Strata reporting panel Q&A
On 20 July 2022 strata community representatives from across NSW gathered for a special online Q&A event to discuss what the new reporting rules for strata schemes will bring to the strata sector.
The panel of strata experts included representatives from peak bodies such as the Strata Community Association and the Owners Corporation Network along with senior NSW government representatives.
- Strata Hub video
- Panel Q&A hosted by Lachlan Malloch Director, Office of the Property Services Commissioner
- Stephen Brell - President, the Strata Community Association (NSW)
- Karen Stiles - Executive Director, the Owners Corporation Network
- John Minns - Property Services Commissioner
- David Chandler OAM - Building Commissioner
- Kerrie Burgess - Director, Digital and Program Delivery, DCS
- Welcome - Lachlan Malloch Director, Office of the Property Services Commissioner
- Kerrie Burgess Director, Digital and Program Delivery, DCS
- Karen Stiles Executive Director, the Owners Corporation Network
- Stephen Brell President, the Strata Community Association (NSW)
- David Chandler OAM - Building Commissioner
- John Minns Property Services Commissioner
- Q&A Session
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us for this online Q&A panel event about the new Strata Hub. My name is Lachlan Malloch, and I'm a Director in the Office of the Property Services Commissioner here at the Department of Customer Service. I've been on the Strata Hub journey since the very beginning, and I'll be your host for today. With hundreds of you joining us online from all over New South Wales and a nice crowd of in-person folks who've joined us here in the McKell Building in Sydney. I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting today. And they are the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging and my respects also to Aboriginal colleagues joining us for the event today. I'll get to our panel in a moment, but firstly I'd like to introduce to you a short video in a lighthearted way to show what Strata Hub is all about.
The first of our panel members that I'd like to introduce you to, leads the team that is delivering the Strata Hub in several stages. Kerrie Burgess, next to me, is the Director of Digital and Programme Delivery in Better Regulation here at Customer Service. Good afternoon, Kerrie, and thanks very much for being here with us.
Kerrie, could you please tell us a little bit more about the Strata Hub journey so far?
Certainly and what I'll do is because this is quite a visual product that we have developed, is just take you through a few key points about Strata Hub and how we've essentially got from A to B. Now I promise you that this is the most technical I will get in terms of what you can currently see on the screen, but it is important because it illustrates that Strata Hub is a digital platform that supports the construction and maintenance of strata buildings in New South Wales. So for most of you you'll interact with the strata portal via the New South Wales government website, but importantly it's just the tip of the iceberg. Behind that, we have the Strata Building Bond Inspection Scheme which gives those owners in nearly constructed apartment buildings, the assurance that if there are defects detected early on in the building, that they can be rectified with the bond. The scheme is really important because is the bridge between the Strata Portal and the ePlanning Portal where everything begins, that is where developers actually apply for consent to build these buildings. So in developing this platform what we have done is create a means by which to capture the right information at the right time for the right people to support safer strata communities. So, how did we get from A to B? Well, there certainly has been a lot of work in the last couple of years from when Minister Dominello announced the strata portal concept in July 2019 to what you can now see on our website. But the most important point is, that during the journey we have had feedback from over 2000 customers, whether that be via stakeholder, ministerial round tables with industry, online focus groups with the diversity of strata customers, individuals from owners corporations, self-managed schemes, strata managing agents, through to those that have provided formal submissions on our regulations and answered quick polls about whether pets, for example should be included in strata communities. We've listened and we've developed our products to support you in terms of what you require. And part of this has been actually working with our customers to test as we've gone through this journey. Our key deliverables to date are the Strata Building Bond Inspection Scheme going live in July last year as a digital process, completely digital, through to the actual regulations important information regulations that enable us to create the portal as well as a complete revamp in terms of strata information to support you living in strata or wishing to purchase into strata and including a basic search, which just takes us up to now with the release of the strata portal in early July. The most important thing is that the Strata Hub caters to diversity of those that own, live, work in strata to ensure that they have the information that they need to make good and better informed decisions whether that be about investing or living in strata. And certainly what you've told us is that that information is hard to find, it's fragmented and it isn't always as timely as we would like it to be. So, over the next little while, the Strata Hub will grow and continue to support you so that you can make those informed decisions. Information is easy to find, is trusted, but most importantly, we start to then improve communication within strata communities, with strata communities and for us as New South Wales government to be able to communicate with you and provide you with the essential updates that you require. Ultimately Strata Hub is about ensuring that strata in New South Wales is as managed as well as it can be and we all have confidence whether it's working in the industry or living in a strata scheme. Thank you, Lachlan.
Well, thank you very much, Kerrie Burgess; a fine insight into the Genesis of an idea, it's evolution and how it's become reality. And I must say thanks so much for the efforts of your team, so much goes on behind the scenes that you would not know about to get to this and that's really welcome introduction to the panel. Now for everyone with us today on this webinar, if you have questions then please put them into the chat box. If you're at home or on the live stream you should have the question panel on your screen already where you can put your questions in. And if you are here in the room with us please log into slido and type your questions it'll be magically beamed through. I'd like to now introduce you all to our panel members, as well as Kerrie. You can ask them questions directly and they'll be beamed through to me. We'll do our best to answer as many of your questions as we can, but given that there are a large number of people, limited time, we'll try our best to cover the key themes. And then we'll be communicating with you all after the event to make sure all those important issues are covered off. And there's also the email address strata system feedback that you would probably have seen already where you can write to us directly and the team will respond. Now I'm very in, am pleased to introduce our expert panel. First off we have Stephen Brell, who is the President of Strata Community Association, New South Wales and the CEO of a Strata Managing Agency.
