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"In Strata the world is full of Compliance Issues.  We are constantly having to navigate our way through the never-ending mire of legislation and requirements on all sorts of things - from safety glass to smoke alarms to fire safety to work health & safety and even to pest inspections....and it doesn't stop there.  Below you'll find some details on a few of the main ones everyone has to contend with at some stage in their 'Strata' life - especially if you reside in NSW."
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STRATA COMPLIANCE ISSUES


Window Safety Devices


The Window Safety Devices legislation came into play following the release of statistics that showed around 50 children fall from windows and balconies in Australia each year.  This legislation introduced a range of measures to help prevent or at least reduce the incidence of these falls.

Now, I could do what every other site does and list ALL the details of compliance on this page but I feel it is much better and more efficient (for both you AND me) to point you to links that give you ALL the facts along with some other interesting viewpoints.  No reason to 're-invent the wheel' - right?

Now, before I give you some links that go through the nitty-gritty of Window Safety Devices (WSD), here's some key things you must be aware of:

  • the changes to the legislation came into effect on December 11th 2013 - with about a 5 year window to comply
  • the DEADLINE for compliance is March 18th 2018 - so everything MUST be completed by then or the Owners Corporation can face fines
  • the safety devices MUST be installed on all windows a certain height above ground level in residential strata schemes.  Obviously there are some additional "conditions"
  • the Owners Corporation will pay for the installations, in some circumstances, if lot owners and tenants have them installed themselves AND the locks ARE compliant.  Leaving the 'compliance' aspect up to the lot owners or tenants is NOT a good idea.  You can read my TIP below for the reasons
  • Flyscreens - no matter how strong they seem, are NOT sufficient and do NOT comply unless they are the reinforced security type and capable of resisting a very strong outward pressure of at least 250 Newtons which would prevent a child falling through
  • proper security grills DO comply as long as they can withstand outward pressure of a minimum of 250 Newtons
  • the regulations apply whether you have kids or not

An IMPORTANT Tip:  After installation of the WSD's, the supplier should issue a Compliance Certificate to the Owners Corporation to verify which WSD's were installed to which windows.  Then, should a WSD be removed in the future, the Owners Corporation will have a record to verify that a WSD was previously installed but was then removed.

And ANOTHER BIG TIP:  Make sure there's a by-law in place so the Owners Corporation can recover the cost of the installation of a replacement WSD should it be removed or damaged by a lot owner or tenant.
And yet ANOTHER TIP - It's advisable for Strata Committees NOT to leave the widow security device installations up to the individual lot owners or tenants.  Why?  Well there will be varying degrees of quality and competency and cost (and even colour/style) and the end result STILL might not comply - and guess who is held accountable? Yep - the Strata Committee/Owners Corporation.  There could also be insurance implications if it was found the devices were NOT compliant and something 'unfortunate' happened requiring a claim. Simply NOT worth the risk exposure IMO.

PLUS, reputable firms will provide quality of workmanship and product - so the 'fly-by-nighters' should be avoided - remember the 'pink batts' debacle a few years ago?  And it's always best to have a consistent 'look' across all the windows of the scheme anyway - which will be assured if you engage just one supplier..

NSW SSMA 2015 & SSMR 2016 Window Safety Devices links

Some Other Useful Window Safety Devices links

Firstly though, have a look at this very simple video explanation of How much force is 1 Newton?.  I actually didn't know myself so this helped me undertsand it much more.   Not totally but more than I originally did.

Ok, so now on with the WSD links...

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Fire Safety


Fire Safety is an extremely important part in the maintaining of a Strata or Community scheme but sadly is, in many instances, one of those matters that's put into the too hard and too expensive basket thereby possibly putting the lives of the scheme's lot owners at risk.

The NSW Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000 Part 9: Fire Safety... requires that "the owner of a building, to which an essential fire safety measure is applicable, is required to maintain each essential fire safety measure in the building".  Failure to comply with this legislation can lead to significant fines and possibly serious legal ramifications for those responsible.

