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What to do when illegal works are rife?
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19/06/2018 - 12:45 pm
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Our strata plan is located in Manly NSW.  There are only four units in the block.  When we bought, two women (playground bullies) had control of the Strata Committee, with the husband of one providing the muscle (he has aggressive outbursts if his wife doesn’t get her way).  When the unit with the least voice sold, the dynamics of the building changed and with a new unit holder in the mix, the bullies have their noses out of joint.  Basically, they’re refusing to participate in the SP, in fact stalling, unless it is of benefit to them.

In the context of above, both women have gutted and refurbished the interior of their apartments and there is no By Law to reflect interior works, only external works that impact common property.  Other legal works also abound.

There is an action on the new unit holders to find a third party to audit illegal works.

Are there impartial third parties that provide illegal works audit services?  We have the original building plans but, thinking about the nature of the people we’re dealing with, how accurate would an audit be?  The new comer is particularly upset about noise post the installation of wooden floors.

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25/06/2018 - 9:05 am
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Surveyors will give an audit of works done but that would require access to the units and you are unlikely to get that from uncooperative owners.

My thoughts are that you start by seeking mediation at Fair Trading with a view to the owners either seeking by-laws to approve their renovations retrospectively or return all common property to its previous state.

I would also, separately, start an action on the timber floor as that is a change whose impact can be established outside of the unit concerned.

Meanwhile I’m not sure what you mean by “they’re refusing to participate in the SP, in fact stalling, unless it is of benefit to them.”

Does that mean they aren’t attending committee meetings or preventing them from taking place, or what?

Regarding the owner’s husband’s outbursts, you should consider adopting a code of conduct or standing orders (see this post ) or even employing a security guard for your next meeting 

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25/06/2018 - 1:25 pm
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Thank you for responding JimmyT.  My situation has gone from bad to worse!

An Executive Committee Meeting was held on Thursday last week.  I was Chair.  One Lot, the Lot that causes most issues, was declared unfinancial but we went ahead anyway with the intent of resolving at least some of the long standing issues.  Three hours of argument followed but nothing was really resolved satisfactorily.  The lot that was unfinancial then sent an email on Friday to say the meeting was invalid, as the final agenda had not been received within 72 hours of the start of the meeting.

The Lot that was unfinancial is also responsible for $300k of renovations which took most of 2015.  They were forced into a by-law for their common property works but not for their internal works.  They say there is no need for a By Law on their internal works and that they had wooden floors prior to their renovation.  They say these things with such conviction and they are backed by their friends in another lot.  The two remaining lots, us and the newcomers, are powerless to refute them.

The newcomers now see the absence of By Laws as the precedent, i.e. no By Laws are required by the strata plan and by extension, no By Law is required for the privacy screen they’re erected without permission.

While the difficult lot did come to the Executive Committee meeting – they seem to enjoy the confrontation, want to regain ‘control’, dictate and veto any expenditure for which they don’t have a direct benefit. They are also now refusing to receive or respond to email going forward.

The strata manager is completely ineffectual.

I suspect there will be only one meeting now, an AGM, and all lots, us included, will do as they like with respect to illegal works.

We share a lobby with the difficult lot.  Tonight, as I have done for years, I will go home to various items of their furniture and their kids school bags in my lobby and the absence of light up the stairs to my apartment as they’ve re positioned our lighting so they can have a pendant light over their front door!


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25/06/2018 - 2:49 pm
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I think in your shoes I would be saying to all concerned that either they bring the scheme into line with the law or you will be applying to NCAT for the appointment of a strata manager who will take over the running of the scheme until such times as the block is fully compliant.

However, this is one of those “be careful what you wish for” options because a competent statutory manager will start issuing notices to comply and special levies based on what the building needs rather than what the owners want.

Why would you do that?  Because when the other owners move on, leaving their unauthorised alterations  the rest of you will be left with responsibility for their repair and maintenance.

This would be a good time for the other owners to sit down and start talking sense while they still have the opportunity.  Otherwise, you can always unleash the hounds – and the statutory strata manager only needs to go by the book; they don’t need to listen to anyone.

By the way, it doesn’t matter when the owners had the flooring installed – if it’s too noisy, it’s too noisy and they have to remedy that. 

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