Next to Stephen is Karen Stiles, the Executive Director of the Owners Corporation Network of Australia. And if she doesn't mind me saying so a veteran advocate for Owners and Residents in Strata. David Chandler is the New South Wales Building Commissioner, lifelong leader of building quality in industry, academia and government. And of course we have John Miles, inaugural New South Wales Property Services Commissioner and property industry leader for over 30 years in both the ICT and New South Wales, a very warm welcome to our panel. Well, they're ready to answer your questions. So, as I said earlier, please go for it and let us know your thoughts. First though I'd like to turn to each of our panel members in turn and ask why you are here today supporting the Strata Hub initiative. Karen Stiles, if I could start with you. You were one of the OCN was one of the first organisations to champion such an idea. Why is this important for owners and residents in strata in New South Wales?
Currently there's around 1.2 million people living in strata. They produce $4 billion worth of economic benefit to the state. Yet governments fail to see them. It's like governments are strata blind. So this hub will focus the government on this fast growing sector. And it will empower purchases to make educated decisions. Government will be able to communicate directly with owners, which is really important, 'cause we're about to find out how many self-managed schemes there are. We don't even know very high level information at this point. Government will be able to gather basic data and analyse that to find the gaps and the emerging trends where owners need support. So, and then they'll develop, they need to develop the resources to support them. So we are very excited about this, very.
Fantastic, I share your excitement, Karen. Thank you for that. Stephen Brell, strata and community managing agents. What does this sort of initiative mean for your members?
It's really exciting, for us there's probably three key points that we want to try and get across you. The first one is the communication piece from all levels of government direct to the owners corporations or direct to the strata committee members themselves. We've never had that sort of level of communication before. Even for us as practitioners, as silly as this may sound we often have trouble trying to find out who the neighbouring strata schemes are that we are managing next door to. And so having a hub or having a central place where we can go and simply check that information, if we've got disputes or things that we need to deal with and resolve with our neighbours, we can do that just via the portal. It'll be very, very simple to get that information. Karen touched on this, the collection of data is something which again I'm quite excited about not initially for the hub but for the future of the hub. So looking at the things that are affecting strata schemes and having look at benchmarking. So things like capital works fund, is your capital works fund sufficient for your size of scheme? Looking at things like your insurance levels, are they adequate for a scheme of your size and that sort of thing. And the last one, I did have three points and I've forgotten the third one. It was communication, the data points and also, yeah promoting the sector itself. As Karen mentioned before, strata has really been the sleeping giant of the property industry. It often gets overlooked. I was really interested to read in the most recent census data, 33% of residents in New South Wales are currently living or residing in strata schemes. So, it's an emerging field and I think that's predicted to hit 50% by 2040. So it's going to become the most popular form of residential living in New South Wales in the next couple of decades. So if we get this right now it's going to set the sector up for the future. So, we're really looking forward to it.
Thank you, Stephen. Turning now to our commissioners, David Chandler looking at this from a regulatory angle you've championed greater transparency use of data in rebuilding confidence in the building industry. How do you see that playing out with an initiative as the Strata Hub?
Well, Lachlan, I think that we are in a digital age and I know that seems to be a bit of a glib term from time to time but it is fundamental if you can't see the data and you can't see what you need to know, then you can't really make those decisions that are essential to deliver outcomes that you want. So, it's been my privilege over the last three years to be the state's building commissioner and to serve you and particularly the strata communities that are now seeing I hope a new cohort of better quality buildings coming through the system now. We've been able to rethink how data is arranged, how we can use data, how we can get rid of all the silos. When I first took over this role, there were over 20 different silos of data that I could see that everybody was squiring away and running their own race with their own data. There was duplication, there was incorrect data. And now we are able to use things like the ePlanning Portal that we've worked on Kerrie for the last three years. And we can now identify that as a single source of truth for probably as much as 60% of all of the data that the regulator needs to use to observe the making of construction buildings in New South Wales. I mean, it is an extraordinary piece of capability. It's been driven by digital innovation and fortunately a government that is really committed to getting that sort of capability. Every other state is envious of what we have in New South Wales. So as your building commissioner, I hope that we are delivering you a new pipeline of more trustworthy buildings, where the intersection with the strata portal occurs is that if we can make more trustworthy buildings what we now need to do is to ensure that in their lifetime, that they can remain trustworthy. And this is really about setting up the, I guess, the dynamics of and the lines of sight so that we can stitch together all of the pieces that have frustrated your members and your members and make that work a lot better for government and for the community. I think the other important thing to note is that Stephen you touched on, sorry, Karen you touched on the number of strata schemes and the number of people who live in strata these days. We also need to make it clear that it's not a metropolitan conversation we're having here. This is not about the big cities. This is increasingly about regional New South Wales. It's about other places you out at Lithgow and out at... I go down as far as Kiama and up to the Tweed and we're starting to move our efforts now out to Bathurst and other places. Strata living is becoming a way of life, not just in the metropolitan areas but also in the regional areas. So we're very conscious that the service that we've got to provide and the capabilities that we've got to build have got to be statewide in their implementation. And I think Kerrie that's been our focus for the last couple of years is to realise this is not a metropolitan problem. This is an issue that we need to solve for everyone in New South Wales. So look, it's been my privilege to work with you on that. I can see this is the really important intersection of making buildings and then looking after them into their lifetime, we don't want a situation where we have a better cohort of buildings coming through the system suddenly define that we didn't pay attention to their trustworthiness in the first 10 or 15 years of their life. And suddenly they become the nightmares of tomorrow.
Thank you, David. Very encouraging indeed. Now turning finally to John Miles, Property Services Commissioner, what do you see as the benefits to governance of the strata sector as a whole?
