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Owners expected to paint common property themselves
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Louie
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14/06/2017 - 8:59 pm
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Our EC has decided that in stages, starting with the metal railings, that owners will be provided paint by strata funds and will be requested to paint their own metal railings.  This will be followed by other sections of their townhouses. There are a number of older people in the townhouse complex who moved into it, with the knowledge that painting, etc. would be looked after by the owners corporation.  (Via the quarterly levies.) The younger people who can provide themselves with 'free' labour have made this decision.  Isn't external painting a strata responsibility and covered by strata insurances and should be carried out by a reputable professional who is licensed and insured and using scaffolding? The younger people will probably not use scaffolding  nor be licensed or insured.  Would the owners be covered by Strata Insurance if they happen to get injured?  The older people are wondering what is the use of paying big dollars for Safety Reports when new people flood the complex and 'make their own rules'.  The newer residents do not want a Special Levy as they do not plan the townhouse complex as a long-term residence and hence are also blocking any Special Levies. Confused

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tharra
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16/06/2017 - 1:11 am
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Where abouts are you located, Louie?

If the metal railings & 'other sections' are common property then the Owner's Corporation is responsible for their maintenance. The strata committee is opening themselves up to all sorts of hassles if uninsured, unlicensed people perform work on behalf of the Owner's Corporation. The "let's make our own rules" folk might also like to take a google cruise re: liability of strata committee members.

& if you are in NSW assuming the cost of the work is >$5K:

"Only a builder or trader who is properly trained and has the relevant experience to do the work may be licensed with NSW Fair Trading. Any person who carries out residential building work over $5,000 in labour and materials without an appropriate licence is breaking the law and could be prosecuted."

http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.....ilder.page?

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Sir Humphrey
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16/06/2017 - 9:20 am
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I'll assume the work can be done safely from within the balcony. Otherwise it should all be done professionally. 

I expect there would be some mechanism in the Act in whichever state you are in to enable unit owners to be billed for this separately and other than in accordance with unit entitlements but it might require a general meeting resolution. It would in the ACT. 

Assuming it can be done, why not present two options along the following lines: 

'1) If you have the time and inclination, prefer to save some money, and prefer not to have to arrange a time for painters to enter your unit to access the balcony, the committee will supply a pot of paint and instructions about what to paint. However, if the work is not done by (some date), the committee will arrange to have it done and bill you as per option 2. 

2) If you prefer to have it all done for you, the OC will bill you pro rata as one out of however many take this option. Assuming that at least X units take this option, the cost per unit will be $Y and you will need to allow access to your unit on a date yet to be arranged. 

All owners will end up paying for the paint via their levies. The difference is only whether you pay for the labor or avoid that by doing it yourself.'

Note that if a survey finds that there are only very few units in one camp or the other, I would not bother with the above. If nearly all are in the DIY camp, then I suggest that a few people just offer to paint the railings of their elderly neighbours. If nearly all are in the 'just pay for it and get it done' camp, then the few DIYers will have to just accept that it will all be done by a professional painter and it will be covered in their levies. 

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Louie
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16/06/2017 - 9:31 am
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Thanks Tharra for the valuable info.  The complex is Sydney NSW.  The complex is becoming a mess with 'new rules' by the newbies - old people who have been here for a while do not want to source tradies for strata work and have the worry that the tradies are licensed and insured.  They are also worried that the strata insurance would be used by multiple owners under 'voluntary workers' if heaven forbid an accident occurs. (No scaffolding as required under Safety.)  Is there any chance that the newbies could put this to a vote at the upcoming AGM and win?  I would say that this suggestion has only been thrown out to the other owners at present to get their reaction.  We have one of the best Strata Companies in Australia.  However, we have a feeling that if we ask the Manager's/company opinion, it is being relayed back to one of the newbies.  Also they would have free labour and paint paid for by the strata funds.  The oldies would have to employ professional painters but have the paint paid for.  How much paint is going to go missing as well to be used on private pegolas, etc?Frown

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tharra
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16/06/2017 - 12:20 pm
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So to be clear, a safety report has said that to paint the railings & "other sections" a scaffolding is required?

