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Podcast: Reno regrets and free strata legal advice

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It’s very much a tale of two slices of strata in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap podcast.

To begin with, you can listen to two over-privileged, entitled professionals (us) whingeing about what went wrong … and right … when we decided to renovate both bathrooms in our flat at once.

BOTH bathrooms? “When I was a lad we had a pothole in the road, and used gravel for toilet paper  …” says one of Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen.


Listen Here


Regular readers of this website will have been following our reno (mis)adventures on this website for the past few weeks so we thought it was  time to reveal all our triumphs and failures on the pod.

From the too-flimsy door that started it all to the crack that appeared in a newly plastered wall, the whole catastrophe is there for your schadenfreude listening pleasure.

Free legal advice

And quickly moving from entitled renovators to hard-pressed strata residents facing more urgent issues not of their own making, we have belatedly discovered a completely free strata legal service for NSW, based in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Marrickville.

Lawyer Justin Abi-Daher joined us on the pod to answer questions about the service like:

  • How long has Marrickville Legal Centre been covering strata?
  • Who is on their strata team and what are their areas of expertise?
  • What is the most common issue or issues that are brought to them?
  • What do they do when both sides of a dispute asking for help?
  • What is the extent of their involvement? E.g. would they ever represent a client at a tribunal or in a mediation?
  • What is the most common piece of advice they give strata residents once they were in the midst of a dispute.
  • To what extent do they find themselves having to explain residents’ basic rights and responsibilities?
  • Is there one piece of strata knowledge that surprises people more than any other?

Finally we ask this not-for-profit hero to explain how they get their funding and why they need more so badly right now.

You can read more about Marrickville Legal Centre HERE and look at their website HERE.  And remember, their strata service isn’t just for Marrickville – it’s for the whole of NSW.

If you’re not into podcasts – and really, you’re missing half the fun – you can read a transcript of the pod below.

Transcription

Here. slightly later than usual, is this week’s podcast transcribed in full.

Jimmy 00:00

We’ve got a Christmas gift for our readers and listeners this week; free legal advice.

Sue 00:06

That’s a good gift.

Jimmy 00:07

Some people will say, ‘well, you give legal advice all the time,’ but we don’t really, because we’re not allowed to. We just kind of point people in the right direction. Later on, we’re going to be talking to somebody from Marrickville Legal Center and they do offer free legal advice for strata owners and residents, specifically resident owners, rather than investors and tenants.

Sue 00:31

Sounds like a good Christmas gift.

Jimmy 00:33

I think it is. Before that, we’re going to be talking about our bathroom renovation, because that’s been keeping people entertained for the last few weeks on the website. I’m Jimmy Thomson.

Sue 00:45

And I’m Sue Williams.

Jimmy 00:46

And this is the Flat Chat Wrap.

MUSIC

Bathroom update

Jimmy

How this bathroom thing started, was trying to fix my bathroom door.

Sue 01:07

That’s right, because your bathroom door was a bit too thin.

Jimmy 01:13

Yes, and it’s the guest bathroom, so privacy was at a minimum.

Sue  01:16

And tell us how that worked out, Jimmy?

Jimmy  01:19

Well, the bathroom door is untouched and, in the meantime, we’ve renovated two bathrooms.

Sue 01:26

This is like $45,000 later. The one thing that we wanted, is still not yet done.

Jimmy  01:33

I said I wanted the bathroom door fixed. You said ‘hey, if you’re going to have the bathroom door fixed, why don’t you just renovate your whole bathroom?’

Sue  01:41

I did not! You said ‘if I’m going to get a new door, I think I want a new bathroom as well,’ so then I said, ‘well, if you’re getting a new bathroom, (because we’ve got two bathrooms in our apartment, you use one and I use the other), maybe I should get mine done as well.’ Not that I particularly wanted it done, but because it seems weird, having an apartment with one new bathroom and one old bathroom.

Jimmy  02:00

I didn’t think that was weird at all. I thought we could have said ‘hey, this is what the old bathroom used to look like and this is what the new bathroom looks like.’

Sue  02:09

Well, the project manager that we got to actually oversee the whole thing, he thought it was really weird that we’d had our front balcony retiled and we hadn’t even thought about having our back balcony retiled. It hadn’t occurred to us, but he just looked at it and said, ‘why would you do one without the other?’  He’s obviously on the same wavelength as me.

