From the Forum: False economy in dodging legal fees


There’s been some discussion about whether or not you can take a neighbour to court for compensation when their noisy renovation work has driven out your tenants.

You can take anyone to court for anything, but in this case, there was a strong case that the owner had suffered financial loss while the guy next door was enhancing the value of his property.

The case was apparently boosted by the fact that an NCAT member had ruled that the apartment was uninhabitable and allowed the tenants to break their lease.

So how come our Flatchatter lost in the small claims court?  It seems it may be because he chose to not brief a lawyer, to save money, and ran the case himself.

Because, it doesn’t matter how good a case you have, and how low the stakes are, some magistrates and judges take it as an insult that you would come to court without proper legal representation, and rule accordingly.

A case in point. We had a friend who had a bad tenant staying in his granny flat and when he turfed her out, she reported him to the police for having three marijuana plants in his garden (medicinal, for old sporting injuries, he said).

The police who came around told him it was just a formality.  It was such a small amount that he wouldn’t even get a conviction – which was good, because if he was convicted of a crime he would lose his job.

So, buoyed by this encouragement from the cops, he turns up in court to defend himself and is slapped with a heavy fine and a conviction.

Belatedly, he went to a lawyer friend who abused him verbally for not coming sooner.  They lodged an appeal, the lawyer did his thing in court and judge said,”why am I even hearing this case on such a trivial offence?”

So she cancelled the conviction but kept the fine, for “stupidity”. Which just confirms the old adage “anyone who defends themselves in court has an idiot for a client.”

You can read all about our Flatchatter’s trials and tribulations HERE.

Elsewhere in the Forum:

  • A minority of owners have decided to accept the shortest time and highest instalments to pay off a loan for capital works. I can’t afford to pay quadrupled levies.  Is there anything I can do?  That’s HERE.
  • Can our treasurer audit the financial records himself and then charge us for doing so? That’s HERE.
  • Can proposed stand-in strata committee members be counted towards the numbers needed to form a quorum? That’s HERE.
  • Can a strata committee call for a vote of confidence in itself?  That’s HERE.

There are lots more questions and answers in the Flat Chat forum – just click on some of the headings on the right-hand side of this page (or below if you are reading this on a phone or tablet).


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