Thanks, Lachlan. I'm not sure there's a whole lot to add because you've got a very good panel here who have covered some really critical issues. But I think what David says is right, cities across New South Wales growing up, not growing out. And yeah, when we are starting to talk about what the benefits can be of a digital solution like this best way I could probably look at it is perhaps to try and summarise, the three key attributes that I think this is actually going to bring to the party. The first one has been mentioned multiple times and I think that's transparency. Yeah, transparency is absolutely vital but the capacity to have timely, accurate and accessible information, not just for current owners, but for future owners and for the residents who are living in strata is just so important. And the savings around that are potentially enormous. Empowerment is the second attribute that I just think is so incredibly important here. And it goes back to that single source of truth that's already been spoken about, and a single source of truth is something quite rightly that's been said other jurisdictions are envious of, having this capability, which is starting now. And we'll only, build and continue to improve over time once we get past this initial transition. But yeah, the ability to make decisions to manage risks either in purchasing or in running a strata scheme is so important. And if that information is available and there's benchmarking that can go on top of that that will help people make better decisions then yeah. I'm an absolute advocate for it. I think the last one is communication, and communication is huge, at the moment if there's a legislative change, our situation is, how do you find out about it? Well, there's a variety of different channels, but there is now one, that if you are connected that information can be provided, the implications of those changes can be provided. And I think that's enormously important, but we add on top the critical nature of education and knowledge. The strata sector, despite the rapid growth, there's a lot of people engaged in the strata sector including people who are living there and potentially for the first time who don't always fully understand what it is that they've moved into. So to me, the ability to have better education, better knowledge have that all accessible and available is enormously important for people within a scheme to be able to contact each other and to know what's going on. And of course the emergency services issue, which Minister Dominello spoke about, very recently on television, it does absolutely have the capacity to make a real difference at a time of emergency. We hope not too many of them happen but from time to time, they're going to, and I absolutely endorsing from that viewpoint, to the communication channels there as well. Lachlan, thank you.
Thank you, John. And picking up on that, noting a question that's come in from Jane in the audience about the communication piece. I understand there was a concern about the cladding on buildings and the government's ability to communicate with schemes during the emergence of that issue. Stephen Brell, have you got anything you'd like to add to that?
That it's a really important piece. So if you look at just recent history with lockdowns and so forth, I know dealing with the health department was very difficult for them to gain access to who was managing a particular strata scheme. How do we get in contact with the strata committee? So we need to disseminate information to the residents of this scheme. So having this communication channel is going to be vitally important for at all levels of government and for the emergency services and something like you mentioned, Lachlan, where there's an issue like combustible cladding, it's as simple as the minutes of being able to access information or disseminate information to residents and say, Hey, are you affected by this? And again, that's really, really important. And we've never had that before in New South Wales.
Yes, a game changer you might say.
Excellent. So I'd like to pick up on a question that Debbie has sent through to us about, she asks what confidentiality are office bearers on strata committees afforded in being noted on the Strata Hub, please. We are having office bearers who don't want their details released. Karen Stiles from an owner's perspective, is that something that you've come across in the Owners Corporation Network, the issue of confidentiality and privacy?
There's been some sensitivity around it. I think people need to remember that they are elected office bearers, and it will be an email address and it actually is good governance to set up an email address for the scheme. So for example, stratasecretary@sp1234, and that can be passed on as committee members change. So, I think it's not as scary as people think it might be.
Yeah, sure. And we've had some evolution of the policy and the operational response in relation to that, Kerrie Burgess, you able to explain a little bit about the different levels of access to information and how we've responded to and how we've heard those concerns from the Strata community?
Yes, certainly, thanks Lachlan. So, as I mentioned, we have really deeply engaged with our customers in developing the Strata Hub and a key point that has come up recently, not that long before we actually went live with the portal, was concern with regards to collecting role based information, namely the email and a mobile phone number. So what we have done is responded to some of those concerns and ensure that the mobile number will not be disclosed. So, as Karen said, it's really important that people remember, and this is only for, in terms of office bearers, secretaries and chairs, that we are asking for role based information and it is preferable, it's a generic email because that ensures good governance, that email can be passed on, and we have a record that sits outside people's personal email information. But as we said, we will be collecting the mobile number, they are vitally important for emergency services, for example, but that information will not be disclosed to anyone else in the Strata scheme, so that people can have confidence that information is locked down and only available in, unfortunately, more those urgent worst case scenarios. So it's a great example, we have responded and we will ensure that we follow through in terms of that role based access to information. Most importantly, you have to prove who you are to gain access to the Strata portal and that you live in a scheme. So we've worked very hard with our colleagues in Service New South Wales, to use their proof of identification process, which is robust, that brings all your data that you already have enabled us to access, for example, your driver's licence, to prove who you are. So there are certainly some steps, and we take your privacy very seriously in terms of information that you will provide as part of the Strata Hub.
Mm, thank you, Kerrie, very, very encouraging. So I'd like to move a little bit further on these issues of not compliance, but how owners and Strata schemes interact with the Strata Hub on a more practical level, Matt in our audience asks, "What is the expected average cost that will be placed on lot owners to maintain their own scheme's information on the Strata portal, perhaps also by Strata managers, or will managers be allowed to charge whatever?" So, I'd like to place John Minns in the hot seat there if I might, in relation to that question and just, is there a cost involved and how do you see that playing out?
Well, every Strata scheme is individual and they obviously have their own, you know, budgets, their own arrangements and their own governance structures, so I think firstly, that's important. So the way to determine within your own scheme, you know, any costs that are associated with this will be to refer back to your agency agreement, which would set out the arrangements and the agreements you've got with your Strata manager. So that would be the first place, you know, that I would be looking for it. Yeah, now, there are some things that obviously aren't standard here, management charges, and if they're not, you know, not included or incorporated in that, then a Strata manager often has the opportunity and I'll perhaps come to to you in a minute, Steve, just to confirm this because you are dealing with this every day, but there is the possibility of saying, okay, we'll look at a schedule B level, you know, this is a new activity and yeah, there'll be yeah, some cost applicable to it. I would hope that in the managing, you know, arrangements with this, given that everyone in the Strata scheme is an owner and needs to have a good, productive relationship with the manager if they want to continue to be the manager that, you know, there's not going to be excessive charges imposed. And certainly, you know, government, you know, is not there to, you know, to set rates and charges, but the bottom line is, you know, a market working well I can't imagine that being something that any Strata manager would want to do the wrong thing with. Steve, can you.
No. Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, look, as you mentioned, John, it's very much a commercial arrangement between the owners corporation and the Strata managing agent, as you rightly said, most Strata managers wouldn't have already factored this cost into their administration, so it probably will be a schedule B charge. Strata Community Association are working very closely with government to have bulk upload facilities and APIs to make uploading information very easy for us. So hopefully in time it'll become very, very simple, it'll be a click of a button and information will be uploaded to the portal, so you'll probably find that there will be efficiencies that will be gained over time. And that will mean that the cost of administration will come down, but again, as you mentioned, check with your Strata manager if you're concerned about it, they can probably give you a reasonable estimate of how long they think it may take, for the information to be uploaded, but I'm not expecting it to be an extravagant cost at all.
Thanks, John and Steve. Karen Styles, from the owner's perspective?
Pick me, pick me.
And of course the committee can input this information themselves. This is about empowering owners and committees. So it's not an onerous task to get the information and then input it yourselves.
So bulk upload's an interesting term that you've just used there, Stephen,
Is that available now, Kerrie Burgess, will that become, is that a feature that your team has cooked up for the New South Wales community?
Cooking, I should say.
Right, still cooking.
So we are certainly working and the SCA is one of our most important stakeholders in this respect, to ensure that for Strata managing agents that are lodging on behalf of owners corporations, that the process is as seamless as possible. So in September we will release that functionality to support managing agents to be able to provide that bulk upload of many Strata schemes that they are managing. And as Stephen mentioned, we will continue to work and we will continue to improve, that particular process. So it's really important to note that what we might have in the beginning, and it will be completely digital and electronic, it will be improved over a period of time. So the ultimate goal is, press the button, and off we go, that's our game.
Excellent, so you said still cooking, if that's a future benefit, what's actually available now? What can owners do, are they required to lodge their reports now? What would they do if they went onto the Strata Hub today?
So, we recognise that this is a really major change for Strata community. So what we've done is that we have staged the way that you can interact with the portal, so you can go in right now and you can register your owner's corporations details, just basic information, to ensure that you're familiar with the actual portal, that if you need some support, we have webinars coming up for example, that you can, as Karen said, empower yourselves to get to know the portal and use it in the best possible way. From August, we will be enabling those owners corporations that wish to provide that information for their individual scheme, to do so. And then from September, we will be supporting our larger customers, which is the Strata managing agents, to ensure that they can work on behalf of their customers. So we've staged it to make sure that for each month we're giving the most attention to the most important customer. In the beginning it's for everyone to go in and have a look around and make sure they've got all the information that they require. Then we move on to our individual owners corporations. And then, as I said, we'll work with industry as well.
Thank you, Kerrie. So just exploring that, those deadlines and some of those details just for a moment, John Minns, Property Services Commissioner, I believe that the rules about this are actually set down in legislation, that have been approved by the parliament and they're in regulation and so on. Scott Martin has kindly asked, "Is there any consideration to extend the lodgement timeframes, say to July 2023, as the bulk upload option is not ready as yet?" Can you explore that for a moment for us, John?
Yeah. Look, really important question, we've heard this a few times now. Probably the first point I'd make, Locklin, is that this system will only provide the benefits once the data is entered in there. And the one thing we don't want to be doing for any of us, is to, you know, have a protracted period where data is not being entered because the system simply won't have the ability to return the benefits that it's designed to. So, but to answer that specific question, yes, I think we've recognised that, you know, end of September, which I think is what's currently called for in the legislation is not going to be achievable. You know, particularly if the bulk upload facility is not available, and that, yeah, there's been talk of pushing that out, you know, possibly to the end of the year, 31st of December or thereabouts, recognising that though, had a conversation last night with the Commissioner for Fair Trading, on this particular subject, and this actually needs to be a collaboration. This is something that we, you know, all need to be doing together. So the commitment that the Commissioner has provided is that, the extent of regulatory activity between now and the end of June 2023, will be focused purely around, you know, education and engagement. So we want to help everyone get to where it needs to be. And yeah, after that time, enforcement activity is more likely to happen, and probably important that it does.
Mm, thank you, I hope that's reassuring to our customers. Just exploring those benefits that you mentioned once we've got the data in, I'd like to turn to David Chandler, our Building Commissioner if I may, to maybe take a bit of a deeper dive in terms of how would you see regulatory functions being enhanced by having access to this data and being able to analyse it and re-sort it and all those things?
Well, I can see that question came from Jane, so we've had a couple of conversations over the last year, so I know where her thoughts processes are coming from. Let me first of all say that a customer service focus of an organisation like DCS, needs to be able to rely on very, very deep data sets. You've seen the way that DCS has supported multiple agencies during the recent crisises in New South Wales, and so, we've been able to assemble lines of sight to extraordinary data sets, that have been able to be applied to the benefits of the citizens of New South Wales. So please imagine that the data sets that are progressively being built in this agency are very wide ranging, and they're very powerful, but we are conscious, the fact that there's a big difference between what's known as consensual data and non-consensual data. Now, the regulator will be able to see a whole bunch of non-consensual data for the purposes of being a good regulator, but there's a very fine line between then what becomes consensual? What would people be prepared to have out there? So we'll constantly have that conversation with the community to make sure that we don't overstep that line, where what we see in the non-consensual data set, doesn't allow some unhappiness out in the consensual data marketplace where people don't want stuff out there. So we'll work our way through that, but let me tell you that as the data sets grow, we are asking questions of that data that have never, ever been able to be asked before. So certifiers in New South Wales, for example, are having their feet held to the fire in a way they have never been accountable before. It's only because of the depth of data. So they actually are not quite happy with some of the non-consensual data we use to find them, but that's what we're going to be doing in future to deliver better assets and more trustworthy buildings to all of you.