ALL you need to know is buried in this legislation but, as usual with heavy 'legalese' text, it can get a bit tedious if you're going to tackle it all in the one session - unless of course you're a lawyer and you love reading this.

The bottom-line is: everyone MUST comply with the fire safety legislation - No excuses

Fire Safety measures include (but are not limited to):

  • fire mains and water supply services
  • fire hydrants
  • fire shutters & windows
  • fire doors
  • fire dampers
  • fire hose reels
  • fire extinguishers
  • smoke detectors and alarms
  • smoke exhaust systems
  • automatic sprinkler systems
  • emergency lighting
  • stand-by power systems
  • emergency lighting
  • exit lighting & signs

Fire Safety Certificate & Annual Fire Safety Statement

For all new buildings or renovated and/or altered ones, an appropriately qualified person, such as a Fire Engineer, must inspect the fire safety measures at the property and provide a Final Fire Safety Certificate to the Owners Corporation.

TOP TIP:  If you're looking for another BLANK GENERIC form then you can check out Blacktown City Council's links just below to get their version of these forms to use

This certificate must then be sent to the Commissioner of Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) via email (to afss@fire.nsw.gov.au) as well as to the local council and a copy (along with the latest Fire Safety Schedule) must be displayed in a prominent location within the strata building.  Then, each year, the whole inspection process happens again and any 'defects' are reported to the Owners Corporation so they can be corrected.  Once all the issues with compliance are fixed, the Annual Fire Safety Statement is then (again) sent to the Fire Commissioner and the local council with a copy (along with the Latest Fire Safety Schedule) displayed in a prominent location within the strata building.

While the process is pretty simple and straightforward, there's a lot of co-ordination to be done for access to properties (so the smoke alarms and fire doors can be inspected) to ensure the inspection of all the other fire safety measures are done within the prescribed timeframes, that repairs are carried out and that the Annual Fire Safety Statement is sent to the local council BEFORE the due date.  If the council does NOT receive the statement by the due date, a fine might be imposed on the Owners Corporation...

Now, these certificates can come in all shapes and sizes as a lot of councils seem to have their own version (with a logo, etc) but here's a couple of GENERIC versions of the certificate (from 2 specialist Fire Safety companies) to give you an idea: Essential Certifiers - Fire Safety Certificate  and NSW Certifiers - Final/Interim Fire Safety Certificate.

SPECIAL NOTE:  There've been some recent amendments to the Environment Planning & Assessment Amendment Regulation 2017 (Fire Safety and Building Certification) with the introduction of the requirement for the fire safety measures to be inspected by a "competent fire safety practitioner" - which essentially means an attempt to regulate the industry via an interim "register" of those deemed to be "competent".  As it's so new, it's still a bit of a grey area but I'm certain that, as things 'heat up" in this area (excuse the pun), more changes will occur.

Four great "fire safety information" links

The sites below go into extraordinary detail regarding fire safety so they obviously take it seriously.  Wonderful resources for us 'normal' folks to see what goes into the whole fire safety area.

  • NSW Fire & Rescue - Building Fire Safety is a rather interesting government-run site which contains heaps of really good 'fire safety' stuff.  It's quite easy to navigate (which is a bonus)and has a big section on everything to do with Fire Safety - from Community Fire Safety to Building Fire Safety to Workplace Fire Safety to Fire Safety in the Home and more - so be sure to go over this in detail.
    Look at the menu in red down the left side to see what areas you can learn about.

    There's another smaller MENU (in a white box) down the RIGHT side of the page.  This covers a lot of very useful (and handy) procedural & logistical information such as Fire Saefty Guidelines and Submissions to FRNSW and Using FRNSW forms and fees and charges, etc.  Don't miss this either.

    TIP - Type Fire Safety, into the SEARCH box near the top right of the NSW Fire and Rescue site to bring up lots of AMAZING topics all dealing with Fire Safety.

