We live in happy times where owners corporations and their strata mangers can procrastinate to their heart’s content about fixing leaks and cracks that cause mould inside apartments. Thanks to the Thoo decision of the NSW Court of Appeal all owners can do in these circumstances is go to NCAT for orders for the owners corporation to do the work.
That’s little comfort when your kid’s bedroom looks more like a mushroom farm than a place for nighty-nites and your lawyer tells you that a NCAT application is likely to cost $3,000, take up to 12 weeks for an order that can then be appealed and restart the whole process.
Come 1 July 2016, the rumoured commencement date for new strata title laws in NSW, all this will change and owners corporation will be liable in damages for failing to take reasonable steps to fix these sorts of problems.
Here are the top 7 habits of the highly ineffective strata managers when it comes to delay and obfuscation on repairs and maintenance that will soon be punished by damages awards:
- It’s not the owners corporation’s responsibility! Come on – the owners corporation is responsible for the common property and it’s almost always the floors, walls and ceilings that are the source of the leak. This isn’t rocket science. All you’re required to do is to know how to read your strata plan.
- The mould might have been caused by the tenant! I don’t know too many parents or carers that complain to their landlord or property manager about mould growing in their kid’s bedroom who have caused the problem by leaving a dryer running in a confined space. Tenants aren’t the problem here; it’s to the builder you should be looking.
- The builder’s coming to fix it! Beware the man with the silicone gun I say. He caused the problem in the first place, a blast of plastic is not going to fix this – water has a way of finding its way out at the next weakest joint.
- We’ll sue the builder and then get it fixed! Sorry, that’s not the law. The law is that it’s your place, you fix it, fix it now and worry about who ultimately pays when that’s done.
- We need three quotes first! Ah, no you don’t; you need to get rid of the mould first, that’s the thing that makes people sick. Then get your quotes.
- There’s something wrong here; there’s so much disparity between the quotes! That might be so, that might be because reputable people weren’t asked to quote or they were and not given the right instructions.
- We can’t proceed without the insurer’s say so! Not true and not relevant. The obligation to fix the work is the owners corporations and it’s not dependent on whether the owners corporation insurers approved the claim. That’s a matter between the owners corporation and the insurer, it’s got nothing to do with the lot owners or the tenants.
Strata managers should put a stop to this nonsense. Get your executive committees to put themselves in the shoes of the person living with this nightmare and do the right thing. If you don’t get this right by mid 2016 expect the lawsuits to arrive thick and fast.