Jimmy  02:27

Right? We then decided not to go with a big bathroom company and have a private project manager/ builder do it, because he was recommended by friends of ours. It turned out later, that it was because he had nice legs.

Sue  02:47

And nice eyes.

Jimmy  02:48

You noticed his eyes, I didn’t. I just noticed that he would turn up at half past seven in the morning, ready to work and we probably saved ourselves a bit of money.

Then, we saved ourselves a bit more money, by having both bathrooms done at the same time, which now that we’re through that period, seems like a sensible idea. In the middle of it when we had no functioning bathroom in the apartment, it didn’t seem like such a crash-hot idea.

Sue  03:17

No, it really didn’t.

Jimmy  03:19

We’re lucky in our building, that it has four toilets with showers on the gym level.

Sue  03:25

I was lucky to go and buy a camping toilet, that I could use in the middle of the night, which surprisingly worked well, didn’t it?

Jimmy  03:36

It did surprise the neighbors across the way, when you put it on the balcony, but there you go! I think one of the reasons we saved money over the big flashy company, was that we chose all the fittings ourselves, which was a mixed blessing. I was going to say horrendous, but it wasn’t horrendous. We spent a lot of time on the internet looking at taps and sinks and stuff like that and then there was the problem of the bath in your bathroom.

Sue  04:12

Yes, the space was a bit narrow, because baths in the olden days (20 years ago), were narrower than they are now, because we’re all a bit plumper, I think.

Jimmy  04:21

We joked that the bathroom had been built around the bath, and when the builder took the bath out, he said that’s exactly what they’d done. It wasn’t so much a built-in bath as a built-around bath. To get the bath out, they had to cut around the edge of the bath, like you would do with a pie, with the edge of the crust.

Sue 04:46

I didn’t know that.

Jimmy 04:48

It was so they could get in close enough to drill out the sides of the bath. That’s when we had decamped to the hotel, so we didn’t see what was going on. We got all our permissions and all that was fine and most of the time we managed, apart from one night when the plumber couldn’t actually stop working at the appointed hour, or we would have flooded the whole apartment. We managed to stick to the deadlines set out in the agreement, and here we are now. The only outstanding thing really is the color of the walls in your bathroom. Tell us about that, Sue?

Sue  05:24

Do I have to? It’s so painful! I chose this beautiful light gray color for the walls, which looked fantastic in the showroom.

Jimmy 5:32

This is in plaster.

Sue 5:35

Venetian plaster, which looked great in the showroom. What I hadn’t really factored in, was the fact that the showroom was a massive place with lots and lots of sunlight and daylight and lots of air around it, and my bathroom is a little dark hole with no natural light. What I saw was this beautiful, silvery-gray finish, and it turned out to be quite a dark grey; so dark, it was like going into a prison cell. The project manager, seeing my distress, suggested that we put some more lights into the bathroom, to bring more light in, so we did that. You know that torture, where they shine really bright lights into your eyes?

Jimmy 06:17

Until you confess?

Sue 06:19

It’s a bit like that, really, so we changed the setting on the lighting, and then it made the gray go mauve (and no other color go with it). Then, we changed the setting on the lighting again. Now, it’s still bright and a little bit mauve, but it’s kind of livable. The best thing that happened was one of the walls cracked; the Venetian plaster on the wall cracked. That was fantastic, because then I could say, ‘I don’t really want gray on that wall; I’d like something a bit lighter.’ Therefore, we’re waiting now for the samples to come in of lighter-colored paint. Hopefully, I’ll put lighter plaster on that wall, and then it won’t look like going into a prison camp every day to clean my teeth.

Jimmy  07:07

It’s very attractive plaster, too.

Sue 07:09

It is. It’s got a gorgeous finish; it’s really nice. It’s just I think the color was a bit dark for my room.  Anyway, hopefully we’ll have a bright color, or white (or off-white), on the other wall. It might all come together beautifully.

Jimmy  07:28

Maybe that’s one of the things that we should have used the big, flashy, bathroom installer for, because they had this thing… Once you’d signed up and paid a deposit, you could go to their showroom and put on, not 3d glasses…

Sue 07:42

Virtual reality glasses.

Jimmy 07:43

Yeah, virtual reality glasses, and walk around your bathroom and see what it looked like.