If so, I'd be writing a letter to the Strata Committee & the Strata Manager detailing your concerns pointing out the Owner's Corporation responsibility to maintain common property & their obligations re: due care & diligence. If they wish to stick to the current plan of having lot owners paint railings & "other sections" then ask them to run that plan by the strata insurers & mention the requirements in NSW for work over $5K & $20K values detailed at the link in my above post.

If other lot owners have concerns have them do the same. & do address the issue at the AGM or the next SC meeting.

Don't be afraid of communication. It sounds as though your Owner's Corporation, Strata Committee and Strata Manager all need education. An Owner's Corporation can't make its own rules overriding other legislation.

BTW a licensed painter will likely be able to source paint at trade prices as well as warrant their work.

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Sir Humphrey
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16/06/2017 - 1:06 pm
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I am generally in favour some diy when it is easy, simple and safe. It can be a lot less bother than trying to organise a professional.

On the other hand, if it is important to get a consistent job or it needs scaffolding or whatever to be safe, then get a professional to do it once and right. The cost will be trivial compared a few months of the managing agent's fee. 

If the newbies were putting out feelers to see what support there was for going one way or the other, then perhaps they are doing the right thing?

As a member of the owners corp, why not just talk directly, frankly and openly about your concern with the managing agent. The agent will take direction from the committee but at least you will know if the agent could recommend and hire appropriately qualified and insured tradespeople. 

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Louie
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16/06/2017 - 6:14 pm
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Thank You Tharra and Sir Humphrey - any comments do indeed help!  The issue of scaffolding for two-storey townhouses did not appear on our Safety Report, but a Professional Painter I had paint the inside of my townhouse last year mentioned that it is now 'law' as a major safety issue.  This ties in with an owner having guttering/fascia work done on their two-storey townhouse recently and the company sent by strata had to use scaffolding.  Of course, adding to the cost of the job. The unfairness, I suppose, comes from the fact that if the townhouses are painted in 'stages/sections', there is sufficient dollars in the Capital Works Fund, bearing in mind that extra dollars are added each quarter.  Oldies feel that they will essentially be paying 'double'.  That is, paying into strata levies and then having to engage a Professional painter but allocated the free paint.  The newbies will get free labour and free paint.  Well, I suppose it is not free paint - but the costs of the free paint taken from the Capital Works Fund.  Regarding strata insurance - I will find out if our insurance company would consider that the owners who may be painting their townhouses (if passed) would ALL be covered by 'voluntary workers' insurance.  Yes, our Managing Agent has a LONG list of qualified tradespeople in all categories - no problem there.  The newbies have just been shocked by quotations we got for painting about 3 years ago (total painting of all townhouses, not sections/stages) - but as mentioned before, the Capital Works Fund 'almost' covers it and a minor Special Levy would be raised.  They don't intend to stay long, and don't want even a minor Special Levy - they want all their dollars for their next property.Surprised

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JimmyT
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16/06/2017 - 10:16 pm
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Here's my take on this, for what it's worth.

Owners can be allowed to maintain common property but they can't be compelled to do it.  If they decline, the owners corp still has the responsibility.

The only way this would change would be if the OC passed a series of special resolutions passing responsibility for the common property to the individual owners.  

No owner in their right mind would accept that if they didn't want to maintain the common property themselves - and if they didn't accept it, the special resolution would not stand.

Given that the older owners don't want to hire tradies, the best compromise would be for the EC to agree that the painting should be done by volunteers and then call for volunteers to do all the painting, whether or not the individual owners of the lots participated or not.

Wouldn't that work?

