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Strata lawyers back Trowbridge-recommended reforms 

The Australian College of Strata Lawyers says it supports the introduction of reforms recommended by consultant John Trowbridge in his review of practices in the sector. 

The college, in response to ABC reporting on apartment owners paying excessive insurance fees through arrangements with Netstrata and associated entities, says it supports Mr Trowbridge’s reform proposals, including the phasing out of commission rebate/broker fee arrangements. 

“As it stands there is only one solution: strata managers must discontinue accepting commissions, payments, or benefits and act strictly in their role as fiduciaries of the owners’ corporations/bodies corporate they manage,” college President Tim Graham said. 

“The sector is pervaded by inadequate legal disclosure, which in any event is not the panacea. Even if the legal disclosure was adequate, to be a true professional a strata/body corporate manager would not accept commissions, payments, or benefits, particularly in circumstances where they are simply adding to the costs of their client.” 

The college says all those who provide services to strata owners should do so with integrity, transparency, disclosure, informed consent and fair pricing. 

“The college acknowledges the many strata service providers who do so act, and encourages their continued professionalism,” the statement says. 

Mr Trowbridge’s review, commissioned by Steadfast, was completed over two years with a final report publicly released in the middle of last year. 

Strata Community Association (SCA) Australasia says following the ABC report Netstrata MD Stephen Brell has stepped down from his role as president of the NSW branch, and it will be conducting a full investigation by an independent firm. 

SCA says it is taking the recent media coverage of strata practices very seriously and the national council is meeting today to address issues raised. 

“In the interim we have committed to supporting the SCA (NSW) review and broadening the scope of our best practice insurance guideline to additionally address conflicts of interest and other business practices,” it says on its website. “We  encourage members and strata committees to use our independent complaints management process for any concerns around strata practices.”  

See Analysis.