Strata is a complicated and changing business


First published in the LookUpStrata Queensland Strata Magazine, December 2023


US founding father Benjamin Franklin is famous for many things – inventing bifocals, flying kites in thunderstorms – but his greatest contribution is surely his 1789 observation: Nothing is certain except death and taxes.

If Ben was around today, he’d absolutely add a third item to that list: Legislative change.

For the past three years I have served as a member of the Community Title Law Working Group, wearing my ARAMA hat. The Working Group has discussed all manner of legislative change for bodies corporate in Queensland. 

Some of it has been discussed and discarded. Some of it went around in circles for a few meetings. Other parts were relatively straightforward in concept, as in ‘something needs to be done’.

But what does that mean in practical terms?

If additional obligations are created for bodies corporate to follow, how are those then regulated or enforced? 

How much additional resourcing is needed at the Commissioner’s Office in terms of adjudication and education? And that leaves aside how to disseminate that information into the industry and whether the people who need it most will actually take it up.

Bodies corporate are volunteer organisations and not everyone who puts their hand up to serve on a committee is going to be across the details of the legislation. And many who have served for years may be doing so under the mistaken belief that they know all there is to know. 

What did Alexander Pope have to say about that? ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing.’

All things considered, the Working Group has been a terrific learning experience and has culminated in legislation dealing with a range of evergreen issues – from pets, to towing cars, through to bodies corporate being able to ban smoking.

Parliament has now voted the Bill into law, and the new laws will take effect early in 2024. 

Strata law is complicated. 

Change only adds to the complication.

The longer I spend as a lawyer the more I tend to get scared if I get dragged off into other areas of law. Even after 30 years in the business, I still learn something new every day in strata. It might be as simple as seeing a mistake made by someone else and wondering how that happened, but it also might be a new slant on an old case that one of our litigators has dug up.

What is absolutely certain, however, is that strata is getting harder and things are getting more complex.

The new legislation changes the position on quite a few issues, and many people won’t be aware that the rules of the game have altered. 

We have 25 years-plus of prior experience that is about to be tossed out the window on issues such as smoking. Many thousands of people will be extremely confident of the position of a body corporate with respect to smoking based on their lived experience, which is now going to be 100% wrong.

And they will run around their communities telling people their views without checking whether the law has changed.

And on we go until the next round of changes that affect the residential homes of nearly 1 million people.

You can’t ever take anything for granted in this arena—that’s as certain as death and taxes.