Sue  07:51

Well, it would save you some really expensive mistakes. The alternative is doing what we did with the project manager, but then maybe getting an interior designer to come in, have a look and give you some advice, perhaps. That probably would have saved us, really.

Jimmy  08:07

It is somewhat ironic that about a month before we embarked on this, we had an interior designer, in this very podcast!

Sue  08:17

We did and we said ‘wow, what a good idea, having an interior designer,’ and then we just ignored our own advice.

Jimmy  08:23

But we had Nigel; Nigel, the neighbor. He actually was very, very helpful.

Sue  08:29

He was fantastic. The only day Nigel didn’t come with us, was the day I chose my color, so we can’t blame Nigel for that, although, it would be nice to be able to. But no, that was my fault. Anyway, hopefully it’s going to be okay.

Jimmy  08:47

One of the other telling things was that you decided to go for a very minimalist interior in the bathroom. So it was, the very attractive finishing plaster (which I highly recommend), and plain white sink and bath and a frameless shower. Very simple showerhead and chrome taps… You achieved that to such an extent, that you walked into your bathroom and said ‘seems very sparse.’

Sue  09:17

Like a monk cell or something. Look, once I get some colored towels in there…

Jimmy 09:24

Colored towels are on their way. Christmas is just around the corner.

Sue 09:25

Maybe plants and maybe paintings, or something. I don’t know.

Jimmy  09:29

But you have two fabulous niches.

Sue  09:32

I do. The niches are really good.

Jimmy  09:38

And the bath is different. It’s the same width. It’s a little bit shorter, but it actually contains more water.

Sue  09:43

Yes, but it is a little bit hard to get into and out of. An interior designer might have said that to us as well; might have said ‘you know, it could be easier to get a shallower bath’. Anyway, it is what it is.

Jimmy  10:09

When I think about the things that we discussed, like moving the bathroom door so we could get a bigger bath in; remember that was on the cards for a while? We were looking at getting a corner bath to get the right width and it was Chris the builder who said (after we decided not to get one), ‘I wouldn’t have let you get one anyway.’  I think it’s looking pretty good. Mine is already up and working.

Sue  10:34

Yours is great.

Jimmy  10:34

Yes, just got to paint the door. Still, the door is untouched.

Sue  10:40

What are you going to do about that door? Are you going to get it made it thicker, in some way?

Jimmy  10:44

Yes, I’ve got this really elaborate plan, which I tried to explain to Chris the other day, because you’ve got to build the door out of bits in the middle, and then build it a lot further out. I was trying to explain what my plan was to Chris and he just looked at me and said, ‘I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.’

Sue  11:08

Well, I’m just waiting for the day when you say, ‘I’ve got to get this door fixed, so how about we do a kitchen renovation?’ I’m going to say ‘no.’

Jimmy  11:15

Most people do a kitchen before they do their bathrooms.

Sue  11:20

Our kitchen is fine. Leave it alone, Jimmy. It’s good. I never want to do another renovation as long as I live.

Jimmy 11:27

That’s what you said after we got our kitchen renovated in the last apartment.

Sue 11:31

That’s true. I was foolish. I’d forgotten it. Anyway, anybody else out there renovating? I hope it’s going well, because I think the whole of Australia is in the midst of a huge renovation frenzy at the moment, so lots of people doing it. Lots of people are probably having pain then excitement, when things work out well.

Jimmy  11:51

And if anybody needs a camping toilet, you know where to get those. In a minute, we’re going to be talking to Justin Abi-Daher of the Marrickville Legal Center, about their free legal advice service for strata residents.

MUSIC

Free legal advice

Jimmy

I was a bit surprised, a couple of weeks ago. I was just looking for (as one does in what we do), bits of information about strata living and strata law and I chanced upon this thing. Marrickville Legal Center has a specialized strata residents free legal advice service.

Sue  12:36

It’s fantastic, isn’t it?

Jimmy  12:38

It’s amazing. It’s been going for about four years, I believe. We very quickly called them up and asked if we could speak to them about their service. They put us in touch with Justin Abi-Daher, who is a qualified lawyer, who specializes in strata. I think he also specializes in legal services for the elderly and the disabled. Actually, we’d probably be better to talk to him, personally. So here he is now. Hello, Justin.

Justin 13:12

Hello, how are you?

Sue  13:13

Hi, Justin.

