A few years and a couple of Fair Trading ministers ago, we sat down with then then incumbent Victor Dominello who outlined his dream of a data base that would tell us everything we ever needed to know about every strata scheme in NSW.
A self-confessed data geek, Mr Dominello wanted residents, strata managers, bureaucrats and politicians like him to be able to click on the strata plan number of any scheme in the state and know immediately what information lay behind that bland set of digits that followed the letters SP.
The info could be whether or not it had a swimming pool, how may lifts it had, if there was undercover parking and how many units of what size there were.
It could also be whether they’d had an issue with defects and if it had been resolved or who the architects, builders, strata managers, building services managers and committee office-bearers were.
The latter contacts would be a godsend for any strata committee that’s ever had issues with a neighbouring block and not known who to call.
Alternatively, he wanted to be able to search for, say, unit blocks whose lifts were nearing the end of their use-by dates, to see if there was a problem on the way and where it was concentrated.
None of this information about apartment blocks is secret – except for the contact details of those bizarre committee members who don’t even want their owners to know how to get in touch with them. It’s all somewhere on record.
But it’s that “somewhere” that’s the problem. There is so much valuable and varied information about strata schemes scattered through the computer memories of local councils, strata managers and other ancillary service providers that finding related but disconnected facts can be like stringing together pearls … while blindfolded … wearing ski mittens.
Need to know which apartment blocks have undercover parking lit by motion sensor lights? How about the blocks that have swimming pools and solar power? In this mine of information, stuff you don’t know you need till you need it, anything that allowed you to drill down would be gold.
We moved a step closer to the Dominello Dream last month when the current Minister of Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, announced that the NSW Government is opening consultation on a proposed centralised digital strata hub.
The idea, they say, is to make it easier for anyone who builds, owns, lives or works in a strata scheme to get the information they need.
Mr Anderson said the hub is being built as part of the Government’s commitment to transform the building and construction sector into the “transparent, consumer centric industry it needs to be”.
“In the last twelve months we have delivered landmark reforms that give homeowners peace of mind that they are buying a safe and expertly designed apartment, protected by strong and modernised laws,” Mr Anderson said.
“The next step is to ensure well-built properties continue to be maintained and managed successfully, to ensure we have a safe and strong strata sector in NSW.”
Mr Anderson said the hub will consolidate core information about NSW’s 82,000 strata schemes in one place, giving property purchasers insights in their potential new home while allowing the regulator to monitor each building’s ongoing maintenance and defect management.
“Information collected during the construction phase of a building will be stored in the system and will help consumers make informed decisions about the trustworthiness of a building,” Mr Anderson said.
“It will also let the regulators keep a close eye on each strata building to make sure NSW homeowners are not burdened with avoidable building defects when maintenance is neglected.”
Subject to the passing of legislation and regulations, owners corporations will be required to report certain information about their schemes such as annual fire safety statements, address for service of notices, contact details for the scheme and litigation relating to defects.
“The tool will also manage the building defect bond after it is lodged through the NSW ePlanning portal, which pays for any defects found in the first 24 months after finishing the building work.”
Victor Dominello, now Minister for Customer Service said the proposed hub would be a game changer for communities.
“Whether you are a strata owner, occupier or prospective buyer, we want to make your life easier by making all the information relevant to your scheme available on one easy to use platform,” Mr Dominello said.
“This is about using technology to help strata communities and prospective buyers to make more informed decisions about their future.
“Whether it’s accessing a scheme’s fire inspection report or finding out how environmentally friendly a building is, we want as much of this information to be open to owners, strata managers and regulators via the Strata Hub.”
OK, it’s not the all-singing, all-dancing, bells and whistles that he dreamed of, but it’s a significant start.
Have your say about the Strata Hub, what it should contain, what it shouldn’t and who should have access to it, by 19 March online at this link.