Four-year fight shuts door on inspection that never was

A NSW Owners Corporation has been forced to meet its common property obligations, after a four year battle with one of the property owners over a sliding door and an “expert” who never actually viewed it.

In 2013, a lot owner asked her Owners Corporation to repair the balcony sliding door on the bedroom of her Coffs Harbour villa, after she noticed rain blowing inside during severe storms.

Under NSW strata laws, Owners Corporations are responsible for repairs and maintenance of common property, which includes external doors and windows.

The lot owner’s lawyer, Andy Munro from Slater and Gordon, said the Owners Corporation tried to claim the defect was not its responsibility.

“This issue was raised in February 2013 and after four years, multiple expert reports and two tribunal hearings, we have finally been able to hold the Owners Corp to account,” Mr Munro said. “The Owners Corp originally produced an expert report saying renovations carried out by [the lot owner] had caused the door leak, but under cross-examination in the appeal the engineer admitted he’d never actually inspected her home.

“The first NCAT adjudicator who heard this case unknowingly relied on this report, which was based purely on speculation, so we appealed the decision and got the Tribunal to accept a report from an expert who had actually inspected the place.

“This expert found no evidence that the renovation had caused the leak but rather that the door was defective, so the tribunal overturned the first decision and ordered the Owners Corporation to repair the sliding door.

“This isn’t the first time an Owners Corporation has tried to shirk their responsibilities by claiming a technicality and it won’t be the last, but this case shows that lot owners can successfully stand up for their rights if they’re willing to go the distance.”

The lot owner said her experience should be a lesson in perseverance for NSW strata owners.

“The Owners Corporation is all too happy to take our strata fees, but then it’s like pulling teeth when you ask them to hold up their end of the bargain,” she said. “It was almost as though they thought we would throw in the towel if they dragged things out for as long as possible, which is shameful behaviour.

“I am aware that many other non-renovated villas in the complex are also suffering from the same water ingress under their doors, but to date the Owners Corporation has failed to fix villas in the complex. These leaks were first documented around ten years ago.

“I hope this sends a message to property owners that they shouldn’t allow themselves to be pushed around by strata bullies using underhanded tactics.”

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