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What to look for in strata management services

September 06, 2019

A strata management company looks after your strata title development. They work for the owners corporation, of which all owners in a strata title are members. The owners corporation can choose who to appoint and whether to change companies.

For more on what a strata manager does, check out our articles on what your strata fees pay for and what they do in the lead up to settlement. 

When you’re on the hunt for a new strata manager, there are certain things you should be looking for and questions to ask.

Experience

Managing a strata scheme is complex. A good strata manager is an accountant, police officer, mediator and tradesperson all in one. Choose one who:

  • has worked for similar developments in terms of size, functionality and facilities
  • has experience in dealing with mixed use (commercial plus residential), if your development has these
  • has a network of experts they can call on for specific advice and support divisions to back them up
Qualifications

Your strata manager should be able to show you that they:

  • have professional indemnity insurance cover
  • are licensed through the appropriate body. In the ACT this is the Office of Regulatory Services
  • participate in continuing professional development courses to stay up to date with legislation and industry practice
Price

Make sure that you understand how much your strata management company charges and what you get for that price. Cheaper is not necessarily better, but don’t pay for services you don’t need.

What you need will depend on the size and nature of the development and whether you also have a facilities manager on site.

A strata manager does all or some of the following:

  • dealing with correspondence between owners, tenants and external parties
  • arranging for maintenance of common areas
  • calculating budgets for approval
  • arranging the annual general meeting and any extraordinary general meetings
  • calculating levies, serving levy notices and following up with late payers
  • keeping insurance policies current and handling any claims
  • record keeping
  • communicating and enforcing ‘house rules’
  • mediating disputes
Location

Choose a company with an office local to your development. This ensures that your strata manager:

  • can respond quickly to situations needing them on site
  • has relationships with local cleaners and tradespeople
  • has an understanding of local issues, for example when temporary parking restrictions apply
Ken Nicholls, Head of Strata at Independent
Ken Nicholls, Head of Strata at Independent

Questions to ask when engaging a strata manager


Choosing a new strata manager? It’s a good idea to meet with your potential candidates ahead and ask them questions to help you select the best person for the job. Ken Nicholls, Head of Strata at Independent, gives some insight into what questions you should be asking and what you should be looking for in a response.

Here’s what you should ask.

1. Who will actually be the strata manager?

When you choose a strata management company, a particular strata manager will be assigned to your development. Ask to meet with the person you will be working with, so you can determine:

  • what their communication style is like
  • how much experience they have in strata
  • how long they have been with the company
  • whether they will be the primary contact or if an assistant will be
“Look for an answer that offers specifics. Everyone will tell you they have great communication skills, but does their communication with you so far show that? Have they got back to you promptly thus far and answered your questions in a straightforward fashion?
“A good strata manager will be happy to offer references from other developments so you can get a word of mouth recommendation. They should also be able to describe who does what within the company so that you understand their role.”

 

2. What type of strata development experience do you have?

Every development is different, but it’s important that your strata manager has experience in developments like yours. This might include:

  • the size and number of units
  • whether it is residential or mixed use (commercial/residential)
  • the types of amenities (for example a gym or pool) and whether the development is upscale
“The answer should include the names of specific developments and the relevant details. If they can’t name developments, or they have only worked on developments very different from yours, consider it a red flag.”

 

3. Do you have the support and capability to handle the development?

When issues arise the best strata management companies will be able to call on their support team for specialist advice and back up. Ask your candidates:

  • how big is the company?
  • are there specialist divisions within their company: for example legal services, debt collection or taxation experts?
  • do they have relationships with property managers or marketing teams if you want to rent out your property?
  • is there a back up person if your strata manager is ill or unavailable?
  • do they have relationships with tradespeople?
“There are pros and cons to both small and large strata management teams. What’s important is that they have access to specialists and a focus on personalised service.
"If the company is large, they should have specialist divisions to offer a full service product. In this case, you want to know that you won’t be losing personalised service. Ideally, they offer small dedicated teams within a larger structure so you get wider support with the personal touch."
“If the company is small, it should be able to show you that it has ongoing relationships with external providers for specialist advice. That might include a debt collection agency, marketing specialists and legal advice.”

 

4. What do your fees cover?

You want to get value for money from your strata company, but cheapest isn’t always best. You don’t want to miss out on vital services, or pay for things you don’t need. Ask them:

  • what services do they offer for each price?
  • do they offer different service packages so you can choose the one that fits your development?
  • how long is the contract for?
“Their fee structure should set out what they do and don’t do. Make sure it’s clear to you if certain things incur extra charges or will be outsourced to another company who will charge a fee. They should be willing to go through the specifics of their contract. While most companies use a standard contract as a starting point, feel free to ask if changes can be made to suit your owners corporation.”


If you’re thinking about changing your strata manager and are looking for the power of a big business with the personal touch of a boutique agency, give Independent a ring. As Canberra’s largest and most experienced agency, we have specialists in all key roles to ensure your strata is managed properly. Our effective business unit structure means there’s a team of people who all know what’s happening with your development, so you’re never just a number.