A free legal service set up for strata owner-residents has been overwhelmed by appeals for assistance due to covid-19 lockdowns and lay-offs.
Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC) has been providing free strata legal advice to all NSW strata residents for about four years now but its referrals and requests for help with issues like levies, by-law complaints and domestic violence, have more than trebled since the pandemic hit.
MLC is one of a number of community law services dotted around the state. Like its counterpart, Redfern Legal Service, it provides general legal advice for local residents but, significantly, MLC provides strata advice to residents across NSW.
Staffed by one full-time and one part-time lawyer (one of whom is on this week’s Flat Chat Wrap podcast), it was set up under Fair Trading funding in 2016 in anticipation of confusion and concern over the then new “forced sale” legislation that allowed 75 per cent of owners to sell off their entire block, even if the other 25 percent didn’t want to.
But as the reality of that scheme has turned out to be less traumatic than predicted, they have moved into general strata legal advice, especially for seniors and other vulnerable groups.
They will explain the law, provide legal advice, send legal letters where appropriate and, if appropriate, represent residents at Fair Trading mediations, NCAT tribunal hearings or even in the Supreme Court, where they feel their clients are being unfairly treated and have strong cases.
And while they try never to turn anyone away, they prioritise their support based on the vulnerability of the client.
In other words, they are more likely to first support a senior whose first language isn’t English and who is being bullied by their strata committee, than a hipster who has received a notice to comply about parking his bike in a common property stairwell.
For the record, both of our sponsors, Sachs Gerache Lawyers and StrataAnswers, think this is a terrific service for people who can’t afford legal representation at normal rates.
And while MLC couldn’t possibly provide a full commercial legal service to all their clients, they can advise whether a case is worth pursuing and will recommend lawyers for clients who want to take it further.
You can find out more about how it works by listening to our podcast or reading the transcript.
And you can go directly to the MLC website where you will find an outline of their services and a link to an online enquiry form which will, at the very least, get you a call back for a chat about your issues.
A big chunk of MLC’s strata work is related to levies debts and by-law breaches. And here’s something to consider, since the pandemic struck and people started losing their jobs, the number of referrals has TRIPLED.
These include increases in levies stress, notices to comply and domestic violence, as lack of work, lockdowns and more people working from home take their toll.
And since this is a non-profit organisation, they depend on donations to keep them afloat. Here at Flat Chat, we are going to be slinging them a couple of hundred dollars as part of our Christmas fundraiser (which we have pretty much initiated just for them).
We can’t offer personal legal advice, but they can. So if you need one-on-one help, contact them. If you are in the fortunate position of not enduring any strata hassles, maybe send a few tax-deductible dollars their way to help those who are less lucky.
Just go to their donations page and follow the instructions.