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Flat Chat

Who ya gonna call?

When things go wrong in Strata-land - and we know they do - who's going to sort things out for you? At various times all sorts of options have been canvassed in this column, from lawyers at 10 paces (expensive) to threats of vigilante vandalism (not recommended).

So it's worth reminding ourselves that there is a process you can follow that means you need neither pay for legal advice nor end up in court yourself for applying a 50 cent coin to the duco of an inconsiderately parked car.

When someone in your block breaks the rules, you can report them to an Executive Committee meeting. The EC should then send them a notice to tell them to stop doing it. If they won't, you and the EC can go to the Office of Fair Trading for mediation.

If you can't agree at mediation you can then ask for an adjudication which is based solely on written submissions. If either side breaches that, they can be fined up to $5500.

Finally, if you're not happy with the adjudication, you can appeal in person to the full Consumer Trades and Tenancy Tribunal. You can represent yourself but it could get expensive if either side opts to instruct lawyers.

We are moved to spell this out because we were taken to task recently for accusing the OFT of having made a stupid ruling. The Commissioner, Lyn Baker, reminded us that the OFT doesn't make rulings, stupid or otherwise, it merely offers advice and arranges mediations.

The decree in question was issued by an adjudicator who, it turns out, comes under the CTTT. And that, as Ms Baker pointed out, a totally different beast.

OK, fair cop. We heaped abuse on the wrong people. But there's such a profound connection between the OFT and the CTTT that even the OFT's own literature doesn't spell out which side of the line the Adjudicators sit.

So just to make sure we'd got it absolutely right, we dialled the CTTT's number to ask. The recorded voice said their strata inquiries line was no longer operational and we were redirected ... to the OFT.

First published SMH July 2006