  • The Inner West council's website provides a truly excellent and quite comprehensive guide to all aspects of Fire Safety.  This whole section dedicated to Fire Safety includes the who, what, when and why of Fire safety, what 'required' actions need to be taken, examples of the Fire Safety installation certificate, the annual fire safety statement and much more...so make sure you read this by clicking on any (or all) of the blue coloured menu items in the middle of the page.

  • Another excellent website is the Blacktown City Council's site which touches on the requirements for Essential Fire Safety Measures as well as a section on Responsibilities for Certification which you can see as a menu item in the top right section of the page.
    If you're after some generic BLANK forms you can get the Annual Fire Safety Statement (in PDF form) in the Existing Buildings section AND the Annual Fire Safety Certificate (also in PDF form) in the Owners of Buildings section.
    This site is not quite as comprehensive as the Leichhardt Council's offering BUT is a great quick reference guide PLUS you can get some blank forms to use as they are NOT council specific.

  • The City of Sydney council's website goes into some detail on lots to do with Fire Safety.  It gives quite a comprehensive coverage of this large topic and is worth having a look at.

Street-Smarts

As with anything there are always some 'traps' and who better to uncover these than a strata lawyer?  Well, David Bannerman of Bannersmans Lawyers has put together a superb article on how to handle some of the 'not-so-obvious' issues with Annual Fire Safety Statements - called Annual Fire Safety Statements: What Are They Good For? Sometimes, Absolutely Nothing!.  Quite a controversial heading but it's very worthwhile having a look see.  Just keep in mind that this article was produced in 2015 and so some of it may no longer be relevant and, as always, it's best to get a 'legal' update if you have any concerns.

For example - As mentioned earlier, there have been some recent amendments to the Environment Planning & Assessment Amendment Regulation 2017 (Fire Safety and Building Certification) with the introduction of the requirement for the fire safety measures to be inspected by a "competent fire safety practitioner" - which essentially means an attempt to regulate the industry via a "register" of those deemed to be "competent".  This change in legislation sort of addresses one of the primary concerns pointed out in the above article.  Other concerns may well be addressed as time goes by - so please keep this in mind.

Just Too Important to Overlook

Fire Safety is just too important to overlook or take too lightly.  Lives are at stake as well as damage to - and even the total destruction of - property.  Non-compliance carries a huge legal responsibility, so make sure this aspect of building maintenance and compliance is "top of the list".

In the latest changes to Strata Legislation (released on 30th November, 2016), it's now a mandatory item on the agenda of each Annual General Meeting.  The Owners Corporation must consider the Annual Fire Safety Statement obtained and determine the inspection & maintenance plan of the fire safety measures for the coming year.  It's now the law...

TIP - Most of the better Strata Management companies will have a dedicated 'Fire Safety' department (sometimes also known as an 'Essential Services' department) to handle this increasingly important area so you should make sure yours does.  If you don't use a Strata Manager then it's critical to use a specialist fire safety company to handle everything.

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Smoke Alarms


In NSW, smoke alarms are already mandatory for all new buildings and for some renovated buildings.  However, since May 2006, owners of older home units were required to install smoke alarms (in the 'correct' locations) and keep them in good working order.  The official 'correct' locations for smoke alarms in a unit are:

  • one alarm on each level of the unit
  • one at the part of the unit containing the bedroom and the rest of the unit

Any smoke alarm that complies with the Australian Standards AS 3786-2014 Smoke Alarms (which should be stamped on the product packaging) will meet the latest requirements.

VERY VERY IMPORTANT - As of May 2016, a legislative change came into force requiring that all smoke detectors MUST be replaced when they are 10 years old.  I discovered this little known fact because I stumbled across a "news" article from Jackson+Rowe real estate of Ryde.  The title seems to be named "You might be surprised to know"  (appropriately).  And the rest of the article is pretty good too.

