Homes 'at risk': Apartment owners could be sold out by neighbours under new strata laws starting November 30

New strata laws take effect on November 30. Picture: John Veage
New strata laws take effect on November 30. Picture: John Veage

The controversial decision to allow 75 per cent of owners in apartment blocks to sell their building to developers is among sweeping changes to strata laws that take effect on Wednesday, November 30.

More than 90 changes will be made, affecting everything  from pets to parking, cigarette smoke to dispute resolution, and electronic voting to overcrowding.

The introduction of building defects bond has been delayed until July next year.

It will require developers to set aside two per cent of the cost of buildings to pay for faults that may be discovered in the two years after completion.

The process to overhaul complex strata laws started five years ago, leading to thousands of submissions and many alterations.

The Department of Fair Trading said the laws “have been modernised to fit the reality of living in a strata townhouse or apartment today”. 

”Currently more than a quarter of NSW's population lives in, owns or manages strata,” a department spokesman said.

”Many new requirements will not impact strata communities immediately.

“This includes allowing time for pre-appointed strata managing agents, building managers and executive committee members to continue in their roles once the law reforms start.”

The biggest change enables ageing home unit blocks to be sold for redevelopment if 75 percent of owners agree, whereas at present all need to agree.

Seventy five per cent of owners can also decide to seek council approval to add extra apartments to their building within the existing footprint.

When the change came before Parliament, the government claimed there was majority community support for the change and the legislation provided a range of safeguards for owners.

The government said similar systems had operated successfully in other countries, including New Zealand, where it has been working for four years ago with the support of all major parties.

Labor MP for Rockdale Steve Kamper was among those strongly objected.

He told Parliament the legislation had ‘‘disastrous ramifications for some of the most vulnerable in our community’’.

‘‘I cannot stomach, and I cannot see how members opposite can stomach, the idea that with the impending passage of this legislation we will see the rights of many hundreds of thousands of homeowners stripped away retrospectively,’’ he said.

Mr Kamper said there were ‘‘plenty of operators out there who would be quite willing to engage in unscrupulous conduct to secure a sale agreement’’.

‘‘It will not take long before good, honest traders are undercut by the shonks who are only concerned with making a quick buck,’’ he said.

By-laws regarding pets were another fiercely debated subject.

More pet-friendly arrangements have been added, but will generally apply to new buildings.

For existing strata schemes, there would need to be support from a large majority of owners for there to be any change.

Another change will allow owners to arrange with their local council for parking rangers to include the car parks of apartment blocks in their patrols.

Underground car parks would be excluded for safety reasons.

Residents who are annoyed by smoke drift from a neighbouring apartment should find It easier to resolve the matter.

In another change, owners corporations will also be able to set maximum limits on the number of people living in a unit.

However, two people per bedroom will be permissable, and there will be no limits on family members.

Oatley MP Mark Coure said overcrowding told Parliament overcrowding was a problem in parts of his electorate.

Mr Coure said one owner divided the television room in half to create a fourth bedroom and allow another two, or possibly three, people to live there in addition to the six people who already were living in the unit.

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