Mm. Thank you, David. And you mentioned consensual data, basically that's like public access that people are willing to see about their schemes. Kerrie, do you have anything to add about the different levels of access and who will be able to see what, and when this data starts to come in?
So certainly, Lachlan. So you mentioned before that there are rules around this that certainly, we have regulation that guides the way that we can collect information and also what we can collect. The information, access to the information is role based. So, as I said before, you have to actually prove who you are in the first instance, and that you have some entitlement to access some of the information. So for example, if you are the chair or secretary of a Strata scheme, you're going to see a lot more information than if you are a tenant that lives in that apartment building. But most importantly, the information is partitioned and it is layered. So public access information has nothing to do with personal information. It's basic information that everyone needs to know about a Strata scheme. The number of lots, when the scheme was created, the LGA that it's in, we are going to make it easier for you in terms of that public information, for example, geo coding and spatial mapping of that data so people can see the surrounds of that particular Strata scheme. It is very tight of what can be available, please, everyone check it out now in terms of what you can see, it will never be personal information and access to that personal information, as I said, will be via a request. Once somebody has proven who they are and the type of access that they should be required to have. Importantly, for us, it's around having the access to the information for emergency services, we said their personal information, but if you are living in the Strata scheme, you will get basic information once you've actually applied for it, completely via the Strata Hub. So it's impersonal and it provides you with the right access at the right time with the security around a very, very strong digital platform.
Mm, thank you, Kerrie. Just continuing on from that a little bit, Barbara has asked an interesting question, "Do two lot Strata schemes also have to be registered on the Hub?" I understand there are around 20,000 two lot schemes in New South Wales, which is a pretty large number, now there's part of the Strata community as well, aren't they, Karen Styles? What's your view of, you know, the smaller communities being on the Hub as well?
I think it's very important, and I think they are a demographic that needs a lot more support. It's very difficult if you're in a two lot scheme and one has different unit entitlements than the other, that can be a very difficult conversation to have if you've got different attitudes to maintenance, for example, or perhaps selling. So it's very important that two lot schemes get captured and that they are segmented and given the support that they need.
Couldn't agree more, thanks, Karen. I'd like to open this one up to the panel generally, and see who'd like to answer, Merrily has asked, "I've been looking into buying into Strata for the first time", you're not alone there, Merrily, your group of customers is getting bigger, "They have been self-managed and getting access to the required information regarding the state of this Strata scheme has been difficult. Will the portal help new buyers to access the information they need to make a purchasing decision? And if so, how?" John, David?
Can I just open up by responding to say that, first of all, what this is going to do is to raise the tide of consistent information. So we'll start from a lower base than we'd like to have in the next three to five years, but this will raise the tide. So, as we step into looking at how data here is going to play out, from the Building Commissioner's perspective, we're still not seeing the depth of activity that we should. For example, only 15% of owners corporations report their serious defects to fair trading. That means 85% of owners corporations don't report that. Now, I'm pleased to say that that level and that trust and confidence in the regulator, is lifting, but we also need owners corporations to do the same. So this is really about raising the tide of every element of making a building, managing a building, looking after a building, so we're on a journey here to make sure that New South Wales really has the very best multi-unit living schemes anywhere in the world, but certainly in Australia.
John, did you want to add to that?
Well, yeah, no, I think what David was talking about, Merrily, you'll have, yeah, better information early, but it will get better and better over time. There is something that is actually really important around this though, and that is the comment that was made earlier, Steve, I think you were talking about 50% of people living in Strata by 2040, it is really important that people have confidence in Strata. And yet confidence is one of the things that this project, Strata Hub, is all about, is to enable people to understand what they're getting into, to have that extra level of transparency, potentially driven by data where we can start benchmarking and understand that, you know, each development has sufficient in insurance or access to insurance, or a capital works fund that is, you know, designed to protect the investment, not just now, but in years to come. So there's a series of things that are, you know, very important there. And yeah, it's a great question, Merrily. I see this as instilling a level of confidence immediately, but I think that's just going to get better and better over time.
And how would government, do you think, ideally use that kind of information in its interactions with the Strata community, John?
Well, I think particularly when we start to talk about, you know, being able to benchmark across, you know, all Strata schemes, what there's 80 odd thousand of them, you know, in New South Wales, we start to get an understanding of, you know, what makes sense and what doesn't. Some of the stuff that, you know, Karen and her owners have seen over time and Steve I'm sure, has come across, has been, you know, issues where the desire to, you know, hold back or to save money in year one, you know, in levies or in investment for, you know, for future investment in the building, becomes very dangerous when four or five years down the track, all of a sudden, you know, there are significant issues arising, which if the correct preventative maintenance had been carried out, probably wouldn't have come along at all or if they did, they would've cost, you know, cost far less, so I think, being able to provide that level of advice, you know, benchmarking information, you know, access to data that people can actually trust, again, goes back to building confidence, which is what we're talking about before.
Thanks very much, great insights from the panel there. I'm learning a lot myself and I thought I knew a lot and it's really great. Now, I'd like to pivot for a moment if I may, and perhaps start with Stephen Brell on this question. A member of the public, Caroline, has asked, "Why is an emergency contact needed? What is the purpose of this?" So how do you see that?