Justin  13:14

Hi, how are you going?

Jimmy  13:16

We’re good. Now, I’m feeling a bit embarrassed because I didn’t even realize that Marrickville Legal Center did strata issues. How long have you been doing that?

Justin  13:28

It’s a service that’s existed since 2016. There are actually two services that were introduced; one through Marrickville Legal Center, which services the general strata population across New South Wales, and a service for seniors, which are people generally aged over 65 to 70. Statewide, this is done through the Seniors Rights Service. That was established through New South Wales Fair Trading. Interestingly, it was created as a very specific service.

It was created as a service that dealt with the new collective sales laws but we did extend the scope of the service to include all kinds of general strata management, due to the demand we were receiving across the state.

Sue  14:12

People don’t actually have to live in Marrickville to call on your services?

Justin  14:16

No, we service all of New South Wales and we get calls from Sydney, up to Tweed Heads, down to Wollongong and Narooma, for example. You get different kinds of strata schemes in different areas.

Jimmy  14:29

You sure do! I was interested in your previous comment about how you were set up to help with advice on the collective sales thing; did you actually get much demand for that?  I think that’s something that we all got very excited about when it came in in 2016, and then I can only think of two or three places where they’ve actually used it.

Justin  14:51

Yeah, when the service was created, there was high demand and that demand was more about general legal information, as to what these laws are; how they might affect me. It has slowed down, probably over the last two years and you may have noticed that not many cases have actually gone through to the courts. The reason for that is because they all settle privately.

Sue  15:21

Who’s on your strata team, and what are their areas of expertise?

Justin  15:27

There’s a few of us here. I’m the assistant principal solicitor. My areas of expertise are strata; also residential tenancies. I also do home building, as well as all kinds of civil matters; that is things like motor vehicle accidents, victims’ compensation and consumer complaints.

Sue  15:45

Well, you must be pretty busy!

Justin  15:46

And discrimination complaints. Yeah, we’re quite busy here. We’ve got Jake, who’s also a strata solicitor, but he also specializes in civil law, in the same areas I just described. Then we’ve got my colleagues, Robert and Nick, who predominantly do advice for our tenancy teams. They have a little niche, where they advise strata scheme tenants, as well.

Jimmy  16:10

Sticking in the area of strata (which is big enough in itself), what’s the most common issue or issues that come to you?

Justin  16:18

Look, it’s always fluctuating, to be honest. Definitely repairs (common property repairs), and the impact a lack of repairs may have on someone’s lot, is one of the biggest issues. As a result, you also get a lot of insurance compliance. The second biggest one would be bylaw issues, particularly around compliance and neighborhood disputes, which is associated with the bylaws issue. They are our two big ones.

Sue  16:45

What are the strangest or trickiest issues you’ve come across?

Justin  16:49

The trickiest ones I’d say, are really the neighborhood disputes, because there’s no simple answer. Usually, there’s a lot of personal history involved and sometimes things like going to the Tribunal don’t actually resolve anything. They are the trickiest; they are a little maze and in New South Wales, you do have quite a few options in terms of dealing with those kinds of disputes. It’s all about kind of trying to navigate the legal process, while also understanding that there are personal circumstances behind this kind of dispute as well.

Jimmy  17:17

For sure. Have you ever had both sides of a dispute, asking for your help at the same time?

Justin  17:24

We’ve had probably people approach for advice. As we’re a legal service, we have to run checks and we have a duty as solicitors, so we’d never represent two people against each other. When someone does do that, we refer them on to another service, that may be able to help them; we don’t leave them in the dark. But we can’t assist both parties in the same dispute. On the same token, we assist generally, people that owner/live in their strata scheme, as our main clientele.

Jimmy  17:54

Your main clients will be the resident/owners and tenants?

Justin  18:03

Our main clients are really owner/occupiers; the people that own their lot and live in it. They’re our main priority. If we have any kind of remaining capacity to assist, we may assist some tenants, but really, our focus is on owners, ultimately.

Sue  18:18

What is the extent of your involvement? Would you ever represent a client at Tribunal or in a mediation?

Justin  18:24

It’s a statewide service, so predominantly, it’s legal advice; legal information. We also do one-off legal tasks, which could mean writing them a letter, that they can send off to the other side. We also do dispute resolutions. We participate in mediations for vulnerable clients. And we also do NCAT representation, if the client is under our priority groups. We do offer all those kinds of services.

