Strife in strata: shedding light on conflicts of interest

Strife in strata: shedding light on conflicts of interest
Dr Janette Corcoran

The recent exposé aired on ABC’s 7.30 program has left many Docklanders reeling, unveiling a troubling reality of embedded conflicts of interest within strata management services.

The bombshell segment thrust into the spotlight allegations of exorbitant fees and a concerning lack of transparency. While the focus was on a single company based in NSW, the implications reverberate nationwide, casting a shadow over the integrity and legality of practices within the strata services sector.

Such is the perceived magnitude of this issue that the ABC has issued a public plea to apartment owners, body corporates (owners corporations), strata managers, and regulators, urging them to share their experiences. Submissions can be made here.

Beyond mere revelation, the ABC’s report has also given voice to organisations that have long sounded alarms about systemic failures in the residential strata sector. Notable among these are the Owners’ Corporation Network of Australia (OCN), Australian Consumers Insurance Lobby (ACIL), and Unit Owners’ Association Queensland (UOAQ), which have collectively called upon regulatory bodies such as ASIC, ACCC, and the Strata & Property Services Commissioner of New South Wales to launch investigations into these questionable practices. It is regrettable that Victoria lacks an equivalent office.

In tandem with these calls for action, Amanda Farmer of Your Strata Property hosted an online session featuring Professor Cathy Sherry from Macquarie Law School. The session emphasised that the ABC’s report and ensuing investigation mark just “the beginning of a long, hard – and very necessary – journey for the people who choose to serve strata owners”.

Also identified as part of the problem are apathetic owners and inexperienced and/or overwhelmed committees as, together, they create fertile ground for exploitative practices to thrive.

This underscores the importance of organisations like the OCN, particularly its efforts to raise awareness and build capacity within the sector.

Most recently their efforts took the form of a free webinar on Strata Disaster, where the work of researcher Megan Chatterton was discussed with representatives from the Insurance Council of Australia, CHU Insurance, Facilities Management Australia, and other strata specialists.

Insights from a national survey on emergency preparedness underscored critical issues, ranging from committees’ limited powers during emergencies to the imperative for accessible registers of vulnerable residents.

In the face of these deep and wide-ranging strata challenges, collective action and informed engagement are imperative to effect meaningful change within the strata management sector.

To stay informed about forthcoming residential strata webinars and events, owners can subscribe to the OCN Strata Newsletter & Events. •

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