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Moving into a strata building: 4 steps to a smooth move

March 04, 2020

Living in a strata-titled property isn’t quite like other forms of real estate. There are default rules that govern what you can and can’t do, plus common areas that you share with others and need to take care of. If you’ve bought off plan or you’re renting a brand new build, the chances are that you’ll also be moving in at the same time as everyone else in the development.

We spoke to Julian Ortner-Kemp, General Manager, Civium, to find out what you can expect when moving in and out of a strata-titled development.

“It can be complicated!” says Julian. “If you’re moving into a townhouse in a group of six, that’s easy. A 100-unit apartment building is something else. Not only are you trying to move in at the same time as a lot of other people, you’ve also got to be mindful that you’re dealing with common property. You have to think of others. Book a moving in slot, use protective equipment to prevent damage to common property, and clean behind you when you leave.”

1.     Make a booking

if a hundred people all tried to move in at the same time. Chaos. Removalist trucks parked three deep, lifts crammed full of furniture and people trying to manoeuvre beds getting stuck in the hallways. That’s why it’s so important to book a moving-in time.

Says Julian “If there’s a building manager assigned to the building, get in touch with them to organise a moving-in slot. It's a good rule of thumb—if the complex is big enough to have a building manager, it’s definitely big enough that you’ll need to book a slot.”

When you call the building manager, they’ll block off some parking so that your truck can park, and they’ll keep a lift available for you.

2.     Use protective equipment

Even if parking isn’t an issue, it’s always best to organise your moving in slot so that you can use protective equipment.

The building manager will provide you with a lift key and lift blankets. If your building doesn’t have a building manager, get in contact with your strata manager instead.

Kim Quade, Strata Operations Manager for Independent, says “It’s better to get in touch than go off and do your own thing, because we can help minimise the risk of damage (and of you having to pay for that!) If we have the equipment you need, either in our offices or at the development, you’re welcome to use them."

Lift blankets and keys make moving in a much safer proposition. Julian explains.

“The lift blankets are there to cover the walls of the lift while you’re moving furniture up and down. It’s really important that you use them. Otherwise, you might cause some real damage. We’ve had developments where someone has shattered the mirrored wall inside a lift, putting the whole thing out of action for several days just when everyone else was hoping to move in. They weren’t popular with their neighbours for a while after that!”

The lift key holds the door open so that you can load the lift at your own pace. The last thing you want is the lift doors closing with a piece of furniture only partially inside.

“That happened at a building not long ago,” says Kim. “The new owners were loading a bed frame in, made of wrought iron. The lift doors tried to close before it was out of the way, hit the iron frame and just buckled. The entire door needed to be replaced to the tune of several thousand dollars—and yes, those owners were the ones who had to pay up.”

It costs nothing to borrow moving in equipment, so why not invest a little time now and save yourself from an expensive accident on the day?

3.     Know the house rules

Every strata scheme has a set of 11 default rules which are set out by the Unit Titles Management Act 2011. These apply to every development, and cover things like reasonable noise limits, not using the property in hazardous or illegal ways, and not making unauthorised changes to the unit.

At the first AGM, after most of the units have settled, the owners’ corporation agree on a set of house rules that are specific to the development. These might cover usage of shared facilities like a gym or pool, whether you can keep a pet or visitor parking.

If you’re not part of the initial AGM because you’ve moved into the development later, you should be provided with the two most recent sets of minutes as an addendum to the S 119 certificate, as part of the exchange process. The default rules, including your building’s specific rules, are registered with the Lands Title Office.

If you’re a tenant, your lease agreement includes an agreement to abide by the default rules and the strata’s house rules. Your landlord or property agent must give you a copy of the rules. In fact, it’s best to ask for the rules before signing the lease, so that you’ll know if a rule makes it impractical for you to live there.

Take some time to get familiar with the rules that apply to your scheme before moving day. You don’t want to introduce Fido to his new home only to discover that he’s not allowed to live there, after all.

This goes double if you’re planning to renovate. While you can probably update the kitchen taps without asking permission, there are limits. Replacing a floor, for example, is considered a structural alteration and will need permission from the owners’ corporation as it can affect the rest of the building. Renovations that alter the external appearance of your unit, like replacing doors or windows, also need approval.

4.     Leave only footprints

For most of us, there will come a day when you have to reverse the process and move back out of your strata property. This is easier in many ways, not least because you don’t have to compete for parking with other people.

The most important thing is to make sure that you take everything with you when you go. “A lot of people think that if they leave furniture or unwanted goods in common areas, we’ll dispose of it for them,” says Kim. “This isn’t true. It isn’t true even if you leave things in the bin room. Instead, we’ll make contact and require that you come and remove things yourself. If we absolutely have to dispose of things on your behalf, you’ll receive an invoice for both the cost of the service and our time.”

Strata living has many advantages. You can share amenities with others, like on-site security or a swimming pool, that you wouldn’t be able to afford on your own. Many people also feel safer knowing that there are neighbours just the other side of the wall.

As long as you’re considerate of others when moving in and out, and abide by the rules, you should find it a smooth and positive experience.

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