Yeah, no, look, this is a new role, if you like, the regulation has put in place that they're asking for an emergency contact. Essentially the reason for it is to allow emergency services access to the building. So if police, fire, ambulance, are called, there's a direct point of contact and they know how to gain access to the building. There can be more serious things, at a council level, it may well be, you know, if the council needed to get in and have a look at your fire apparatus and that sort of thing, they can also access through it that way. So this is a new, let's say role, within the Strata committee, which hasn't really been contemplated before, but that's the purpose of it. And as I understand it, you know, the emergency contact can be a committee member, it can be a Strata manager, it can be a building manager if need be. So it, you know, again, it's a point of contact at the building to allow access essentially. So yeah, that's what it's all about.
And Kerrie Burgess, do they have any other roles or responsibilities? Is this supposed to be an onerous thing?
No, definitely not. So, and it goes to Steve's point, it could be a number of different people that interact with the Strata scheme. The most important point is that that person has access to that building. But certainly what we would like to see is that person also knows the building, so that if there is something that they need to point out, or there is a particularly vulnerable resident that they can actually assist emergency services and give them the information they need to make sure that everyone is safe as required.
And I think Kerrie, the other thing I'd add to that would be that so many of our Strata communities have got so many different ethnicities living in them, so many different languages, and a contact point will quickly alert you to the fact that the predominant language that's spoken here and the cultures that are here, mean, I know for example, when I go into apartments at the invitation of occupiers, understanding their culture and what are the polite rules that you should employ, I mean, coming into my place, you wouldn't think of taking your shoes off, but in other people's places, you wouldn't even think about going in without taking your shoes off. You've got to be made aware of the sensitivities of that building, so not just simply it's fire systems and who you ring if you want to send an invoice in, but you've just really got to be quickly able to land on, what's the makeup of this building? What's this community look like? What are their particular interests? And we've got people with disability now, NDIS people now, embedded in the community. So therefore, you know, society, fortunately doesn't see that these people have to be in different places anymore, they're all part of our real world and we want them there, and we are going to engage with them 'cause they've got so much to deliver. So a contact person's going to be the person that interprets that building for you on the spot.
Precisely David, precisely.
And keeping the customer at the centre of everything we do is in fact, the number one motto of the Department of Customer Service and with such a diverse community and as Stephen said earlier, 50% of greater Sydney, that's a few million people, living in Strata by 2040, that's the big challenge for us to all meet.
Sorry, not greater Sydney, let's start to talk about New South Wales, this is happening everywhere, mate. So I think most people are a bit surprised about the fact that we did a quick glance at how many people live in Strata between Ballina, Lismore and Tweed, just to see what the impact of people living in that space with the recent floods, 43,000 people out of the 1.2 million people, 43,000 units in that space. So for decision makers to know that, they all think that most of the people who live there are on a house on an urban lot, there's increasingly Stephen, as you know, the number of people who are living in multi apartment dwellings right up through the coast.
And out to western New South Wales, so everybody's in our line of sight.
Yep. No, absolutely. It's, you know, certainly the most quickly emerging form of, you know, residential living in New South Wales, you know, it's been a long time since a unit block was teared down and a house built, so that's all I'm saying. Very excited to see a high rise going up in Dubbo one year.
Yeah, so going back to our audience, Philip has asked a fairly specific question, which I think I'll probably throw to Kerrie and, or Stephen to respond to. Philip kindly says, "Good afternoon, thanks very much for the session. Can we please be given some information and clarity on how Strata management businesses can obtain a universal login to allow us to log in once when uploading information to the Hub, rather than needing to create a separate login for each client?" Which I suppose, in some agencies Stephen, might be dozens or perhaps even hundreds of schemes.
Yeah. As I understand it at the moment, we don't have to create a login for each single Strata plan. However, we do have to log in using a personal New South Wales service account. I know the government is working very hard on creating a business New South Wales account, so a Strata managing agent can just have one login point and then they'll be able to upload all the data at that point. We haven't quite got any clarity from government on yet when that might be, however, it is definitely something that's in the works.
How is that progressing, Kerrie? Not to put you on the spot, but I suppose that's what our panel agreed to do today.
That's right. So we're working really closely with our colleagues in Service New South Wales. What we have done right now is build in all of the backend Service New South Wales functionality. So as soon as Service New South Wales can cater to the different user groups within the Strata Hub, so it's managing agents, but as well as owners corporations, so if you're the chair of the owner's corporation, you should be able to log into your Service New South Wales account, and if so, then go into Strata portal as well. So certainly at the moment the Service New South Wales account is used for the POI, and at the right time, and working quite closely with our colleagues in service, will ensure that that front end, particularly for businesses is available. We know it is a priority, but we just need to make sure we can work with our colleagues in terms of timing.
And Kerrie, I think that really fits with the government's agenda of, tell us once.
So, and there's no wrong door to come in. So the way that we're looking at the way services are being delivered for the Strata Hub and for other services is that you should only ever have to tell us once,
Who you are, and then we know, and then there's no wrong door for you to come in.
Yes. Exactly right, yeah.
And speaking of telling us once, David, I'll just throw to Kerrie for a moment, some of this information that we're asking Strata schemes and owners corporations to report to us is actually going to be given to government for the first time ever. And that speaks to a question that we've got here from Emilianna, "How, and which government body determines the veracity of the reporting in the Strata Hub?" Any observations on that, Kerrie?
Well, it goes back to John's point that it will take some time in terms of actually getting the data into the Hub. As we've just mentioned, for a year of engagement in education, obviously people, owners corporations need to have lodged their information within that period of time, and essentially three months after their AGM. So it's going to take us a little while to work out what people are putting in, to get a feel for what that baseline data is, how we can actually benchmark it, is there any industry data that can guide us in terms of the veracity of that data? So, it's early days yet, we need to see the data in the Hub, then work out how we can ensure that that's correct and as I said, it could be using some outside source data, goes back to David's point about the data that as a regulator we hold, so how can we cross reference and check? So we have a bit of work to do in that space, but it'll only be once we have that data in the Hub that we can start to make some of those decisions.