Jimmy  18:51

I noticed that your initial point of contact is through a form on your website. Could you have a situation where somebody sends in the form and you reply purely by email, or do you always follow up with a personal contact?

Justin  19:09

Generally speaking, we’ll call the client, and some people do leave quite detailed instructions. All I do is  confirm those instructions, and then either offer the advice via telephone, or sometimes in writing via email.

Jimmy 19:21

Right, okay.

Sue  19:22

And do you charge a fee for your service, or is it free to the clients?

Justin  19:27

It’s a free legal service that’s been created by Fair Trading. We can’t represent everyone, because it’s quite a small team, statewide. When we can’t assist, we do send them a referral list which has a number of solicitors or firms that specialize in strata, that we’ve personally consulted and made sure that they have that expertise. The clients that we can’t represent aren’t left in the dark.

Jimmy  19:49

Is there one piece of advice you would give strata residents, before they find themselves in conflict with their neighbors?

Justin  19:57

It’s always a tough one with the neighbors. I think it’s to take a step back and make sure you’re aware of what the rules are. Usually, with a neighbor dispute, it’s an issue around bylaws or a nuisance or a hazard. You don’t want to write to your neighbor in an aggressive tone at first instance; you always want to try and at least speak to them. Before you do that, you should be aware of what the rules are, rather than accusing them of something, when you’re not really certain. I guess one piece of advice is to make sure you’re checking the rules and the laws, before you get into conflict with your neighbor, because it might not even be necessary.

Sue  20:33

That’s very good advice. A lot of people just don’t really understand strata law, and don’t really understand their rights and responsibilities. To what extent do you find yourself having to explain residents’ basic rights and responsibilities?

Justin  20:47

Quite often actually, which is fine with us. It’s a complicated little area for someone that maybe is new to strata, or English is a second language, or they have a disability. Even if they are elderly, the concept of strata, is not simple. It can be quite complicated and Fair Trading has the Living with Strata Guide, but even that doesn’t always give you the kind of easy understanding of what a strata scheme is, for someone that may not understand how to read that, for example. A lot of the time, the side of the advice for those kinds of clients will be just establishing that this is what a strata is; these are what these positions are, these are the roles, these are the functions and duties and these are your obligations.

Jimmy  21:31

I remember a few years ago, somebody wrote in response to a column I’d written for the Sydney Morning Herald about bylaws, that as a tenant, they would look at the bylaws, decide which ones made sense and obey them, but just ignore all the others. I wrote back, ‘If I were you, I would start looking for a new apartment now, because, you’re not going to be living there for much longer.’

Justin  21:59

Oh no!

Sue  22:01

Is there one piece of strata knowledge that surprises people, more than any other?

Justin  22:05

It’s usually around strata levy debts and the fact that the Owners Corp can charge interest and reasonable expenses, incurred in trying to recover amounts. A lot of the time, people go on levy strikes, where they just stopped paying and they’re in a cycle of debt and there’s all this interest and legal fees. They’re quite aggrieved by that section of the legislation, which allows Owners Corps to kind of take that action. It does surprise a lot of people that call us.

Jimmy  22:35

The levy thing, of course… You said there that they can charge interest, penalty interest; well actually, the law says they must. That surprises people, because they think ‘I’ll just talk to the strata manager and he’ll let that go.’

Sue  22:52

I wasn’t aware of your legal service, like Jimmy. Are there many centers like you operating around New South Wales, or are you the only one?

Justin  23:03

Broadly speaking, Marrickville Legal Centre is a community legal center. There are many community legal centers throughout New South Wales. Some are generalists, like ours, and some are very special. For example, there’s a Welfare Rights Legal Center, which does just social security issues. We’ve got the Australian Centre for Disability Law, which focuses on disability issues. You’ve got the Tenancy Union in New South Wales, which does tenancy issues, and then you’ve got those general ones like us. You’ve got Marrickville, you’ve got Redfern, you’ve got mid North Coast, you’ve got Northern Rivers; all over New South Wales. In terms of strata, though, it’s mainly us and Seniors Rights. Some other centers may do some basic strata, but a lot of the time, refer to our specialist services.

Jimmy  23:47

It is a very specialist field, once you start getting below the surface. I know that you’re partially funded by Fair Trading, but what is your budget? You actually do need to raise funds yourself, don’t you?

