What is Strata?
If you have just bought, or are thinking of buying a Strata Title property and want to know more about what it means then this quick overview is for you.
Strata title is a model of property ownership in Australia that allows individuals to buy ownership in a larger property or building. As an owner of a ‘lot’ within a ‘Strata Complex’, you own your lot as well as a share in the ‘common property’.
There are different types of strata, with many rights, rules, obligations, documents and processes attached to them. Every scheme has its own set of by-laws to regulate the conduct of owners and occupiers of lots and to govern the scheme.
Lot owners automatically become members of the ‘Strata Company’ which manages the scheme and pay levies towards the administration and upkeep of the property.
Strate Title properties can be:
- Commercial Offices
- Factory Units
- Retirement Villages
- Caravan Parks
When you buy into a Strata Scheme you own your lot, plus a share in common property as described in your certificate of title.
There are two types of Strata Schemes permitted under the Act. You will own a lot in one of the following two:
- Strata (sometimes referred to as built strata) refers to an existing building or buildings on a freehold lot that have been subdivided into two or more strata lots. An example could be an apartment.
- Survey-strata is the subdivision of a freehold lot into smaller lots with surveyed boundaries. No buildings are shown on a survey-strata plan, it often looks similar to lots on deposited plans for non-strata freehold titles. Survey-strata properties may or may not have common property. An example could be stand-alone chalets.
The boundaries of your lot are shown on your strata plan and they vary between schemes.
The common property may include:
- The swimming pool
- The gym
- The sauna
- The foyer
- The lift
- The actual building structure itself
- The basement car park
- The gardens
- The vehicle access gates
The maintenance of your common property, such as the above, is usually undertaken by the Strata Company however every building and situation is unique and you should check your Strata Company bylaws if you have any questions.
If you are unclear who has responsibility for a matter you may need to raise the matter at a strata company meeting.
The term ‘Strata Company’ in Western Australia refers to all of the owners within a particular complex. Collectively, all the lot owners form the Strata Company. When purchasing a lot on a strata titled property, you become part of that Strata Company.
A Strata Company is bound by The Strata Titles Act 1985 which imposes duties and functions that must be adhered to.
What does a strata company do?
Under the Act, a strata company has a number of characteristics (section 14 of the Act) and functions (Part 8 of the Act). At a high level, this includes responsibility for:
- control and management of the common property
- financial management
- record keeping
- keeping a roll of members and other information
- providing information to members and others.
The objective of the strata company is to implement processes and achieve outcomes that are not:
- unfairly prejudicial to or discriminatory against a person; or
- oppressive or unreasonable
As a member of your Strata Company it’s important to participate in meetings and vote on the issues affecting your scheme.
When you buy a strata property you will be required to pay a certain amount to your Strata Company commonly called a “levy” which is generally issued each quarter.
These levies are to raise fund to pay for things like:
- Building insurance
- Maintenance and upkeep of the common property
- Electricity used for the common areas
- Rubbish Removal
- Strata Management fees
The value of the levy has to be agreed by the majority of the owners at a general meeting and is calculated based on your unit of entitlement as a proportion of the total unit of entitlement for the Strata Company.
As an owner of a Strata title property you will be required to abide by the Strata Company by-laws and Strata Company rules which are in place to ensure that every owner and occupant experiences peaceful enjoyment of their lot and the common property.
Every property has their own set of unique by-laws that must be adhered to as well as a number of governance and conduct by-laws. These can be found in your strata plan.
A Strata Manager refers to an individual, partnership or company employed to perform certain functions of the strata company. ESM is a Strata Management Company.
Strata Management Companies will perform various functions on behalf of the Council of the Strata Company such as collection of levies, secretarial services, administrative services, & chairing meetings etc. A Strata Management Company is a point of contact to help & advise the Council of the Strata Company on strata related issues.
There is a fee that comes with strata management, and this fee is paid by the strata company. The scope of work completed by your strata manager is defined in your contract with them.
