Imagine being threatened legally on an almost weekly basis, being called about ‘urgent’ matters every day and having one person in every single unit block who just never leaves you alone.
Not many people could cope with the huge demands of being a body corporate, owners’ corporate or a strata manager, but for 55-year-old Andrew Jakes, it’s a dream job, because he’s the one pulling the strings.
“It can be a bit hellish, you cop a lot of abuse,” he laughs. “There’s a common saying in the strata industry, ‘there’s one in every building.’ I’ve redefined that to say ‘there’s at least one in every building.”
But abuse or not, there’s no doubt the number of strata managers are on the rise, as more Australians are drawn towards inner-city living and willing to compromise on space for place.
Unit living is now largely accepted as a growing norm of society and over time, more apartments and high-rises are replacing houses on big blocks of land.
Although it’s a tough industry, it’s a growing one, and that’s precisely the reason Jakes ditched his IT job and joined the niche and needed market of strata managers.
He’s a problem solver, a peacemaker, an accountant and the brains behind many decisions within blocks of units.
In fact, he knows a little bit about everything all over Sydney, from the types of trees around strata blocks and when they need cutting, to how many visitors are allowed in car parks and for how long.
He also knows that Jane in number three doesn’t get on with Mary in number six, and there’s a dog being kept in a block just down the road that’s making everyone upset.
Well, it can be. And dealing with the anger that comes with strata issues isn’t pretty either.
One the other hand, if you love people, and fitting all the pieces of a puzzle together, it could prove extremely rewarding.
Get to the top and there’s a good salary that can be achieved, along with a job for life.
What’s A Strata Manager?
Despite the heavy amount of accounting, negotiating and organizing involved with strata management, there’s no legislative requirement for an owner’s corporation to engage a manager.
But for most unit blocks, the monthly in-fighting and account keeping can quickly become too much, so they opt to hire a manager who can keep an arm’s length and remain unemotional about problems.
“Some of the people we help are those who managed their own blocks before.
Owners are abusing them or they’re not thanked for what they’re doing.
We take the weight off them and show them how to do things,” Jakes says.
MyBodyCorpReport.com.au Queensland body corporate record searcher Lisa Rutland says the job is a complex interchange between many groups of people and it can often lead to breakdowns in communication.
“Infighting isn’t uncommon, and neither is lack of any leadership issues,” she says.
“Poor management can lead to the inability to resolve other issue.”
A strata manager can usually exercise some or all of the powers of the committee and an executive member of the committee such as a treasurer or secretary.
This means they could responsible for organizing meetings, sending out levy notices, forwarding the minutes of meetings and managing the body corporate funds.
But they don’t make decisions and they don’t vote as a part of a committee, Rutland says.
“The most important role of a body corporate manager is to consult and provide advice on the proposed actions of the committee,” she says. “There’s a substantial amount of legislation that applies to body corporates and the body corporate manager provides interpretation and clarification.”
Qualifications and Career Prospects
You don’t actually need any qualification whatsoever to be a strata manager and in that sense the industry is completely unregulated, according to Hynes Legal direction Frank Higginson.
“You could literally hang up your shingle tomorrow, ‘strata manager,” he says.
“But you’d be nuts to get into one of these businesses without understanding it.
You’d need to go to work for someone first to understand the industry.
The intricacies of dealing with strata managers and people on a day-to-day basis aren’t an easy process.”
Higginson was recently told that making it harder to become a body corporate manager would mean more red tape, so it’s unlikely there will be more regulation any time soon.
Although there’s currently a legislative review going through Body Corporate and Community Management, the Queensland Government has a policy of ‘less red tape.’
“The strata managers basically have access to tens of millions of dollars in owners or body corp funds and there’s no probity around the funds and how they’re dealt with.”
New South Wales has stricter rules, where you do need to register, but the process is relatively easy.
You can obtain a certificate of registration and a Certificate III from Tafe.
The other option is to get a strata license, which requires a Certificate IV.
It’s an online course which takes about four to six months.
“Once you have a certificate, you can work for someone who has a license,” Jakes says.
“You can’t own a business unless you have a license.”
Although strata management is tough, it can be financially rewarding if you’re successful.
Jakes says a six-figure income is easily obtainable and there are also rewarding commissions for strata managers within larger firms.
Employees might start at about $50,000, while a more experienced manager would earn about $70,000.
There are lots of side industries after life as a strata manager, including fire protection, window lock compliance and strata searches.
“When you buy a unit you get a strata search and a lot of burnt out strata managers move into this industry,” Jakes says.
“That way you don’t have to deal with clients. You only deal with conveyances.”
You might also get a job with a larger firm.
Some strata managers become developers or strata lawyers.
They might move into insurance or become brokers.
The options are endless but one think’s for sure – there’s every chance you can handle absolutely any kind of job after years of abuse as a strata manager.
Jakes describes a day-to-day life as 25 per cent legal, 25 per cent accounting and 50 per cent social welfare.
“In that regard, it’s quite interesting,” he says.
“You’re very close to what’s happening in real life, politically and environmentally.”
Jakes says half of the day is usually spent ‘putting out fires,’ meaning responding to calls about leaking roofs, people locked out of their unit or complaints about thinks like parking and trees.
The other half of the day is spent renewing insurance policies, handling compliance issues, attending meetings and making sure all books and accounts are balanced.
“Dealing with the fires stops you getting to the second part,” Jakes warns.
“Most of the compliance work I do is when the phones aren’t ringing. We turn the phones off after five (so we can do compliance work) and we have an after hours emergency contact.
“I also come in at 7:30am and try to write up the minutes of meetings then.
Landlords want things done yesterday and they also tend to exaggerate.
For example, a client of Andrew’s recently wrote to him about a tree. He described how he could sue his neighbour if a branch fell on him and how the leaves clog the pool filter.
Another client didn’t get his own way, so wrote to the Australian Treasurer, Joe Hockey, to complain.
But Jakes takes this with a grain of salt. Its water off a duck’s back, because he knows his stuff and he’s aware that he’s usually in the right.
The majority of landlords are wonderful and kind to deal with, and that’s precisely why Jakes has no plans to opt out of strata management anytime soon.
This article was originally published in Australian Property Investor Magazine
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