Justin  24:05

Yes, so the strata service is statewide across New South Wales. Overall, there’s around 1:6 of us. What that means is one full time and a little bit of part time, so it’s not much. When it first started, it was okay, because demand was not that high, but we’ve seen a huge increase in demand over the years, since the service was established. Broadly speaking, we generally run this end-of-year fundraising appeal, due to our limited funding and the extremely high demand that we get for our legal services. As you know, 2020 has been quite tough for everyone. Right now, into December, we’re seeing even a higher increase in demand for our services, before the closures. We’ve had clients; families, coming to us with insecure employment, housing law issues, and a lot of domestic and family violence during COVID. Our calls have essentially tripled in volume. We have stayed open during the whole pandemic; we did not stop service delivery, because we thought it’s important that our community is able to come to us and get some assistance here, when they’re facing something that’s so unprecedented. We’ve done remote advice overnight; we do evening advices. We’ve done them remotely via telephone, with a lot of volunteer lawyers that have helped us, just to make sure no one was ever turned away from our service. I guess we’re fundraising to ensure that we can continue to meet that capacity and ensure we’re not turning people away, essentially, from our services, where they’ll have to likely go to a private lawyer, which they can’t afford.

Jimmy  25:43

I got some bad news for you… The number of phone calls is about to increase. I don’t know how aware you are of the Flat Chat website? People come onto the website. We have a very lively forum and people come and ask questions. I have to resist the temptation to answer all the questions, because I want the other readers to answer the questions from their experience, which kind of works. But sooner or later, somebody says, ‘well, what can I do about this?’ You end up saying, ‘well, you can go and talk to a lawyer.’ The lawyers that I’ve spoken to that we’ve referred, say, “yeah, people come on, and they spend half an hour on the phone explaining their problem, and then I say, okay, I charge $500 an hour, and they go, ‘wow, hang on, Jimmy Thomson does this for free, so you should too.’” Now that we’ve found a free legal service, I have to say, I will be pointing people in your direction.

So as a quid pro quo, we will also be encouraging people to donate and they can do that through your website, is that right?

Justin  26:55

Yes, they do it through the website and it’s a tax-deductible donation. That will help us provide ongoing legal advice to clients. Even if we give you just some one-off advice, we will spend our time with you. Generally speaking, we’ll go through your instructions, and we’ll at least guide you on what you need to do, which usually helps in not having to go straight away to a private lawyer and spend money.

Jimmy  27:20

There is always that option for people where you can say,’ look, this is the limit.’ You would never take a case to the Supreme Court, or anything like that, I guess?

Justin  27:30

I never say never! If it’s a vulnerable client, and they have appropriate prospects, then we may. We are lucky enough to have good connections with barristers, who sometimes do offer us pro bono assistance for those clients, and can help us with those kinds of matters. The center has been in the Supreme Court before.

Jimmy  27:53

I shouldn’t assume anything!

Sue  27:57

What is your website address for our readers?

Justin  28:04

It’s www.mlc.org.au  If it’s to donate, it’s www.mlc.org.au/donate

Sue  28:13

Terrific, that’s nice and simple.

Jimmy  28:14

Thanks for that, Justin. That’s really encouraging. I hope we don’t overload the system, but we do overload your funding! That would be the ultimate aim, coming up to Christmas. Thanks very much for talking to us. Cheers.

Sue  28:30

That’s fantastic. Thanks Justin.

Justin  28:31

Thank you so much. Take care.

Jimmy  28:35

I can’t believe that service went under my radar for years. We have the issue; we’re not supposed to offer legal advice. We’re not qualified. We do point people in the right direction and we occasionally will reproduce bits of the law that relate to their questions. For a while, all we could do is say, ‘look, this is what we think. If you need to take it further, go and talk to a strata lawyer.’  Sachs Gerace, they sponsor our website; have done for several years now. They’re great, but they are a professional company.  They get paid. They don’t overcharge by any means, but they charge the normal rate, so a lot of people can’t afford that. Strata Answers are also our sponsors. They are two people, one of them is a qualified strata manager and the other one is a very experienced strata committee member. They also charge, but not as much as strata lawyers and they’re deeply involved, if you need them, on strata issues. In fact, now they’re running the City of Sydney Strata Skills 101 service. They’re great, John and Tanya, and then the next level down is basically us and every other website that’s offering free advice and opinions really. Opinions, rather than advice.

