In this series of articles on the Strata Titles Act Reform project, we are bringing you details of the amendments that will impact strata communities across Western Australia. Our previous articles and online videos have already covered other areas of the reforms including:
the new forms of strata: community title schemes and leasehold strata
clearer and easier ways to resolve disputes
terminations of schemes
staged strata development.
This article will focus on the proposed reforms for improving buyer information. Every buyer of a strata title lot in Western Australia (WA) should receive information about the lot and the strata scheme they are buying into before they sign a contract. Giving buyers information about strata ensures they understand there are different rules and obligations compared to buying a green title property (stand-alone house).
Buyers also need information to make decisions on what price to pay for an apartment, such as: what are the levies I will have to pay? …or how much money is in the strata company’s administrative fund?
Feedback Landgate received from the community showed buyers are not getting the most useful information they need to make informed decisions. It also showed that information given to buyers is not clearly set out and the rights of a buyer to avoid the purchase of a strata apartment are not operating in a reasonable way.
Currently sellers cannot give the information to buyers electronically. This area of reform aims to:
give buyers the most relevant information without putting an unnecessary strain on the seller
ensure information for buyers is set out in a clear way
ensure buyer’s rights to avoid a contract are reasonable.
For strata properties, the information given to buyers will include additional details about the levies owners have to pay, a copy of the minutes from the most recent annual general meeting, and details about the accounts held by the strata company. Buyers will also get a complete set of the by-laws for the scheme, details of the strata manager contract and details of the strata company’s insurance coverage. Buyer information will be provided in a user-friendly format. The standard disclosure form buyers get will be clearly set out, easier to read and give buyers guidance on important issues to consider. Electronic disclosure will also be allowed.
Sellers currently have a duty to tell a buyer if a notifiable variation occurs before settlement. But, currently the seller must tell the buyer even if the variation does not actually impact the buyer. The seller must tell the buyer of the variation as soon as the variation occurs. If the seller tells the buyer, even one day after finding out about the variation, the buyer can avoid the contract, and an administrative by-law change is now regarded as a variation.
This leads to many buyers unfairly pulling out of the sale of an apartment. Reforms will make notifiable variations work in a more reasonable way. The seller will only have to tell the buyer if the variation actually impacts the buyer. The seller will have to tell the buyer of the variation within a reasonable timeframe, and an administrative by-law change won’t be regarded as a variation. Under reforms buyers will now be given 10 days to make a decision on avoiding the contract, after being told of a variation, rather than seven days. The buyer won’t be able to avoid the contract if the contract specifies a variation that then occurs. This will ensure the sale of strata apartments is more certain. The State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) will have the power to resolve disputes arising from the seller’s duty to inform the buyer, if for example the seller has not given the required information or where the buyer seeks to avoid the contract. See more detail and a short video on better buyer information and find out more about strata reforms on the Landgate website at landgate.wa.gov.au/stratareform.
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Copyright © Western Australian Land Information Authority, 2015 Important disclaimer To the extent permitted by law, the Western Australian Land Information Authority (Landgate) is released and will in no way be liable to you or anyone else for any loss, damage, expense or costs however caused (including through negligence) which may be directly or indirectly suffered from your use of or reliance on this information. If you use, or rely upon this information, you do so at your own risk. All information is provided by Landgate in good faith and is believed to be accurate and reliable as at the time of publication. However the accuracy and completeness of the information is not guaranteed and is supplied by Landgate ‘as is’ with no representation or warranty as to its reliability, accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose.
Source: Landgate, 29th of June, email article: “Strata Titles Act Reform Newsletter – better buyer information via 30 June 2016 AICWA Newsletter.