The glacial pace at which NSW strata owners corporations operate in maintaining and repairing their common property will end under proposed new laws released for consultation last week. Titled the Building Compliance and Enforcement Bill 2022, NSW is proposing radical changes to the way statutory duties of owner’s corporations are enforced.
Presently, owners corporations have a strict duty to immediately maintain and repair common property. But they notoriously spin their wheels, and can take months, and sometimes years to accept responsibility and get the work done. Owners corporations are only forced into action from sustained pressure from owners, who apply to the the court and tribunal orders. This in itself can be an expensive and daunting task for an individual lot owner, up against their co-owners with a pool of money.
Cue the all-powerful and energetic NSW BuildingCommissioner, David Chandler OAM, about which so much has recently been written (including by me). Under this proposed law, the Building Commissioner will have far reaching powers to enforce owners corporations to do their job...and we know he works fast. His new powers over owners corporations of strata buildings and community land townhouses include –
· Right of entry to inspect and investigate
· Undertake destructive testing
· Directing people to answer questions in writing
· Issue compliance notices
· Accept compliance undertakings
· Issue search warrants
· Apply to the Land and Environment court for restraining or remedy orders
Maximum fines for owners corporations in breach will be$22,000 and $2,200 per day for continuing offences. These are extraordinary powers, indeed more than the police have at their disposal to stop crime.
The civil libertarian lawyers will go nuts. Strata lawyers will lose work from long running tribunal cases. And long-suffering apartment owners with mould and mushrooms growing in their apartments will cheer. But will the proposed laws be enacted by the state government? You bet; they may be tweaked, but they will become law. Two things lead me to this conclusion. Firstly, the laws have been drafted in the form of an act of parliament and released for a short consultation period closing 25 November 2022. Secondly, and more over, this represents substantial new power for the Building Commissioner, and right now politically speaking, he’s holding all the cards.
Image source: The New Daily