Jimmy Thomson looks at the #####strata jobs that have similar sounding names but very different roles.
A strata manager, a building manager and a caretaker walk into a bar … who buys the drinks?*It’s a joke but in strata there are some labels that are so confusing it’s just not funny.
Depending on where you live, you could have a strata manager, building manager, owners corporation manager, strata managing agent, body corporate manager, facilities manager, caretaker, or residential manager.
They might report to a strata committee, executive committee, strata council or management committee. And all of this could be overseen by an owners corporation, body corporate, strata company or strata corporation – all of which mean exactly the same thing.
Confused? You should be. But getting back to just the #managers, the names may be similar but their roles can be very different.
A strata manager (aka owners corporation manager, strata managing agent or body corporate manager) is basically a professional administrator for strata schemes. It is his or her job it is to take the collective decisions of the owners, via general meetings or through their elected committee, and turn them into actions.
In that regard, the strata manager (the term we will use from now on) is a facilitator. He or she is not the boss of the owners or their committee – in fact, it’s the other way round. Strata managers can only do what the scheme’s owners collectively instruct them to do.
For that reason, there is little point in raging at the strata manager if you think your levies (or strata fees) are too high. Your strata managers are only doing what the people who bothered to turn up at your Annual General Meeting instructed them to do, and that includes collecting a specific amount of money from owners.
Yes, they will have advised on how much money the annual budget needs and therefore the amount you need to contribute every quarter. But shouting at the strata manager because your levies are too high is like yelling at your kids because they get too much pocket money.
From the levies or fees that strata managers collect, they pay bills and expenses (including their own fees). FYI: the average cost of a strata manager is roughly $250 per unit per year – hardly worth bursting a blood vessel, especially if you are getting good service.
As well as collecting money and paying bills, strata managers are like paralegals in that they don’t offer legal opinions so much as advice and support. But they should be able to tell you what the law says and arrange contact with a strata lawyer if you think you need one. The good ones will tell your committee if they’re about to do something that contravenes your state’s strata laws and the smart ones will tell you how likely you are to get away with it.
They handle communications between the owners’ committees and the owners and make sure that new by-laws or rules are registered with the appropriate authorities. They can send out breach notices (if instructed by the committee) but they are not StrataKops – they won’t patrol your car park looking for rogue parkers or sneak into gardens in search of contraband pets. In fact, he or she may conceivably never set foot in your building.
They also organise strata insurance – which is compulsory under strata law – for which they often receive a commission. It’s worth noting that owners can collectively decide to hand over all the functions of their committee to the strata manager (for which you pay more) or they can decide not to have a strata manager at all.
Now, what’s so complicated about any of that?
If you are looking for parking or pet patrols, you are probably thinking of a Building Manager (aka facilities manager). They do spend time in your building – possibly even office hours – and they can, if you ask them to, check on alleged by-law or rule breaches.
They can keep an eye on maintenance, arrange for tradespeople and quotes for work and generally manage the building. But they are no more the “bosses” of the building than a bus driver is the boss of his or her passengers.
And then we come to caretakers, (aka residential managers). These are people who own a unit from which they manage the building’s facilities for a fee and good caretakers are part of their community as well as being contracted service providers.
However it can be problematic if the unit owners don’t get to choose their managers, are locked into contracts of up to 25 years and the contract gives the residential property manager exclusive rights to manage rentals and property sales … but that’s a story for another time.
With all these managers, agents and caretakers around, you can see why residents blithely refer to “the strata” when they mean “someone in some kind of authority”.
*The strata manager buys the drinks because he or she has the chequebook.