Repair & Maintenance

Under current legislation, the Owners Corporation is responsible for repairing AND maintaining smoke alarms IF the smoke alarms are hard-wired to the lot's electricity supply with a backup battery or connected to a common fire board or panel.  However, if the smoke detectors are stand alone and battery-operated, then the lot owner (or tenant) is responsible for checking and changing the battery.  Ultimately, The Owners Corporation is responsible for replacing or repairing a faulty smoke alarm.

Other very helpful reference links

Of course the interesting (and awesome) Government run site called NSW Fire & Rescue contains heaps of really good stuff INCLUDING Smoke Alarm information.  As mentioned previously, it's quite easy to navigate (which is a bonus)and it has a big section on everything to do with Smoke Alarms - so keep this one in mind (or bookmark it) for future reference - if needed.

The other sections (located in the middle of the page) cover just about all there is to know.  Make sure you visit the section on Smoke Alarms - What is the law? and go through the menu items in the red-ish box on the left for lots of other fire safety related info.  A really top sight and I'm sure you'll find it answers most of your questions.

TIP - Type Smoke Alarms, into the SEARCH box near the top right of the NSW Fire and Rescue site. It comes up with lots of AMAZING topics.

The NSW Planning and Environment department has an entire section dealing specifically with Smoke Alarms.  Don't forget to EXPAND the MENU ITEMS at the bottom of the page (in the blue boxes) for even more relevant info.

Back in 2006, when the latest changes regarding smoke alarms happened, the department produced a comprehensive document entitled Smoke Alarms - Requirements for existing buildings which outlines everything from A-Z on this topic.  It's been written in 'non-legislative' terms and makes an easy read.  And, even though it dates back to 2006, it's a wonderful reference guide on the main requirements and issues regarding smoke alarms since things haven't really changed much since then.

Other documents from the NSW Planning and Environment Department you definitely should have a look at are:

  • Fact sheet 1: owners of houses residential flats and units (PDF file)
  • Fact sheet 2: shared accommodation buildings (PDF file)
  • Implementation of the EP&A Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Regulation 2006 (PDF file)

Another reference is NSW Fair Trading's fact sheet titled Safety and Security - Information for Landlords.  Just be aware that the section on Smoke Alarms is ONLY in the first section as this document covers a number of other security topics but this bit on Smoke Alarms is worth a look at as it covers Strata Scheme Lot owner and tenant responsibilities/requirements.

The REINSW also gets into the act with their PDF on Smoke Alarms.  It was updated in 2014 so what you need to know is pretty much all there - and even has a "Best Practices" section.

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Safety Glass


Glass breakage in Strata is a daily threat, and it usually happens at the worst possible time and in the most inconvenient location.  Whether it's windows, balcony doors, mirrors, shower screens or glass roofs, replacement should be carried out as soon as possible for security and, primarily, safety reasons.  Obviously, with the complexities involved in the whole glass arena, specialists who are on top of all the latest legal requirements are essential - so don't even think about mucking around with this.

Required Standards

All glazing undertaken should comply with Australian Standard AS1288 for the selection and installation of glass in buildings and Australian Standard AS2047 for the selection and installation of windows in buildings.  AS2047 is a performance standard that requires windows to be tested for strength, water penetration, air infiltration and operating force, regardless of the type of material used to make the windows.

As Building Codes are upgraded regularly, original glazing that may have been adequate several years ago could well be considered extremely hazardous by today's Australian Standards.  So the need for a glass audit becomes obvious.  It may not be as high on the 'to-do' list as other items but it can't be forgotten either.

Warning:  Failure by building owners and occupiers to comply with these Standards could result in substantial damages claims should an injury occur.  This danger is ALWAYS present and very real.  So get a regular check-up done...

Getting the details....

Now finding exact details about the latest standards that apply is not that easy let alone trying to get hold of a copy (without having to pay for them).  The AS1288-2006 Glass in buildings section on the Valiant Glass website provides some basic information about the latest standards.  It also has an excellent synopsis of AS1288-2006 which goes into a bit more detail.  Just in case you were wondering, Valiant Glass specialises in glazing for Strata Schemes.

Get yourself a copy....

