A SOMEWHAT HUMOROUS REFLECTION OF MY TIME IN THE STRATA MANAGEMENT INDUSTRY.
I wrote the below article last year as a tongue in cheek piece on my experiences. This went on to win the Essay of the Year award from the SCA (Strata Community Association) South Australia and became a Finalist for the 2018 National Award. I trust those reading will take it in the manner in which it was intended.
As a Strata Manager for over 15 years, you could assume that those closest to me have an excellent understanding of strata and the industry. If you ask my mother, I am a “Property Manager”. If you asked my grandparents, my job was “real estate” and they were often keen for me to tell them the value of their house. Some of my “tradie” mates regularly remind me how stress-free my job is because I sit on my butt all day, taking the odd phone call or writing the occasional email.
For those seemingly more in the know, a Strata Manager’s role involves looking after one group of units and making sure that whatever they want done, gets done from an open-ended cheque book. Similar to a form of insurance where members never need to put money in an account because “the strata will pay for it”.
Those that live and breathe strata know better.
Strata is a form of title for property ownership, which allows an individual to own part of a collective property (unit, townhouse, commercial unit) with shared ownership in common space (garden, pool, foyer). No matter what form (legislatively) or name that strata goes by, it is a mini-democracy of people needing to come together for common governance. Just as our Australian political system is ever calm and without disagreement, so too are our mini democracies. These politicians are invested in the economy of the country and maintenance of our infrastructure, and so too should be the committee of your strata complex (only more so).
Our role as a Strata Manager entails guidance around the Act and steering groups towards those most qualified to assist with their particular project or maintenance item. We arrange insurance claims, undertake forecast budgeting, co-ordinate meetings, direct groups towards their obligations under various strata, community or body corporate legislation, paving the way for them to succeed.
Many of us will find that the expectations of a strata manager are even greater. Suddenly, that career choice, which no one knows anything about, comes with the expectation of having qualifications in law, property management, accounting, counselling, project management, engineering and more.
Recently I was even asked if I could assist with an owner’s last Will and Testament.
In recent years, owners have enquired when I would be attending their property to clear a blocked drain, draw up their commercial lease, perform a check on top of their two-storey roof and break into a fuse box. Obviously, I am not qualified in these fields (or often legally able to assist), but neither are the unit owners qualified. As the person they pay to get the job done, it is important that we provide guidance so they can be directed to the appropriate information/ person so that they are well informed to fix or progress their concerns (provided it is actually relevant to the property).
A strata is a community made up of different ages (retirees, first home owners, Baby Boomers), nationalities, religions, backgrounds, views, personalities and experiences. In any community, the people who form it must look out for one another, protect each other and their collective investments. Protecting an investment requires caring for it, preventing deterioration with regular maintenance and insuring it against fire, theft, storm and other damage. With these different views and personalities, protecting one another can be difficult. Our aim as a community at any level is to ensure that its members are safe, happy and unencumbered by unnecessary angst caused by excessive noise, health and safety issues, and the three biggest complaints that all strata managers know too well – the three Ps – pets, parking and people.
Just as the occasional politician may struggle to agree on every piece of legislation, so too will these strata members disagree, and often it is through negotiation, cooperation and common sense that sees the group form a resolution (or at least a majority decision).
Strata living isn’t always going to be equally fair to every member, depending on their individual needs or preferences and so at minimum, those looking to buy in a complex should review the decisions made by that group to see if they are going to be a suitable addition to that community. For example, if I am an AFL footballer looking to move to a club for a premiership, I’d probably consider that the Gold Coast is not my best destination choice.
You may be reading this essay, thinking that as a Strata Manager I am not overly impressed with “strata”. You couldn’t be more wrong. I am passionate about each little or big community and ensuring that everyone is looked after. To build knowledge for those unfamiliar with the concept of strata and educate them, not just because they may share a common roof, but because they have rights and obligations that need to be met if they are to be part of that community, the same as if you decided to join any organisation. Putting together the bricks and mortar for a complex (or deadly unsafe cladding that requires urgent replacement) is only the first step towards building a community. Members share a common space and I love seeing a community build to ensure that tenants, owner occupiers, investors and more are looked after and have the opportunity to thrive in a safe environment. Let those varying views, personalities, skills and backgrounds be utilised for the better good of the complex and the community.
If all else fails, just change Prime Ministers right?