I think Kerrie, the other comfort that the community should take all of you, is that we're subject to audit. We have to do business case audits of what was the promises of this particular service? Have you delivered it? And then once it's in place and it's operational, then there's operational audits. Now, I can assure you that we don't have a lot of friends in the audit office because they're out to represent the community of New South Wales and they really hold our feet to the fire. So when you talk about the veracity of information, it's not just simply the information, it's are you delivering the outcomes that you promised to deliver to the community, as a result of this particular project? So please be assured that the veracity question is well and truly being observed by the people who audit our performance.
Thanks, David. And there is an obligation in, and as you'll see, there's a whole lot of information on the New South Wales government website on what you need to do, what the rules are, and because some people have been asking questions like what happens if the information is wrong or an owner believes that the committee or their managing agent has uploaded wrong information? There is an obligation in the law to correct that within 28 days of you finding out, that it's not right. And of course, that can be done at any time throughout the year. It's not just in that, there is a requirement for an annual report and then owners corporations can correct their information as it changes, or if they find out that something wasn't put in right at any time throughout the year, once the full functionality is up and running. So I think I'd like to say, thank you for all the questions that have come through to us on, it's been a very, very fascinating discussion. For a moment in the last few minutes we've got with you, I'd like to ask the panel to turn their minds to the future, do a little bit of gazing into the beyond. And I'll ask you in turn to make some comments about what you see as the potential and the future of this initiative for New South Wales Strata communities? Could I start with you, Stephen?
Sure. I think we need to realise that at the moment the Strata Hub is in its infancy and it's something which our sector's been crying out for is more attention. It's been touched on today, things like education, awareness, understanding what an owner's obligation is, understanding how much your levy should be. And I think in time, not immediately, but I think in time, what would be great, would it be have like a data box of Strata information, so you can then compare things like, okay, in an average 20 block apartment in downtown Sydney, how much should I be paying for insurance? How much should I be paying for water rates? How much should I be paying for cleaning and gardening and Strata management fees and all those sorts of things? So you'll be able to, you know, start getting really drilling down and comparing, apples with apples in comparison with other Strata schemes. And as we mentioned earlier, you know, for me, the big things at the moment facing this sector are things like insurances, is my building adequately insured? Do I have enough money in the capital works fund? You know, those sorts of things, and having this baseline data and being able to compare with, you know, other stakeholders in the sector, you'll be able to get a fair gauge of where you sit or where your Strata scheme is actually sitting. So I see that as the future of the Hub, I know there's been a lot of concerns about, you know, the initial uploading of data, privacy, that sort of thing. I think we'll get over that fairly quickly. And again, I think in the future, as it been mentioned, this can become a world class, world leading, you know, spot for owners and consumers to gain access to information. So that's where I see the future of the Hub going.
Thank you, Stephen.
John Minns, anything from your perspective on the future?
Yeah, look, I think one of the things that's, you know, really important with this migration to Strata, is that we don't hit the situation where the costs associated with living in Strata, continue to escalate, because we don't get confidence, we don't get affordability and therefore, we don't actually achieve what's necessary if those things don't happen. So, to me, right across the process, that much stronger, you know, education and knowledge, point of sale disclosures, you know, ensuring people know and understand what it is they're buying at the time, rather than, you know, getting half the information they possibly need, you know, ensuring that, you know, equitable setup of a Strata scheme, you know, is done both in off the plan projects and also, you know, those that are established and running now so that, you know, people can be confident that what they're buying is equitable and fair and not, you know, balanced towards one particular party. Now this is all stuff we can learn by having great data and great information in here. And then as we go past that, you know, yeah, solving the insurance dilemma, Steve's talked about before the fact that there's, you know, buildings at risk of not being able to get insurance or very, very expensive insurance in New South Wales at the moment, this is a really important issue that, if insurance companies have confidence, that's when premiums start to come down, that's when we can start to lower costs through effective preventative maintenance and ongoing strategies around that area. So, yeah, this is part of it, it's not all of it, but certainly Strata Hub is a really wonderful start to getting that exposure and getting that transparency out there.
Thank you, John, that word transparency has come up a lot today. David Chandler, something to add?
Look, I just think that people will appreciate the fact that evidence based decision making now is the fundamental way of making sure that the community's interests are well and truly listened to, and then responses to that feedback is available. So data is so important. Looking ahead, I've just transitioned through three years of really quite a crisis situation in the making of new buildings. That's not over by a long stretch, but we're making really, really good process, but we've been able to use evidence to actually inform where we should act tactically. If there's a thing that we need to be doing as a regulator, is to not just simply be prone to put our fingers in the holes in the of dyke yesterday, is that we've now got to start to turn our minds to what are the harms that are coming in the future? So for example, electric vehicles parking in basements, which are potentially a higher flammability risk. We've got to start to think about, what are the emerging harms? Another potential area of interest will be that as buildings get smarter, buildings are getting smarter, they're coming embedded with technologies and sensors and starting to do things that buildings have never contemplated. Now COVID has driven that, because we're now seeing for example, hospital in a home. So suddenly we're going to start to find buildings that have actually got capability to help you stay and live in home far longer than perhaps was previously the case. What regulators need to do, is to anticipate these things and let's get ahead of the game, as opposed to always being trailing in the game. So I see the future as us being proactively getting ahead of the game, rather than always being trying to catch up.
Mm. And the future for you, Karen Styles, Owners Corporation Network?