If you really have to have an actual copy of the Standard (or ANY Australian Standard for that matter) go to the Standards Australia webshop and use the search facility to find what your looking for.  Select the 'Standards' button (under the search box) and type in AS1288.  This will take you directly to AS1288 and all its variants.  Alternatively, typing in AS2047 brings up all the Window Installation standards.  Just remember - these are NOT free but can be purchased by anyone.

Tip  - It's a lot easier (and much safer) to leave it to the professionals and rely on their advice and expertise for such a complicated and important area.

Glass Audit

A Glass Audit can be carried out by a glass specialist to determine if your premises are glazed in accordance with current Australian Standards.  Shop around as some companies will do a FREE Safety Glass report and only charge if a compliance certificate is issued.  Others will take the cost of the report off any work they end up doing at the building.

If you have a strata manager looking after your scheme, then that person should be able to handle it all for you - from beginning to end.  In my opinion, the less you have to worry about the better BUT, if you're going down the DIY strata management route, then make sure you employ a specialist.  If you have no contacts then typing glass audit nsw into google will bring up heaps of them.

Always keep this in mind though - once notified, the Owners Corporation MUST organise for any 'fixes' that must be undertaken to be done.  Failure to do so can result in severe penalties aimed directly at the Strata Committee if anything goes wrong - such as an 'accident'.

Should you spend the money on a glass audit?  Well, it's much better to act quickly and fix whatever needs fixing rather than finding out the hard way later on, courtesy of a letter of demand from the council or, worse still, if an accident happens.  Then you discover that the glass in your building no longer complies leaving the Owners Corporation liable for any litigation claims that may surface.  Besides the lawyers, you probably will have Workcover coming after you - and no one wants that.   You might just be lucky and get away with delaying the inevitable...but then again, you may not.
Is it really worth the risk of injury to someone, litigation and heavy fines?  I don't think so.

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WHS Audit or Safety Audit


The provisions of the Work Health & Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health & Safety Regulation 2017 require that the Owners Corporation provide and maintain the common property to

  • ensure it's safe and without risk to the health of contractors and others who may use it
  • agree to undertake ongoing risk management assessment to identify and eliminate any such risks

One way to undertake such risk management is to have an independent expert inspect the common property (on a regular basis) and report to the Owners Corporation any identified risks.  This is commonly known as a Safety Audit or a Work Health & Safety Audit and should highlight anything unsafe or potentially hazardous.  Once notified, the Owners Corporation MUST address the risk(s) and repair the common property as required. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

SPECIAL NOTE  - Commercial, Retail and Industrial properties require more regular inspections than residential properties.

Public Liability Insurance requirement

A regular and ongoing assessment of risk is also necessary to provide evidence to the public liability insurers of the proper management of the common property in the event of a claim.  The minimum cover is currently $20,000,000.
See NSW SSMR 2016: Regulation 40 - Insurance amount.

Some more information

Safework NSW have a huge section on Work Health and Safety (WHS) which offers helpful summaries, information pages and even a link to the latest legislation changes that came into effect.

Another section Safework NSW has is the one on on Strata Title Body Corporate - Employer and Business obligations which discusses the WHS requirements for strata.  So, if you need to know about Work Health & Safety and all it entails (plus details of the latest amendments, this is a fantastic place to start.

TIP - If you DO go onto the Safework NSW homepage, don't forget to have a good look in the navigational menu across the top. There's lots of sub-menus under the main menu tabs.  Just hover your mouse over any of the tabs and the bigger submenus will open up.  However, it's quite easy to be a tad overwhelmed at the sheer volume of info here.

Should you spend the money on a Safety Audit?  Again, it's far better to get anything fixed that needs fixing as soon as possible rather than stalling or not doing it at all and then having to deal with the (possible) severe consequences, courtesy of a letter from a litigation lawyer, if an 'accident' should happen.  Only then do you discover that your scheme violated one or more Work Health & Safety requirements thereby leaving the Owners Corporation liable for any litigation claims (and fines) that may surface.  Besides having to deal with the lawyers, you'll also have Workcover breathing down your neck gunning for a prosecution.
Is it really worth the risk to delay things or, heaven forbid, not fix them at all?  Absolutely no way in the world.  You could be putting someone at risk of injury or worse, as well as breaking the law.

