between 150mm and 76omm from the floor.

Balustrades must be constructed so they can resist forces that can reasonably expected to be placed upon them, including people leaning against them and strong winds.

Retaining walls do not require a balustrade unless they are associated with a path of travel to and from or between buildings, however it is still a good idea to provide a balustrade or barrier where there is a risk of people falling.

Balustrades are required on stairs and are just as important as they are used as support for people ascending and descending the stairs.  For stairs, a barrier of at least 865mm high above the nosing of the stair treads is required.  For stairs more than 4m in height, a railing must also not have any climbable elements such as horizontal rails located between 150mm and 760mm from the floor.

Repair or Replacement of a Balustrade

You are only required to comply with the standard that the dwelling/building was constructed to, in relation to repair or replacement of the balustrade; however if the replacement is part of a substantial renovation exceeding 20% of the system then the certifier may request a replacement construction to current standard.

The above information does not relate to pool fencing requirements.

*Information taken from Queensland Building and Construction Commission

items covered by residential strata building insurance

Items Covered by Residential Strata Building Insurance

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Residential strata building insurance provides general insurance cover for the building, shared or ‘common’ areas, common property and common area contents. There are several items covered by residential strata building insurance. We’ve listed these below.

Items covered by residential strata building insurance:

BUILDING i.e. Fixtures inside a lot that are covered under the Body Corporate Insurance

  • Baths, hand basins and toilets
  • Ducted air conditioners
  • Windows
  • Fixed tiling
  • Stoves
  • Doors
  • Paint
  • Wallpaper

COMMON AREA CONTENTS i.e. Contents items covered that are in common areas NOT in lot owner’s units

  • Carpets, floating floors, other temporary wall, floor and ceiling coverings within hallways and lobbies
  • Pot plants, mirrors and other decorations within common areas
  • Appliances such as washing machines and dryers owned by the Body Corporate and used by all unit owners and housed in common laundries
  • Any barbeque equipment, gardening equipment and garden.

Lot owners often misunderstand that their personal contents will be covered under the strata building insurance when in fact they are not.   Lot owners are strongly advised to have contents insurance and for those lots tenanted, landlords insurance, to ensure that in an event where an insurance claim is required to be placed their assets are correctly covered.

ITEMS COVERED BY CONTENTS AND LANDLORD POLICIES i.e. Items NOT covered by strata insurance

  • Carpets, floating floors, other temporary wall, floor and ceiling coverings
  • Light fittings
  • Curtains, blinds
  • Personal equipment and valuables such as jewellery and watches
  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Household appliances
  • Loss of rent

 

*information taken from CHU’s Residential Strata Insurance Plan