Monthly Archives: August 2014

Discrimination – Ignore at Your Peril

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Perceived differences lead to missed opportunities for learning and advancement. An unpopular but correct decision in a South Australian court about aged based discrimination might be ignored by a strata community in the ACT because they are different, they have different language, their laws are not the same as ours and that decision wouldn’t apply here. Rubbish! The discrimination laws, although repeated around the country in different forms, sit under a commonwealth suite of discrimination laws that govern all. In this still developing area of law, judges of one jurisdiction will find judgements from other states and territories helpful. A dogmatic chairperson with their own agenda should ignore the precedent at their peril.

A Strata Tail (Tale)?

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Someone sees the dog on moving in day and says insensitively, ‘Welcome, it’s a shame that cute little thing has to go’. And that’s how it starts. Lawyers at twenty paces; applications are filed, submissions made, mediation is had and a ruling is made. The dog stays or the dog goes it doesn’t really matter because there are at least two more levels of appeal before we will really know the fate of dog. Usually some form of settlement is reached. The dog might be able to stay if it is carried across the common property. The dog might be able to stay but the chairperson resigns. Or the dog goes and the chairperson resigns. There is always some face to save but eventually people have to settle or accept the decision of the umpire and get on with their lives. Settlement is the preferable course.

Spend When You Must Where Safety Is Concerned

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Responsible and well-managed owners corporations will outsource the detection of unsafe circumstances to a consultant visiting annually. This will go a long way to discharging the obligation on the owners corporation to keep the common property safe for workers, including contractors working upon the common property. To merely get a report is of no benefit if its recommendations are not acted upon. This will force the repair and maintenance agenda for the owners corporation and is a good way for committee members to force owners to spend money – if greed in the form of preserving property prices is not enough to force spending on safety essentials, then that other motivator of spending habits – fear – might do the trick. Owners should fear fines and even imprisonment for ignoring laws that apply to strata communities. We see them regularly in the corporate world. We are starting to see them imposed in the not for profit sector and it will surely and shortly come to pass that they will be imposed in the strata world.

Cleanliness; Safety’s Kid Sister

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Cleanliness, that thing next only to godliness – our grandparents would have us believe, is now linked – our lawyers would have us believe – more closely to safety. A greasy slippery step or spill on the car park floor is as unsightly as it is unsafe and a concern for our owners corporation in a litigious world. Slips and trips are the most common form of legal action against owners corporations and the regime in place for keeping common property clean is important.

A building manager, if there is one, will take front line responsibility for supervising cleaning work but if there is no building manager, then the responsibility will fall to the owners or in the case of investment properties, rental property mangers because they are the only others onsite. Very rarely are strata managers paid to do site inspections – there’s is a more sedentary job performed from their office, not the building.

Of course in the slip and trip courts, all players win a prize so no matter how vigilant the owners are, accidents will happen and public liability insurance is a must.

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