Sue  30:06

There is this huge range of services; all different to suit different pockets and different levels of sophistication of issues as well.

Jimmy  30:13

The Marrickville Legal Center’s service, you access that through their website, and you fill in a form. You say who you are and what your contact details are and what your problem is. Then they make an effort to get in touch with people and discuss it a bit further. As you heard, a lot of the things are to do with notices to comply and levies and levy debts and things like that. Pretty basic stuff. It’s great that there’s a professional lawyer in there who can give legal advice and can get involved in cases. I was speaking to David Sachs about this. We refer a lot of people to him, but some people expect that the free service that we offer, extends to him, which he obviously cannot do. Everybody thinks that their case is a special case, and they should get pro bono help. Again, 99% of the things we do are exactly the same. Everybody’s in the same boat. It’s terrific that Marrickville Legal Center is offering this service, and it’s www.mlc.org.au  That link will be on the website, if you want to get in touch with them. After this. It’s our Hey, Marthas.

MUSIC

Hey, Martha!

Sue  31:38

Jimmy, what’s your Hey, Martha for this week?

Jimmy  31:40

During the course of the renovations, I discovered that the new kind of led downlight that you put in the ceiling, takes one fifth of the power of the previous ones. The little halogen lights (which we all became so used to), five of the new lights take the same amount of electricity as one halogen. The other thing we discovered is that each light unit has a little switch on the back and you can change the color of the light from warm to natural to cool, which is a really harsh white light. So that was an innovation; a bit of a revelation.

Sue  32:24

It’s a really good idea. I discovered this week, that you can get solar powered air conditioning. It’s just come on the market in Australia and you have some solar panels installed and then they plug directly into an air conditioning unit. It doesn’t take any electricity off the grid, at all. It’s carbon neutral so that when the sun comes up in the morning, there’s an auto switch. It just switches on. When the sun goes down in the evening, it just switches off. It’s so fantastic that there’s this direct correlation, I think between the power of the sun and the ability to cool a room. It just seems so weird, doesn’t it?

Jimmy  33:04

It strikes me, in our building, where we seem to be, (for reasons that are beyond me), unable to have solar power, and we’re not allowed to have air conditioning…

Sue  33:17

It’s a perfect solution.

Jimmy  33:19

If we were allowed to put solar panels on our balconies, maybe.

Sue  33:22

You could put them on the on the walls; you can put them on the roof. If you can’t put them on the roof, you put them on the walls and the side of the balconies in your own walls.

Jimmy  33:31

Maybe the balustrade?

Sue  33:33

There’s lots of places you can put them, now.

Jimmy  33:36

Some of these solar panels they have now don’t even look like solar panels.

Sue  33:41

No, that’s right. It’s fantastic for us in apartments; for people in the city and also for people in the country. Sometimes, they haven’t been able to get air conditioning, because there’s not enough power in the local grid. It’s also great for people living off-grid as well. If you’re an elderly person, and you qualify for the federal government’s what’s it called, My age person scheme, or something? You can get the solar panels and installation for free. That’s fantastic because a lot of older people, they’d be nervous about switching on their air conditioning, because they’d be scared about their power bills. This means you don’t have any power bills at all. It costs about $4000 to install, which is a little bit more, I think, than conventional air conditioning, but then it’s nothing to run.

Jimmy 34:26

I wonder how long it takes to pay for itself?

Sue 34:29

Well, the manufacturers say between one and two years.  It’s incredible, isn’t it?

Jimmy  34:36

All right. I shall look into the solar panel/ balustrade/ glass replacement thing. I know there are some solar panels that just look like sheets of glass. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could just put them on our apartment block balustrades and then have our own air conditioning (which I can tell you with the weather that’s coming up early next year, we’re going to be dying for it). Okay, that’s us for this week. Thanks again, Sue and thank you all for listening. We’ll talk to you again soon. Bye.

Sue  35:15

Bye.

Jimmy  35:17

Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website, www.flat-chat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite pod catcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a W, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.

One Reply to “Podcast: Reno regrets and free strata legal advice”

  1. Jimmy-T says:

    If you want to start a discussion or ask a question about this, log into the Flat Chat Forum (using the link above). More people will read it there and you can more easily keep track of responses.

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