Firstly, you may be wondering what exactly the ‘Strata Hub’ is. This government mandate requires all strata management companies to provide essential building information to a publicly available portal. Whilst this in essence may not appear to be a big deal, the implications will be large for the wider industry. The mandate will bring about a greater amount of accountability for strata companies and their Owners Corporations, which is exactly the intention of the government.
The strata industry traditionally has had very low barriers to entry, with minimal understanding of what is required. This has led to many cowboys in the industry, spooking potential clients with the lure of low levies and management fees. Whilst competitive low-end pricing is not isolated to the strata industry, if there is no mandated lowest acceptable quality this becomes a real problem. The implications for apartment buildings and the lives of those residing in them is real and far reaching. For example, strata buildings have many compliance requirements that need to be met. Having the building insured is just one of them. A simple administrative error of an insurance policy invoice not being paid, combined with an incident in the building such as a fire, can have detrimental impact on all residents and owners, both financially, emotionally, and physically. Whilst the government has done many things over the years to improve the quality of strata management services such as increasing licencing requirements and issuing fines for non-compliance, there is still a long way to go.
The strata hub will move towards eradicating low standards of strata management that are not meeting basic compliance requirements, whether that be self-managed or otherwise. Those trying to do it ‘on the cheap’, without real care for the implications or risk, will be sweating on the government requirement to have all documents for buildings to be loaded to the publicly available ‘Strata Hub’ portal by the 1st of September deadline. The times of dodging fines or hoping that an audit doesn’t come their way are over. This is great news for strata owners and residents.
As a strata owner, the ‘Strata Hub’ will provide piece of mind that the strata management company is meeting an acceptable standard. It’s a good idea to discuss the strata hub with your strata management company. Their attitude towards this government initiative will provide an indication of service that you are receiving. If your strata management company is not even aware of it or seem concerned about being able to provide the required information, it may be time to change strata management companies.
A common objection to the strata hub relates to privacy of information. Whilst this objection is not unfounded, at the end of the day if there is something happening at the building that shouldn’t be, then this is the real issue, not the sharing of the information. The information belongs to all owners. It is shared with the strata managing agent and this initiative allows it to also be shared with government. Whilst it’s inevitable that there will be teething issues with a project of this scale, they will be worked through and improved. Considerations of which log in will be used on the Service NSW ap to enter the data, to how will the privacy of committee members be protected so they’re not bombarded with sales calls, are all valid questions. Like any significant new initiative, careful planning and consultation is required prior to launch as well as tracking and refining post launch. Whilst it is unlikely the strata hub will work seamlessly from the get-go; the benefits far outweigh any potential implementation issues. Then there is also the matter of the cost. The Owners Corporations will pay a fee for use of the portal as well as uploading and keeping the information up to date. Although there will be an associated cost to the Owners Corporation, the benefits of the improved transparency, and flow on eradication of non-compliant strata management far out ways the cost.
Whilst the ‘strata hub’ is not yet widely understood because it is such a new initiative, it is important to take note once it is officially launched on 1st September 2022. Take stock of how your strata management company handles the obligations of meeting this government requirement. If it runs smoothly, then you can breathe a sigh of relief. If not, it may be time to change strata management companies.