Parliament passes Strata Titles Bill
By Gary Hatigeva
PARLIAMENT on Monday passed one of the lengthiest bill a government has ever introduced, apart from the National Constitution, in terms of clauses and pages, the Strata Titles Bill 2017.
Following what had looked to be a negative indicator shown in the knowledge of all especially, members of parliament in the bill, it was workshopped and this had later seen a thorough support for its passage, but based on an understanding between the two sides of the house.
During the final stages of the proceedings, Wale explained that most clauses were covered on Friday during the workshop and therefore suggested that it was best the committee covered 10 clauses or more, at ones as members have already gone through them.
The speaker agreed to the suggestion and moved for the committee to deal with clauses in groups through page by page and not clause by clause as it was originally set out at the start of proceedings into the bill.
As it was proposed and agreed upon, all clauses were briefly covered and included as part of the bill’s schedule except for clause 93, 106 and 111 where amendments were proposed for the replacement of words with what was described as, more appropriate and relevant terms.
The committee was unfortunately suspended a few times after it felt those involved including the minister responsible, had wrongly worded the statement for the amendments of words within certain sections of the bill.
The suspensions according to the speaker, were to allow for the government to properly word what they would have to say in moving to have the amendments formally and legally established.
The Committee of the Whole House was resumed to continue with its business especially on the bill where the amendments were moved and passed, along with the remaining sections of the bill.
Despite all that were highlighted regarding the nature of technicality and complexness, the bill made it through the committee stage, which was put up for its third reading and then passed.
The new law looks to facilitate higher density development in Solomon Islands while protecting the interests of persons who buy units in such developments.
The legislation according to the government when introducing it on the floor of floor parliament last week, also looks to address the shortage of affordable residential accommodation in Honiara.
The bill had introduced a strata titles scheme that is similar in nature to schemes in Vanuatu and in Australia and other jurisdictions.
The legislative scheme according to the government, is designed to be a simple and flexible as possible and to avoid areas that have given rise to abuse by developers in other places.
A Strata Scheme according to the Ministry responsible, is a development where buildings and land are divided into strata lost and common property.
The minister further explained that the owner of each unit owns the inside portion of the building and together the owners are, through a strata scheme corporation, responsible for the outside elements of the building and other common property such as gardens, paths and shared entrances and service infrastructure.
In moving the motion for the third reading of the bill, Lands Minister, Andrew Manepora told parliament that the development under the new act, must first receive planning approval under the Planning and Development Act, and then the land must be divided under the Land and Titles Act.
He added that at the planning stage, the Commissioner of Lands will determine whether consent will be given under the Land and Titles Act id all the requirements are met.
Also highlighting this, in his summary statement under the bill, Minister Manepora explained that the planning and development board will need to certify that the development has been completed satisfactorily before the strata scheme is registered and the land can be divided.
The statement further explained that the strata scheme corporation is automatically established under the legislative scheme on registration of the strata scheme, with the strata lot owners appointing a management committee to undertake the functions of the corporation.
“The Bill allows a strata scheme corporation to contract with a strata scheme manager for administration of the scheme and contains a number of controls designed to empower the corporation in its dealings with such a manager.
“These include an ability to terminate the manager’s contract in certain circumstances,” the Minister explained in his summary statement.
With the green light given to the Strata Titles Bill, it also allows for two tiers of strata schemes namely, the Primary and Secondary schemes, under the new legislation.
A lot in a primary strata scheme may be divided by a secondary strata scheme, but added that the two tier schemes are more likely to be suited to mixed developments that include, for example, retail units as well as residential units.
This is concept is not new to many that have involved in business or are investing in Australia, and New Zealand, whom when interviewed, shared views on the advantages of the schemes or concept, suggesting that in this law, owners have the right to live undisturbed in their flats and have the right to decide whether to sell or not to sell their flats.
‘At the same time, majority views on whether there should be a sale of the development will be recognised as well. And there is public interest in intensifying developments and rejuvenating older developments.’
Yesterday’s passage also saw amendments of several notable suggestions made by members of the opposition and independent groups that were deemed relevant and applicable to Solomon Islands context.
It is understood that after its passage, the government is looking to have the Strata Titles Law commenced after the first quarter of next year, and this according to many including those from the opposition and independent groups, thought is too short and needs more time.
But, many thought the new legislation still needs a mass nationwide awareness as the concept while it is understandably foreign like the rest, its content is not thoroughly contextualising the Solomon Islands understanding, and that makes it more foreign in almost all aspects.