Less is more in strata law reform

To mark the 50th anniversary this year of the first strata title laws in this country, I am presently reading, ‘Strata Titles’, Rath Grimes and Moore, 1962. It is a handbook about The Conveyancing (Strata Titles) Act 1961.

The foreword by his Honour B.P. Macfarlan begins:

‘The dynamic growth of Sydney in recent years has created many problems. Not the least of these has been the demand for increased domestic and professional accommodation in the city and inner suburbs.’

The insurance provisions contain three sections; one about the duty to insure the whole building, another about mortgagors interests and a third about applying the proceeds in the event of destruction. The note says this is perhaps the most difficult section with which the Act was required to deal.

Queensland now has no fewer than 25 sections of its laws to do the same job, New South Wales, 20, Victoria, 13 and ACT, 11.

Other than requiring valuations at least every 5 years and the laudable Queensland practice of compelling disclosure of insurance details at each AGM, the reforms of the last 50 years are unnecessary. They complicate the very simple proposition that the whole building must be insured for the collective good for no discernible benefit. Indeed by trying too hard, for example in Queensland by allowing for adjustments of premium contributions for different use, the reforms promote disputation.

Even the two reforms that seem like good ideas didn’t need legislation. The first statutory obligations for strata required replacement value insurance. Common sense and the fear of lawsuit for underinsurance should be incentive enough for regular valuations and disclosure at the AGM costs nothing and promotes continual awareness of joint ownership rights and responsibilities.

More laws equal less responsibility. Join me in the fight against unnecessary law reform.

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