Apartment Living


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Flat Chat

High Cost of the High Life

A friendly FlatChatter bailed me up the other day to complain about one of those perennial apartment living gripes - levies.

Now, this bloke lives in a big sub-penthouse apartment high up in one of this fair city's posher blocks. He knew it wouldn't be cheap but a recent hike in annual levies has pushed his contribution over the 20 grand a year mark. How, he asked, could this possibly be justified?

Fair enough, his block has great resort style facilities but there's only so much time a man can spend in the sauna or gym or chatting to the concierge. The part-time nail technician in a studio apartment on the ground floor gets more use out of them than he does.

So I asked around and yes, says the chairman, this particular building's levies are higher than average but then, as we said, so are its facilities. The Executive Committee, which represents a broad range of professional and business skills, says it's keen to keep levies as low as possible.

However, every year when they present the AGM with potential budget cuts such as cutting concierge hours, scrapping the sauna or not heating the outdoor swimming pool in winter, they are voted down by the owners as a whole.

Meanwhile the building's developers are dragging them through the courts to avoid fixing the results of shoddy work when the block was going up. It's a significant drain on the building's resources and the developers clearly hope the owners will blink first and cut their losses.

So where does this leave our friend? One of the oddities of democracy at strata level is that the figure that's used to calculate your levies - the unit entitlement - can also be used to determine your voting power at a general meeting.

If you're paying ten times the levies of people lower down the strata food chain, you have ten times the votes. So all he has to do is garner the support of a few like-minded high-lifers and he could slash the budget at the next AGM.

Of course, he'd then have to suffer the frosty looks of his neighbours emerging from their unheated pool to find the sauna gone. But that's strata living - be careful what you wish for.

First published SMH August 2006