Major Unauthorized Work - Structural Engineer's Report - Who is Responsible? | Talkin' 'bout a renovation | Flat Chat Forum: Your Questions Answered


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Major Unauthorized Work - Structural Engineer's Report - Who is Responsible?
Imogen Bannister
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22/11/2017 - 12:44 pm
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We are an early 1920s apartment block of six. Last year a new owner on the top floor carried out major work including the removal of some substantial structural walls along with some of the ceiling, all without any reports, plans or permission.  At this time it came to light that there was sagging of the roof above this apt  (the whole roof had been renewed after the big hail storm approximately 17 years ago).

The Executive Committee advised the Strata Manager that we needed to get a Structural Engineer in to inspect and assess the apartment.  It was weeks before access was gained. We had made it very clear from the outset to the SM both verbally and in writing (on three occasions) that it was our expectation that she should pay for the report. (The OC paid for a separate report on the roof conducted by the same Engineer a week later).

Six months on and the invoice from the Engineer still had not been paid.  We reminded the SM this was for the rogue renovator to settle.  At our AGM in September we discovered that he had negotiated with them to pay half of it. He advised that we engaged the Engineer, not them. He then went on to say that it was not his understanding that they should have to pay it!  I sent him an email with all the written evidence the day after the AGM to which he has not responded.

Surely we have the right to engage a Structural Engineer at their expense when substantial common property has been damaged and more was potentially in jeopardy?

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23/11/2017 - 9:01 am
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The Executive Committee commissioned the structural engineers report, and is therefore responsible for payment. 

The engineer is entitled to be paid in full without delay. This cost then recovered from rogue renovator. 

The changes made will need to be rectified so structural integrity is restored, especially the roof.

The rogue renovator will need to be charged for cost of repairs and professional fees, but body corporate will pay the contractor and advisers, and then recover these costs from rogue renovator.

Important to separate rogue renovator from all those involved in restoration as interference is likely.

If you hear renovation noises from a unit then discovering what is happening early on can help avoid a very messy situation.

Seeking legal advice would be worthwhile  consideration.

Imogen Bannister
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23/11/2017 - 5:29 pm
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I’m just seeking opinions as to whether we should rightly be able to receive reimbursement for the full cost of the report . 

The EC very clearly instructed SM to engage an Engineer at rogue renovator’s expense. 

Apparently the rogue renovator didn’t want to pay so without our knowledge SM negotiated they pay half.

The SM should have made it clear to the renovator in the first instance that the report would be at their expense due to the extent of the unauthorized works.

We feel they should be responsible for the full amount even though we engaged the Engineer.

(Our Strata Manager is very ineffectual)


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23/11/2017 - 6:56 pm
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There is a difference between what you want, and what may in most peoples’ view be right, and what you can validly claim or get.

It was the OC that was the party to the contract with the structural engineer, therefore it is the OC that has to pay the bill.  You can’t unilaterally enter into a contract and then turn around and ask someone else to pay it.  There may be circumstances where a person can be required to reimburse someone for costs and expenses flowing from their actions, but that is a different matter.

On the basis of the information you have given, there are a number of gaps in the way you proceeded.  If you wanted to have the rogue renovator pay for the structural engineer’s report (and any other matters), then you would have needed to put things in place to make the owner liable, before you engaged the structural engineer.  There are a number of ways you could have achieved that, including getting an order from the Tribunal.  Or you could have gone through a process with the owner for breaching the by-laws and (possibly) the law, and agreed a form of settlement with them, that included them agreeing to pay for the report. Or you could have required them to obtain a report.  

A big stick in the circumstances you outline is you could have advised the owner that the OC was going to require them to reinstate the common property unless they agreed to do certain things.  

You say that you made it clear to the Strata Manager that you expected the owner to pay, but that doesn’t mean anything.  Unless you had the owner agree to pay those costs, the owner is correct, you engaged the engineer, and the owner wasn’t party to that agreement.

It does sound like your Strata Manager is ineffectual but it isn’t just the SM, you can’t rely on things you told the SM – the issue is what was advised to the owner and what was agreed with them.

Imogen Bannister
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24/11/2017 - 6:12 am
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Thank you – very much appreciated!

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