The Council of the Strata Company (previously known as the Council of Owners) is a group of between 3 & 7 lot owners who are elected to be on the Strata Company’s Council at each Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The Strata Manager works closely with the Council of the Strata Company to ensure the smooth running of the complex, by making decisions & keeping the Council of Owners informed about issues within the complex.
Built strata refers to a type of strata property where multiple dwellings are constructed in a way that one unit is situated on top of another. In a built strata scheme, the ownership of each lot is defined by the cubic air space within the building. Each owner has exclusive ownership of their unit and also shares common ownership of the land and buildings on which the property is located. The strata plan for built strata properties clearly identifies the lot sizes, common areas, and the vertical arrangement of the units within the building.
Survey strata, on the other hand, is a type of strata property where the lots are not determined by cubic air space within a building. Instead, the lots in a survey strata scheme are parcels of land defined by surveyed lines. These lots are typically situated side by side, and the boundaries of each lot are surveyed and recorded by a licensed land surveyor. In a survey strata property, the focus is on the individual land parcels rather than the specific building structures. The strata plan for survey strata properties primarily depicts the boundaries of the lots, without showing the buildings.
Unit entitlements determine the allocated share of the rights and responsibilities for individual owners within a strata scheme. These entitlements directly impact an owner’s contributions to the levies of the strata scheme, their rights over common property, and their voting rights in decision-making processes.
- An owner of a lot is the person registered as proprietor on the Certificate of Title for a particular lot in the scheme.
- An occupier of a lot is the tenant who resides in the residence.
- A tenant in common in a property owns all the land jointly with all the other lot owners, but you own a proportional share of the land (i.e. you don’t own a defined section).
- A strata company is all the lot owners. Upon registration of the scheme, a strata company automatically comes into existence.
- A strata council is a subset of the lot owners, elected by the owners at the annual general meeting of the strata company. In schemes with only two or three lots, the lot owners are automatically the council (no election is required).
- A strata manager is an individual, partnership, or company, employed to manage certain functions of the strata company. Strata managers may do things like collecting contributions from lot owners, coordinating annual and extraordinary meetings of the strata company and keeping minutes, and arranging supplies
of services and amenities to the strata company. The scope of the strata manager’s role is defined in their contract.
- The strata manager could be a volunteer, but they must be an owner of a lot in the scheme and personally performing strata manager functions to do so. They may choose to perform their duties at no charge. If they do charge, the fee (or honorarium) must not exceed $250 per lot in the scheme.
Information from Landgate, Landgate Guide To Strata Titles https://www0.landgate.wa.gov.au/docvault.nsf/web/PS_STPM/$file/Landgate_Guide_to_Strata_Titles.pdf
Frequently asked Strata Questions:
Each complex has its own by-laws when it comes to having pets on the property so there is never one easy answer to this question. Your first step is to check your buildings by-laws to see whether there is a specific by-law pertaining to pets. Your Strata Manager can help you with this.
Many properties have a by-law which specifies that pets are “subject to approval from the Council of the Strata Company”, so you will have to submit your pet information to your Strata Manager who can forward it to the council of owners for instruction. We have created a handy Pet Application form that can be filled out and submitted (link below).
The form is very short and helpful for your Council in the event of an emergency, lost pet or alternative by-law breach, so it is our recommendation that regardless of whether you have a specific by-law, you should take the time to submit an application.
Please note – tenants (or prospective tenants) will need to forward this information to their Property Manager.
If you are experiencing disruptive noises or behaviour within your building or complex, you can take the following actions:
- Check noise advice from your Local Government Authority
- Contact the Police in instances of continued noise or disruption
- Submit a written complaint
It is important that evidence of any complaint is collected so that the matter can be progressed if required. Evidence can be photos, videos, sound recordings or you may wish to keep a log of any ongoing incidences.
Your Council of Owners will then make an informed decision on what action should be taken against the offending unit.
Each lot is allocated units of entitlement which determine an owner’s portion of ownership of common property, their voting rights, and the proportion of levied contributions that are payable in accordance with the levies raised at general meetings.
The initial allocation of unit entitlement is determined by the surveyor at the time the draft strata plan is prepared.
Allocated units of entitlement can be varied only by a unanimous resolution of all owners.