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  • #55054
    B16Riom
    Flatchatter

    We recently moved into an apartment building with a basement garage that has a mix of garages and open car spaces. Both garages and car spaces have areas designated for storage. Of the 10 Lots with car spaces in the basement, 2 have over bonnet storage cabinets while 8 are currently being prevented from installing similar cabinets or full height cabinets based, in part, on an over generalised interpretation of an objection by the fire safety certifier – the precise technical details for which have not been provided. Having seen an information brief from that company and reviewed the Australian Standard to which it refers, we believe that Section 5 of AS 2118.1 1999 has been misinterpreted. e.g. steel storage cabinets are not concealed spaces. We would like the company involved to review the detailed report that we have prepared into this matter, provide feedback and to consult with the FPA Australia for clarification.

    Our experience in applying for permission from Strata (which we do not strictly believe is required) has been, from our perspective, a shockingly negative and stressful experience. The committee discussed creating a new By-Law to prevent these areas being used for storage; they also agreed to obtain legal advice at our expense, without our knowledge. That stance has since changed but the sentiment towards us has not improved greatly. Not being able to store possessions in our storage area reduces our enjoyment of our living space and ultimately reduces the value of our property – similarly for 9 other properties, who may still not have been fully informed, despite our suggestion.

    The managing agent has forwarded communications but has not provided support, shared an opinion, provided advice or mediation. We did hope for a little more support and encouragement but this is an on-going, horrible experience.

    At this stage, the committee has agreed to approach an A1 accredited certifier to provide certainty for the entire building. Should that really be necessary?

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  • #55081
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    The committee discussed legal advice after we had left the meeting, agreed that we alone would be responsible for costs and recorded that in their minutes.

    All that means is that they can apply for costs should this go to a Tribunal or court.  There is definitely no guarantee that they would be successful (far from it).  I would put this down to window dressing on their part, to try to scare you off and impress other owners.

    You might want to write to the committee and strata manager to point out that they may not incur charges on your behalf, as that would be illegal, and that they are unlikely to win costs at NCAT because the grounds for that happening are extremely limited.

    In other words, if they chose to hire lawyers to fight this, that is a cost they are imposing on all owners and definitely not just you. NSW strata law is quite clear on this – all costs have to be borne by all owners based on their unit entitlements, except on the rare occasions where a tribunal or court rules otherwise.

    The building plan shows the Lots with car space and storage area – hence creating rules to restrict it would be highly improper.

    Is it restricting or controlling? The owners corp is entitled to control what you do on your lot when it affects, for instance, what can be seen from outside or common property or the safety of the building.  That’s why you are right to try to get a standardised look and form of storage for everyone and demand more information about the fire safety considerations.

    We believe that any restrictions relating to the fire sprinkler system were not sufficiently researched or clarified, especially now that we’ve looked into it ourselves.

    These are arguments that you would take to NCAT, if it came to that.

    We sure feel extremely unpopular just because we challenged their stance, though it was necessary.

    If the committee and strata manager won’t sit down and mediate, then as suggested before, you could commence proceedings under Section 232 (which requires that you, at least, attend a mediation).  If the committee refuses, that will go against them at NCAT.

    Your strongest grounds would be if you were trying to standardise the storage sytems (Box Things, etc).  You are on shakier ground if you want the committee to approve storage that suits you and, at this stage, only you.

    Maybe you could send out an email questionnaire to all owners asking if they would like the committee to come up with a standardised storage system and suggesting some alternatives.

    Never forget that the owners. as a group,  control the committe and the committee controls the strata manager, not the other way round. You need to keep the majority of your neighbours onside and then the committee and its quirks and biases will be a lot less relevant.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by .
    #55078
    B16Riom
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Hi Jimmy

    The committee discussed legal advice after we had left the meeting, agreed that we alone would be responsible for costs and recorded that in their minutes. The building plan shows the Lots with car space and storage area – hence creating rules to restrict it would be highly improper. We believe that any restrictions relating to the fire sprinkler system were not sufficiently researched or clarified, especially now that we’ve looked into it ourselves. The issue, which has existed for several years, appears to have led to confusion, poor decisions and even prejudice. The company charged with carrying out the annual fire safety inspections, has thrown oil on the fire by outlining why they can justify certain types of storage to be acceptable but won’t explain why other types of storage aren’t. We obviously need to be careful that we don’t install anything that would cancel the fire safety certification and then the building insurance. Difficult to do with the information that we can get.

    We sure feel extremely unpopular just because we challenged their stance, though it was necessary. If the Strata Manager had cautioned the committee about the risk of overreaching, we would be feeling less vulnerable.

    #55061
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Let’s break this down.

    The committee … agreed to obtain legal advice at our expense, without our knowledge.

    Is that at the collective expense of all owners (which is fine) or billing it back to you without your permission, which they can’t do?

    Not being able to store possessions in our storage area reduces our enjoyment of our living space and ultimately reduces the value of our property …

    So the by-laws or strata plan say you can use the car spaces for storage but the committee doesn’t allow secure storage?  They are going to have trouble making that stick at NCAT.

    … similarly for 9 other properties, who may still not have been fully informed, despite our suggestion.

    So ask for the other owners’ email addresses and tell them what’s going on.  But couch it in terms of there being confusion and inadequate advice from the fire safety people.  Don’t get into a postion where you are asking owners to support you against individuals.

    The managing agent has forwarded communications but has not provided support, shared an opinion, provided advice or mediation.

    Those really aren’t the strata manager’s jobs and they will usually avoid getting in the middle of conflicts where personalities may be part of the issue (as you seem to suggest here).  They work for the owners but their first point of contact is the committee, the committee is, in turn, answerable to the owners corp (all owners).  If you want mediation, raise an action at Fair Trading under section 232 (resolution of disputes).  The compulsory mediation prior to an NCAT action is free.

    At this stage, the committee has agreed to approach an A1 accredited certifier to provide certainty for the entire building. Should that really be necessary?

    That actually sounds like a reasonable solution, provided the certifier isn’t simply going to jutify their position, rather than give a definitive  and independent opinion.

    Even if they do the former, you can go back to the committee and tell them that it will be up to them to define what CAN be used as storage (assuming you can get the 25 percent of votes required to block a change to the by-laws).

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by .
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