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Louie
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17/06/2017 - 9:48 am
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Thanks Jimmy!  Like most stratas, there are personality clashes.  The oldies have been looking after minor items for many many years (over 20 years) such as strata gardens, rubbish removal, etc.  The newbies (less than 3 years) now expect the oldies to keep doing these things - the newbies don't touch strata gardens (gardener does it) nor pick up rubbish, etc.  The newbies have no idea how much has been done voluntarily by the oldies - they comment they don't want to hear about the past.  So, to answer your question, it would not work for the newbies volunteering for the oldies, the newbies volunteer for themselves.  It is the oldies time to be looked after, as they have saved the strata a lot of money over the years.  It is not that they don't want to hire tradies, there is money in the Capital Works Fund - the newbies don't want the minor ($1,500) Special Levy struck to enable the painting to be done.  Also, the oldies pay twice literally - once via levies and then paying painters. (To top up the Capital Works Fund.) The newbies only pay once into the levies and do the labour themselves.  I think the Chairperson has opened a can of worms with this one - came from a house and doesn't understand the concept of 'who pays for what' and Special Levies.  Also there is the suspicion that the urgency is that the Chairperson is trying to spruce up their townhouse quickly to sell.  Leave the painting as it has been done since the inception of the old strata complex - out of the Capital Works Fund.  Some owners would also ignore the completion dates and who is going to monitor that?  Newbies will leave and the problem remains again for the oldies to sort out.  And I won't go into the 'wild' colours that are being discussed, that don't suit the age of the properties.  Oh dear!Cry

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Lady Penelope
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17/06/2017 - 4:42 pm
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In my opinion your EC is overstepping their boundaries in a number of areas.

It is the OC and not the EC that should be making decisions about painting costs and paint colours. The EC cannot opt out of responsibility for the upkeep of the common property without being authorised to do so by the OC via a Special Resolution.

It is important to note that the opt out provision in [s106 (3)(a)] is only possible 'if it does not detract from the appearance of any property in the strata scheme'. It is highly likely that the appearance of the building will be compromised if some people paint parts of the building themselves, or others cannot accomplish this task.

It is my understanding that the painting should not proceed in the manner in which you stated.

In addition, subsection (1) of SSMA 2105 [s106] uses the term “must” which means the duty to repair and maintain the common property is a strict duty.

Does the EC have a spending limit ... if so what is it? Do you think that the EC are dividing the painting up into smaller phases to enable them to 'massage' these decisions about how to paint the building into their spending limit and thus avoid going to the OC for a decision? If so the EC are wrong.

From my experience in Qld, and from reading Qld Tribunal decisions, a painting job (or any job!) cannot be be divided into smaller phases merely to fit within an EC spending limit - with the intention of taking away control from the OC. The total cost of the job should be agreed to in the one Motion. This would generally be by way of a simple majority Motion at an OC meeting. 

Similarly with the paint colours. The EC has no authority to change the paint colour. The EC can only agree to a paint scheme if it is very similar to the old paint scheme. Any new and 'wild' colour scheme must be approved by the OC by a Special Resolution as it is deemed to be an 'improvement' as it changes the appearance of the common property.

In summary:(1) your EC cannot make decisions it does not have the authority to make, and (2) the OC cannot opt out of their strict duty to repair and maintain the building if it impacts on the appearance of the building, and (3) any change to the appearance of the building (i.e. change of paint colour) is deemed to be an improvement and requires a Special Resolution at a General Meeting by the OC.  

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Sir Humphrey
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17/06/2017 - 6:27 pm
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Just a general point about the Capital Works Fund/Sinking Fund. An important purpose of these is to avoid intergenerational inequity. Money should go in at a steady rate but come out lumpily, when expensive maintenance needs doing. Otherwise, just the people who happen to be owners in the year when expensive work is done pay. People who were owners before get to use the common property as it runs down without paying and people who come later get to use it in good condition after it is fixed up, also without paying. 

So, if there is enough money in the fund, there should be no need of a special (high) levy. Rather, the work can be done now, the fund takes a hit when the work is needed but then gets built up again gradually with moderate levies over some number of years in time to cover the next anticipated major expense, preferably with some comfortable margin for the unexpected. 

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