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Common Property Pest Inspections


Pest Inspections or Pest Reports are pretty much an absolute necessity these days.  If those little annoying 'wood-munchers' get into your scheme AND are left undetected and undisturbed for too long, your investment can lose value very quickly due to all the internal damage they can do - and no one wants that.  Plus there are all sorts of other unwelcome 'creepy crawlies' just waiting to move in to your home if left unchecked.  But, while there's NO LEGAL REQUIREMENT to have a pest inspection done, there ARE some compliance issues for the Owners Corporation to ensure the safety of all the owners of the scheme whenever a pest inspection IS done.  And NOT complying with these requirements attract fines - so I felt I should let you know what you need to know.

The NSW Pesticides Regulation 2017 replaced the 2009 version in Sep 2017 but the changes were mainly to do with the keeping of records for the operators.  As far as I understand it, the notification requirements were not overly affected.  See Part 5 - Division 3: Notifications by persons other than public authorities - Sections 45-51 of the Pesticides Regulation 2017 for the 'official' information on this area.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority(EPA) has produced the Notification of pesticide use when pest management technicians treat multiple occupancy residential complexes information page.  This document goes into a nice amount of detail and provides the "who, what, when, where and why" for the requirements.  It also has other useful links to some sample notices and templates to use to comply with the law - so don't miss them.  And don't forget to eye-ball the MENU down the left side of the page for other interesting topics.

Details of the compliance requirements focus around 'notification to owners' and can also be found in the PDF document titled Pesticides Notification for Owners, Strata Managers and Property Managers.  This NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) fact sheet does a great job of summarising the requirements and even covers a few 'what if' scenarios along with a sample notification letter.  Great stuff.

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Some Final Words...


Compliance requirements are growing day by day for strata schemes and these are just the tip of the iceberg.  There are others such as Asbestos Management, Anchor Point Certification, a variety of Environmental Issues affecting the land, swimming pools, lifts ...and the list goes on and on.

So, the bottom-line is : Always leave these areas up to the experts.  No matter how small your strata scheme is, you're still required to comply with ALL these things.  Consider carefully whether or not you want to take on all this legal responsibility if you decide to self manage.  A professional strata managercan handle all of this for you.  It's of course your decision but be aware of the risks and the responsibilites involved if you use a strata manager.

The best solution for all compliance issues is usually to have all consultants and contractors involved in the project working together as a team to find the best solution for your building.  A number of experts all working separately can result in a lot of overlap and much 're-inventing of the wheel' causing a lot of duplication of effort involving extra cost and a lot of wasted time.

A little bit of forward planning can go a long way and make sure to utilise that amazing resource that's available to you - your strata manager.

Strata Title Terms and Jargon

If you need to know the meaning of one or more of the common terms mentioned above then have a look at the Strata Terms and Jargon Information page.


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DISCLAIMER:  All information on this website is of a general nature and is intended as a guide only.  Readers should check all information obtained from this website for accuracy from other sources and seek professional legal advice before taking any action based on any information obtained from this website.  Information on this website should not be substituted for proper legal advice.  The owners of this website will not be held responsible for any action taken as a consequence of same.

EXTERNAL SOURCES:  The owners of this website do not make any warranty or representations regarding the information, products, services provided by or qualifications of any external sources listed on this website.  Readers should make their own appropriate enquiries regarding accuracy, qualifications, licences, etc.  The owners of this website will not be responsible or liable in any way for any representations made by any external sources listed on this website.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This website deals with strata matters in NSW, Australia only.  Legislation varies in different states and territories and in other countries.  For information pertaining to places outside of NSW, Australia please refer to the appropriate legislation for your region.



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