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Forum: Land-grabbers hedge their bets

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There’s an issue in the Forum this week that brings together some of the most damaging aspects of a strata scheme gone wrong.

These are all too familiar elements. Often they involve an amalgam of self-interest, a sense of entitlement, bad management and an ignorance, possibly wilful, of strata and property law.

Plus, for good measure, add in a strata manager who refuses to do anything about it.

Imagine a scenario where you have townhouses or ground-floor flats where the surrounding area is open common property.

The owners of one of these properties doesn’t want other residents wandering past their windows or doors so they block the access with heavy concrete planters and hedges.  They call it landscaping.  Anyone with half a brain calls it a land grab.

By giving themselves a chunk of common property to be theirs and theirs alone, they have enhanced the value of their property, breaching at least two standard by-laws, ignoring established legal procedures for the management of common property and flouting the DA under which their development was approved.

Now add into the mix the fact that these owners are on the committee and pretty much run the place. Who is going to stop them?

Enter the strata manager and a second level of self-interest.  The committee, such as it is, doesn’t want anyone telling them what they can and can’t do.  The strata manager wants a peaceful life and the probability that their contract will be renewed.

So when an owner cries “land grab” the strata manager makes it clear that if they are compelled to enforce laws and by-laws about not stealing bits of common property – because that’s what it is – then they will go through the by-laws and breach every other owner for any little infraction they can find.

Hmmm … the rap sheet just gets longer: add claims of collusion and bullying to allegations of theft (or maybe just fraud).

That’s not exactly the case cited in the Forum this week, but it’s more common than you might think. 

Our Flatchatter finds himself in a situation that’s like that but a little different.  However, his dilemma has been exacerbated by the fact that the land-grabbers – who have laid astroturf on “their” patch of common property – are in the process of selling.

Will they tell prospective purchasers that their faux garden is actually an illegal annexation of common property? Perhaps not.

If they don’t, and the new owners find they aren’t in as good favour with the strata manager as the previous residents (because they’re not on the committee), then you can predict an almighty and totally unnecessary street-fight over what belongs to whom.

Surely the Tribunal would rule against the land-grabbers or anyone else naïve enough to buy the unit without checking the by-laws?  Maybe not.

Trawling through the Flat Chat archives, I found this post from three years ago, referring to an even earlier incident when a Tribunal member decreed that just such a land-grab was OK, despite the fact that it also included knocking a doorway through a common property wall, because it had been accepted for years and it was only newcomers to the block who had objected.

You can read all about our current, real-life example, and our suggested solution, HERE.

Elsewhere on the Forum:

  • Finally, a block dominated by its bully builder gets to have their eminently sustainable clothesline … or do they?  That’s HERE.
  • What happens if you fix your own windows before everyone else in the block gets theirs fixed by the owner’s corp? Do you have to pay twice? It depends where you live.  That’s HERE.
  • Is this strata manager inflating repair costs and maybe even taking kickbacks from tradies?  Seems like it.  That’s HERE.
  • Why is it so hard and take so long for the strata manager to refund deposits?  We think we know but we have an answer.  That’s HERE.

There will be other new questions and answers, as well as some ongoing discussions, on the Flat Chat Forum.  Register, log-in and subscribe (for free) to the topics that interest you most and you won’t miss a thing.

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