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Big Trouble in Little Boxes

The biggest adjustment for a lot first-time apartment owners is finding out that they don't have the freedom to do what they want in their own property. For many, the frustrations are exacerbated because the rules aren't immediately clear.

QUESTION: We own an apartment in a big block and have a car space allocated to us in the basement. Apart from our car we keep a couple of boxes within the marked space.

We have been asked by the committee and the Strata manager number of times to remove the boxes. I have checked out with the titles office that the car space is on our title. It is a private lot and not common property. Can they really tell us to move the boxes?
CS, Surry Hills

ANSWER: I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but I dug through the Office of Fair Trading literature and found this under their basic by-laws.

17. Appearance of lot
Unless you have the written permission of the owners corporation, you must not keep anything within your lot that is not in keeping with the appearance of the rest of the building.

That applies just as much to your parking spot as it does to your apartment. While they probably can't tell you not to use your car park for storage, the real question is whether or not your boxes are in keeping with the appearance of the rest of the building.

The EC clearly think not, so I would go back to them and ask them what kind of storage WOULD be in keeping - which if nothing else will buy you some time. While they are working that out, you can probably keep your stuff where it is because the ball is back in their court.

However, eventually you and your neighbours are going to have to agree - and the sooner that happens, the better for everyone.

There are a couple of companies that install huge plastic storage boxes on legs so that the bonnet of a car can fit under them (http://www.theboxthing.com.au/). Having a look at them might be the first step towards a mutually agreeable solution.

And some smart buildings install storage cages in unused areas for residents to rent. These pay for themselves after a couple of years and, apartment storage being what it is (or isn't), tend to be in high demand.

First published SMH August 2006

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