We see this very much as a dynamic process. It's not about getting the data in, putting it in the bottom drawer of a locked filing cabinet in a basement, it's about interrogating the data and identifying trends, as David says. For example, there's a really high incidence of bankruptcies, of owners corporations bankrupting owners for unpaid levies. Why is that the case? How can we do that better? These are the sorts of things that we want the regulator to turn their mind to, because they have this information. So it's important that we gather it, we interrogate it and we use it for goodness and not evil, being to put far more resource into this very important housing sector.
My word, and Kerrie, thank you, Karen, and Kerrie Burgess, we started with you and have the privilege of finishing with you as well. Your team's very bound up in the now and getting us across that magical line of the 1st of July. What do you see coming up in the future?
So, and I'll touch on, I won't touch on the comments that the panel has made, but to just to add to them. And so, from our perspective, there's two key points, there's digital and there's customer. So the digital is about enabling, enabling our customers to do what they need to do in terms of living in Strata. It picks up on David's point about being proactive, being able to have the means to be able to anticipate where those issues are, to have the data collected, to get to it, to get to it easily. But most importantly, the Hub is not just about owners corporations putting information in, it's also about us understanding and communicating back with you. So certainly it's not just something that you lodge information in, there's a whole wealth of information that we have now provided on the website, we track what are those hot topics that people are interested in? We're in touch with our customers to make sure that we are giving you information that empowers you to live in Strata, not just submit an annual return. So it's around ensuring our customers can do what they need to do, and using digital as a means to realise that.
Thank you, Kerrie, and apologies to everyone, we've gone a little bit over time, but that's only because of the richness of the discussion or my chairing abilities, one or the other. Thank you very much for everyone who joined us online today, those who helped make the arrangements for the event, those of you who came in person here today, and our wonderful panel. If you're at home, give them a round of applause, they are really a brains trust of Strata in community, industry, and government, we're very lucky to have them with us. We'll be sharing a post event survey shortly with all of you who've joined, and we'll very much appreciate your input and responses to how you found today. We'll also be sending out further communications on the key issues, and in fact, all the issues that were raised today and a recording of today's event will also be available. So that's it from us, here at Strata Hub central. It's a very good afternoon to you all, and thank you.
Key topics from the event
This is a summary of key points in response to the most popular topics raised at the event.
For the full set of questions that were addressed by our panel members, please refer to the transcript or watch the event video, see above.
The Strata Hub is a central source of tools and information for NSW strata communities including those living in, buying into or serving on a strata committee. It includes:
- nsw.gov strata where you can find information on strata living if you want to buy, own or live in a strata residence
- strata reporting portal where strata scheme representatives can register and meet their annual reporting requirements
- strata search function where you can search using the registered address of a strata scheme or strata plan number to find out the number of lots, the date the scheme was registered and the local council area, plus view the scheme on a map that also shows other strata schemes in the area
- the digitised Strata building bond & inspections scheme to better protect owners for any early defective building work for newly constructed Class 2 residential buildings.
Strata Hub content will continue to be enhanced and grow over time.
Privacy and security
Strong privacy and security measures protect information within the Strata Hub. For more details, including restrictions on who can access the information, visit our Strata Hub security and privacy page.
The contact details of the secretary, chairperson, strata manager, building manager and a nominated emergency services contact must be reported for each strata scheme. For details, visit our Strata annual reporting page.
Emergency services contact
The emergency services contact(s) is intended to expedite emergencies services’ access to a strata building in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. For example, this contact point may be used in situations where a NSW emergency service needs access to a strata building but forcing entry is either not appropriate or not possible.
Ideally, the contact is someone likely to be onsite in the strata complex such as a building manager or resident who can be easily reached.
Read our blog article - Speedy access to your strata building could save a life.
Cost and payment
All money from the $3 per lot annual fee for strata schemes will directly fund the ongoing delivery of the Strata Hub. This will provide a range of benefits for strata communities such as improved communication and services.
A strata scheme can decide whether the secretary, chairperson or strata managing agent will make updates to the reported information. The person reporting for their strata scheme can submit the scheme’s full reporting details into the strata hub and pay the $3 per lot fee by credit, debit card, PayPal or BPAY.
For ‘how to’ steps on processing payment, visit our Strata scheme reporting user guide page.
Strata managers who report for a strata scheme may also charge a fee for service. This depends on the terms of the agency agreement. Strata managers should agree on their service fee upfront with the owners corporation. For more information on consumer rights visit our Buying products and services pricing information page.
A strata scheme’s administrative fund can be used to cover a regular expense, such as the annual reporting fee.
Reporting for multiple schemes
A strata scheme secretary may delegate the reporting task to a strata managing agent.
We have options to support these strata managing agents to streamline strata reporting multiple clients.
Strata managers with fewer clients may prefer to report information for each strata scheme individually by following the steps in our Strata scheme reporting user guide.
Strata schemes may delegate payment of the required $3 per lot administration fee to their managing agent. This fee will still be processed separately per scheme with the portal generating an individual invoice for each strata scheme. Strata managers may also charge a service fee to the reporting however this is not part of the hub payment process.
Access to reported information
Who can see the reported information in the strata Hub?
For an overview about the reporting, visit our Strata annual reporting page. The person reporting for their strata scheme can then visit the Strata scheme reporting user guide page for information on accessing and using the new Strata Hub.
In coming months owners and residents will be able to look up information about their strata scheme on the Strata Hub after it is reported. We will update our website information when this access becomes available.
For strata topics other than the reporting, go to the strata section on our website.
Strata schemes should submit their first report by the end of December 2022. Penalties may apply if schemes don’t meet their reporting requirement by 30 June 2023.
Service NSW proof of identify for business accounts
The Strata Hub project team is currently working with the Service NSW team to enable a business account verification process however we do not yet have a firm delivery date for this.
In the meantime, access to the Strata Hub requires an individual proof of identity process.
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Note: The Strata Hub was formerly known as the Strata portal.