Ignorance not bliss in unapproved inprovements

I was posed a tricky question by a strata manager the other day:  An owner replaces the common property sliding doors on to his balcony with much more sophisticated and expensive doors, without the knowledge of the Owners Corporation.

That owner has since sold the property, the doors have broken and now the new owner wants them fixed – for much more than the originals doors would have cost – at the OC’s expense. Who should pay?

Well, I said, caveat emptor – buyer beware –  and all that. The new owner should have checked that the doors had been approved by the OC when he bought the apartment.

Not so, says my pal, who is having to explain to this building’s executive committee that the fact they didn’t even know the doors were being changed doesn’t remove their legal responsibility to repair and maintain common property.

And that’s a wake-up call to any executive committee that has turned a blind eye to changes being made to bits and pieces of their building.

If, for instance, an owner in your building lays down expensive tiles on a common property balcony and doesn’t get proper approval – including agreement that they and subsequent owners will maintain and repair them – then at some time in the future you and your neighbours could have to fork out for repairs or replacement.

It’s hard enough when you weren’t even aware it was going on but if the owner told the executive committee and they just waved it through, you have no comeback when the unit’s new owner comes along and says “my expensive Italian tiles are cracking and I want them replaced like for like.”

For more background, including legal points, this topic has been given a good here in the Flat Chat Forum.

Meanwhile, you can win one of five $200 Myers gift vouchers by taking part in a survey of strata owners by the City Futures Research Centre at the UNSW Faculty of the Built Environment.  You have to be in it to win it: log on to cityfutures.net.au and click on the strata survey link.

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