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Strata Commission secretariat to be in place by May; Commissioners not yet named

Published:Sunday | April 4, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Sandra Watson, general manager of the Real Estate Board.

The Commission of Strata Corporations, which will monitor and oversee strata corporations, should be up and running by next month, Sandra Watson, general manager of the Real Estate Board (REB), said last Wednesday.

Watson told Sunday Business that the plan was to have the commission in place by April 1, but this has been pushed back because some of the issues involving staffing and operations of the commission have not yet been resolved.

"We are working towards a target of the first of May, but we need certain priority areas to commence," she said.

The new entity, created under the revised strata laws, will operate from the offices of the REB.

The commissioners are yet to be named.

The REB and the Strata Commission will roll as one entity, but according to Watson, the commission will have a separate budget, projected at $38 million for the first year.

"But this includes capital expenditure," she said, as part of the set-up-costs. Subsequent budgets are likely to be lowered, she said.

The Strata Commission was established in amendments to the Registration (Strata Titles) Act passed by the House of Representatives last year. The accompanying regulations were passed in March.

Watson, who addressed the Mayberry Monthly Investors Forum last Wednesday night at the Knutsford Court Hotel, said the law was amended largely because of a number of complaints from individuals and the industry on the management of apartments and other housing complexes.

"People were complaining that maintenance fees were not being paid, hence light and water had to be turned off," she said.

"Just this week, I got a call from Ocho Rios where one strata owner was explaining that their sewer system was turned off so they were having a big problem with water and sewerage."

Other complaints, she said, were that some buildings were not being insured, property taxes were not paid, the executive bodies of strata corporations were not properly elected and constituted, strata executives and decisions on the affairs of corporations were often monopolised by a few persons, and there often was not enough accountability of funds collected and spent.

"It is our view that the amendment to the Strata Titles Act will have some advantages," she said.

"It will allow for much better accountability to the owners. They must be given budgets, they must be given proper accounts, and the executives must be properly named and appointed."

Increasing value

It would also strengthen the means of collecting maintenance contributions, said Watson, which should allow for apartments to be better maintained, hence preserving and increasing the property value.

"It is our view that based on the availability of information, mortgage lenders should be more willing to lend for the purchase of strata properties because mortgagees will have to be informed where maintenance fees are outstanding," she explained.

The commission will also have available historical records of the operations of particular strata properties and whether it was being properly administered. And it will have broad powers to hold strata executives and property owners to account.