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Flat Chat

You don't have to be big to be bad.

This column occasionally takes a pop at Big Bad Developers but there's a breed that tends to slip under the radar - the small, independent, one-off developers who build small blocks of units, keep the best properties for themselves (and their families) and then run the block as if the whole building was theirs alone.

QUESTION: Last year I bought a new unit in a small block with security parking, including two visitor parking spaces. Two of the original four owners are the owner-builder and his sister.

At the inaugural AGM these two passed a by-law giving themselves exclusive use of the visitor car parks. Since then, the builder has used these spaces to store his building equipment, including flammable materials, cement mixtures, bricks, steel sheets, wheelbarrows and scaffolding.

Then, when his sister rented out her unit, she included one of the former visitors' car spaces as part of the lease.

As a senior citizen whose visitors tend to be elderly, I would not have bought a unit that did not provide visitor parking. Now I feel that I have been used to the point of subsidising these people.

I have tried to complain but all approaches by me to the strata manager have been ignored. Is there anything I can do?
Cheated, Alexandria.

ANSWER: Oh, yes. Your developer has possibly broken several strata laws, planning laws and by-laws. I don't see how he can legally have passed a special resolution, which would have required a 75 percent vote, when he still owned half the units. His vote should have been reduced to one-third, meaning your vote against should have been enough to kill the plan.

Secondly, the DA for your building would have been passed by council with a certain number of visitor spaces included. Your council planning department will probably insist that they be reinstated.

Storing inflammable material on common property is contrary to basic bylaws as, in most buildings, is storing building materials.

Call the Office of Fair Trading (13 32 20) - as a pensioner, you get a reduced fee for a mediation - and while you're there ask them to replace the strata manager with someone who takes their job seriously. Then call your local council's planning department and ask them to check the DA.

First published SMH May 2007