Roundup: Rights, wrongs and the law of diminishing returns

There’s a good old whinge in the Forum this week.  An owner has spent $30,000 in a legal battle with the Owners Corp and expects to spend the same again before the case is resolved.

If she wins, at least she won’t have to pay her share of the costs awarded against the Owners Corp – but her neighbours will.  Hello special levy, goodbye invitations to the Christmas party. There’s a link to that below.

Elsewhere there’s a story about an owners corp that tried to shirk its responsibilities to fix a sliding door – by using an “expert” witness who never even looked at the problem.

Four years down the track, the Tribunal heard from an expert who actually examined the door and said it was the OC’s responsibility.

Four years!?! They say a lawyer’s favourite phrase they hear from a client is “it’s a matter of principle”.  Those five little words can mean so much – especially since principle is so much harder to define than the law.

But the message from that story is not to let strata bullies grind you down – however long it takes.

But when do you just give up and let a problem go through to the keeper?  When the legal fees cost more than fixing the problem would?  When the Tribunal rules against you for all the wrong reasons?

I know someone who spent quarter of a million dollars in legal action because they felt insulted by something in the minutes of a meeting.

They lost but the gut-wrenching fear and anxiety caused to the defendants – who knew they were in the right but didn’t have the deep pockets of the plaintiff – was distressing to behold, even at a distance.

After you have lived in strata for a while you learn that there’s a time to tough it out and a time to suck it up.  The problem is, you rarely realise which is which until the moment has passed.

Meanwhile, we have a bumper bunch of head-scratchers and chin-strokers in this week’s forum.

  • You’ll find the post from the reader in the middle of the strata battle mentioned above HERE.
  • Can you do anything about an abusive smoking tenant in the last few weeks of her tenancy? That’s HERE.
  • Special Levies – when you’re selling, who pays, the buyer or the vendor? That’s HERE.
  • Does paint of the floor of a private parking lot require Owners Corp approval? That’s HERE.
  • Window locks are compulsory but what if the lot owner won’t allow access to fit them? That’s HERE.
  • A couple of very different tenancy questions: How much of the cost of an eviction can you claim from the evicted tenants’ bond? That’s HERE.  And how do you make the rental agent prove you’re in arrears when their records are incomplete?  That’s HERE.
  • Some dos and don’ts of setting up a website to air issues in your scheme. That’s HERE.
  • Strata committee wants to lop a tree because of ‘fire access’ in private garden. That’s HERE.

By the time you read this there will be even more questions and comments of the Flat Chat Forum.  Enjoy –  if nothing else, you can be glad the problems aren’t yours.

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About the Author:

JimmyT - the T stands for Thomson - has been writing the Flat Chat column in Domain in the Sydney Morning Herald for the past 12 years. He also appears regularly on radio on the James Valentine show on ABC 702 radio. Jimmy is also an author (of 10 published books) and a TV scriptwriter (three broadcast series) and writes travel articles for whoever will publish them

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