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Flat Chat

I can't stand the rain

We tend to get most emails from residents of humungous apartment blocks with similarly huge problems. But if you are suffering as the owner of an apartment in a small block, the problems can be so much closer to home.

QUESTION: We are owners in an eight-year-old block of 12 strata units. From day one, the six upstairs units have had water leaking from their balconies into the garages, after heavy rain. The builder tried on many occasions to rectify the problem, to no avail. The strata manager also sent tradesmen to try to fix the problem, paid for out of strata funds.

We now have a new strata manager who has sent all the owners a letter stating that the problem has apparently been caused by insufficient waterproofing, and any further repairs are the responsibility of the individual owners. Can this be right?

Doubting Thomas
ANSWER: Sounds like shoddy work to begin with and shoddy behaviour thereafter. This is clearly a building defect and it was up to the builder/developers or their insurer to fix it.

The Owners Corporation probably need not have paid a cent and may have been duped by the original builder (I wonder if they are still active on the Executive Committee). You may well still have a strong case for a defects claim even though the time limit has expired.

Secondly, your new Strata Manager is giving you advice that's so unusual that you have to wonder why. Balconies and roofs are usually common property unless, and this is unlikely, your bylaws or initial strata documents specifically state otherwise.

If you are on your EC, quiz your Strata Manager on this point and if their answers don't add up, get rid of them. Meanwhile I would contact the Office of Fair Trading (phone 13 32 20) to get their advice which will probably include mediation with the builder and/or developer and action against them if that is not resolved. It's probably worth talking to a good specialist strata lawyer too.

If you are not on the EC, you and the other affected owners should still contact the OFT and a strata lawyer. If the EC is acting against the best interests of the building, you can apply to have them removed and replaced by a manager.

First published SMH July 2006