Strata and Strategic Planning Reform is Essential for WA’s Future

 

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting with Minister Wyatt in his office at Dumas House, along with representatives of Landgate.

I was there to plead the case for a minimum education qualification for strata managers, as I have done over the last five years with all his predecessors and colleagues.

With improved focus on liveability and the Design WA Guidelines, the elephant in the room which everyone is aware of, but is failing to acknowledge, is the standard of strata management. If we do not get at least the requirement for a qualification, then the stigma attached with living in strata will never go away.

The general public, SCA WA and the Property Council of Australia have continuously lobbied Landgate and the Minister in their submissions on the need for strata managers to at least attain the Cert IV in Strata Community Management.

The aim of ensuring a Cert IV qualification is to develop and expand the strata manager’s professional competency to meet industry standard obligations, thereby maintaining an effective and competent service to their clients. This minimum qualification is also in line with where NSW is currently at and where Victoria is currently progressing towards.

It is disappointing that Landgate were not able to appreciate the opportunity that setting a qualification requirement in the Regulations would have deliver to our industry and the benefits it would provide to the consumer.

What is very concerning is that Landgate have ignored all other industry and public submissions and aligned the Regulations directly with the REIWA submission.

REIWA’s submission appears to suggest that a strata manager does not need any further learning than the proposed REBA changes to property management?

How can REIWA in good faith suggest that a strata manager does not need a higher level of education than what is being proposed by REBA for property managers?

SCA WA currently has 94 Corporate Strata Manager members (strata management businesses) who have 374 employees registered with the Association who manage just under 120,000 lots.

There are around 340,000 strata lots in WA, of which 50% represent schemes of 4 lots or less who generally do not employ a strata manager. Therefore, SCA WA represents well over 70% of strata managed lots.

When SCA WA surveyed their 900+ members at the beginning of this year about education for strata managers, the overwhelming response was the need for the Cert IV qualification. WAAA received a 97% positive response from the general public for licensing of strata managers which would have been aligned to the Cert IV.

Currently, over 60 SCA WA members have completed a Cert IV or Diploma level qualification and are Level 2 Accredited or waiting for their necessary CPD points to attain this level of accreditation.

Discussions with Tafe and RMIT confirm there are over 70 students currently enrolled or who have completed their Cert IV’s this calendar year.Therefore, when Landgate makes representations to the Minister that the industry is not ready, they are not being honest.

REIWA is a major sponsor of Landgate and certain board members of Landgate are past CEO’s and members of REIWA.

I can only surmise REIWA do not what to impose education requirements on their strata managers because they do not want the burden of having to train their managers who dabble in strata management, which is disappointing.

 

Training and skills needed:

It is important to understand that Strata Management was recognised as a distinct and specialised profession through the creation of the new National Training Package which is separate from the Real Estate Training package.

With reference to the Certificate IV in Strata Community Management read the Qualification Description from the training package. These units are not for property management or sales agents, they are specifically designed for the management of Strata Communities.

The National Industry Council which represents all stakeholders in the property sector agreed in 2016/2017 that strata management requires a distinct and specialised set of skills and knowledge as evidenced by the selection of CORE units for this qualification.

CORE units are there because they represent what is needed to be deemed competent to perform tasks in the workplace to industry standards; why has Landgate in its infinite wisdom stepped away from the National Industry Council requirements.

EXAMPLE

The list of core units in the current draft Regulations does not include Facilitate Meetings.\

In the first instance, you need to be mindful that this unit was included as a core unit because it was unanimously agreed by the Industry Council to represent a core function of the role of a strata manager.

This requires extensive and deep knowledge of the Strata Titles Act and regulations to meet compliance and then apply that in the workplace.

In practice in WA strata managers are elected to Chair meetings, which raises the skill level required to respond to their client’s needs.

This unit has been contextualized to make it relevant to Strata Mangers and must be distinguished from other types of meetings that occur in the property industry otherwise it makes no sense when read together with the Qualification description.

BSBFIA402 – Report on Financial activity is another unit that is not include in the proposed Regulations.

This unit represents an important duty of a strata manager and the accounts staff as reflected in the Strata Titles Act. Again, when this unit was contextualized in terms of type of financial information that needs to be compiled for a strata manager to represent various report to the Strata Company at times that they are required. Broadly, this includes the ability to make recommendation following careful analysis of information that they have collected.

This is a complex area and requires the proper set of skills and knowledge to act in the best interest of the Strata Company and lot owners.

To omit it is a failure to understand the role of a strata manager.

 

Summary:

The proposed educational requirements in the Regulations have not been well thought through and will not provide the level of consumer protection necessary to those who own and occupy Strata property.

The current failures in the building industry only exacerbate the long-held beliefs that strata living is only for the less well-off and is managed by a mum and dad cottage industry, with no barriers to entry or educational requirements, nor regulation.

Strata management provides a very diverse role that can be very rewarding. The problems we face as professional business owners, is that we are struggling to attract students/graduates to take on strata manager because there is no clear pathway for them to follow.

The Regulations which are currently out for public comment offer the ability to deal with one of these stigmas and that is setting a minimum qualification standard that is at lease in line with the direction the real estate industry is now progressing towards. Arguably, it should be higher, given the expectations imposed on a strata manager far exceed those demanded by any other profession in the property industry, I can say this with experience, as over the last 18 years I’ve worked in all facets of this sector.

While the property industry as a whole strongly advocated for licensing for over 10 years, it is accepted that this is now off the table, thus we now see the absolute necessity that the Regulations set an appropriate education level that is broadly in line with the real estate industry and offers the level of consumer protection that the public needs to ensure their home is being managed by suitably qualified professionals.

SCA WA and the Property Council of Australia’s position is that there needs to be a tiered approach to education to provide the necessary consumer protections, while also ensuring there is a clear education pathway for people interested in entering our industry.

Both industry bodies have presented and advocated on these submissions numerous times; it is time Landgate gave them due consideration.

 

Written By:

Scott Bellerby

 

These are my personal views and not the views of the industry bodies I’m a member of.

 If you support these views, I ask that you log in into the Landgate website and submit a similar submission; happy for you to copy and paste as you see fit.

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