A common question put to Strata Managers, sometimes followed up by “Why are the fees higher in this Strata group when the other group I am a part of is much lower?”
We will address the first question first. This may be surprising to some, but it is not the Strata Manager or the Management Committee, but actually, the owners who agree upon the yearly budget for the Strata group at each Annual General Meeting (AGM). The budget should reflect what the expected outgoings or expenses of the group and the incomings or revenue will best be consistent of, to be sufficient to cover the expenses of the group.
Examples of expenditure that a Strata group can anticipate are items such as common property insurance, common utilities (e.g. driveway lighting), grounds maintenance, etc.
Once the group decides how much money it will need to cover its expenses, this amount is divided amongst the owners for payment, called levies. Levies are generally paid in advance every quarter.
It is a requirement under both the Strata Titles Act 1988 and the Community Titles Act 1996 that all owners of the Corporation consider a projected or “proposed” budget. If you engage a professional manager, they should provide or arrange this service to you (budget preparation). If you are self-managed, the proposed budget should be prepared by the owner elected as Treasurer.
A good way to prepare a budget (or check the one presented to you), is to compare the previous year’s income and expenditure and ensure that enough money is budgeted to cover said expenses and accommodate for any anticipated increase in costs, or any new costs that the group anticipates in the coming period.
At the time of the AGM, if enough owners are represented, a simple majority passes the budget, and all owners are responsible for their contributions (levies) to the group for the following 12 months.
The second question, “Why are my fees higher than others?” ties into the above. As explained, each group of owners sets the amount of money raised for each year. For illustration purposes, we will demonstrate how contributions can differ between properties by using hypothetical Strata A and hypothetical Strata B.
Strata A is frugal with the contributions raised by the owners. They have money in reserve, have just carried out major maintenance works and are not anticipating any upcoming capital expenses in the near future. Strata A only has a small common area where the bins go and no common gardens. Each unit has its own individual water meter and pays the cost of water direct to SA Water.
Strata B is looking to carry out external painting of the entire property in the next two years and is raising money over the course of the year to offset that later expense. The common gardens are vast, and the owners prefer to pay a gardener to attend every two weeks to keep well-maintained. There is only one meter for water usage on-site and every drop used inside or outside the units is accounted for in the budget for the Strata. There were also several unexpected expenses in the last 12 months. Hence, the owners decided to increase their contributions to ensure that they have enough to cover any other unexpected items which may arise.
For this purpose, we have used quite stark differences between the two properties for clarity. However, you should now be able to see how contributions can be quite different, and no two Strata groups are ever quite the same.