Strata Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 - Second Reading Debate
I speak as The Greens' spokesperson for Fair Trading in support of the Strata Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. The bill amends the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 and the Strata Schemes Development Act 2015 to provide for changes identified by a statutory review undertaken by the former Government. The consultation received over 2,300 online survey responses and 230 submissions from strata residents, industry stakeholders and the broader community. The statutory review reported in December 2021; however, we are only now seeing legislation to implement any of the recommendations. Accordingly, much of what is before us today is much needed and heavily delayed. I am looking forward to next year, when the weight of the recommendations will be dealt with. I understand that this bill is only the first tranche of changes that the Government will make coming out of the statutory review's 139 recommendations.
The changes in the bill are largely non-controversial and long-overdue amendments. The Minister has assured me that there is still a significant body of work to come next year to implement many of the key recommendations. The Greens look forward to that, as I outlined in the debate on the Building Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. The bill amends the collective sale provisions of the Strata Schemes Development Act. The provisions were introduced by the previous Government in 2016 and were intended to empower strata owners to make a collective decision about what to do with buildings as they age. If 75 per cent of owners agreed, they could sell their entire block for redevelopment, with a handful of objectors, or single objectors, having their legal fees paid for by the majority. Prior to that, owners had no choice but to either unanimously agree to a sale or face hefty special levies in order to fund works programs or redevelopment. However, it soon became apparent that the 2016 legislation was being used by bad actors, mainly property developers, to hijack the collective sale process.
There is the case at Macquarie Park, which has been highlighted extensively, where 40 of the 45 owners of two neighbouring buildings have been trapped in what they describe as a "never-ending nightmare". I understand that is potentially still ongoing. That case has partly led to the reforms before us today. It is disappointing that the previous Government knew of those problems yet did not act. The Department of Customer Service admitted in a paper to Parliament back in 2021 that there were problems, but the previous Government made no changes. The paper said:
That dissenting developer held several lots in the scheme and was able to adopt a blocking position, drawing out legal proceedings and incurring costs for the owners corporation such that the renewal proposal was ultimately withdrawn.
I understand that is not an isolated example. Thankfully, the bill before us deals with that. It also introduces protections for companion and assistance animals. A by-law will now have no force or effect to the extent that it would "unreasonably prohibit" the keeping of an animal on a lot within a strata scheme. That protection is balanced by the regulations that allow action to be taken in reasonable circumstances, such as where the animal causes repeated damage to common property. A strengthened provision will also apply whereby by-laws will have no effect if they restrict or unreasonably burden the keeping of an assistance animal. The Greens wholeheartedly support the change. We all know how important pets are to the wellbeing of many people. With more people, including families, living in apartments and under strata schemes, this is long overdue. I also note that the bill makes numerous changes to strata meeting governance arrangements. Many of them are commonsense changes that improve record keeping and require that tenants be given the necessary by-laws when they move in. Importantly, the bill will empower the regulator to compulsorily appoint a strata managing agent if an owners' corporation is not functioning satisfactorily. That implements recommendation 71 of the statutory review, which recommended that change to deal with mismanagement of an owners' corporation. As foreshadowed by the Government and as I have mentioned, this bill is the first of what we think are two tranches of reform that implement the recommendations of the statutory review. Hopefully it will be only two, because what is coming down the line is very significant and long overdue. The Greens look forward to working with the Minister on that legislation next year. I commend the bill to the House.