• Strata

Sydney’s strata surprises


THERE was a gaggle of geese living in an apartment. A vindictive owner who regularly ran all the taps in his unit to deliberately push up the water bill for the rest of the block. And a horse that was kept in a Glebe townhouse.

The number of complaints about strata schemes has been steadily increasing over the past decade, rising from 945 requests for strata mediation lodged with NSW Fair Trading in 2003 to 1405 in 2009 and 1474 last year.

The top three complaints – which include problems with the management of the owners’ corporation, bylaw breaches and repairs to common property – make up 80 per cent of all strata complaints. Fair Trading and the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal have been called in to mediate on a range of sensitive issues which have caused headaches for some of the 2 million people in NSW in strata schemes.

There was a family who were using an above-ground pool in their apartment to fatten trout for their restaurant, as well as a horse trainer who kept his trotter in the courtyard of a Glebe townhouse before it raced at Harold Park. It is understood the landlord turned a blind eye to the horse because the trainer was giving him racing tips.

There have been complaints about inappropriate sounds at all hours as well as a man who was ordered by the tribunal to urinate on the side of his toilet bowl rather than directly into the water.

A woman living in an apartment under the man’s unit complained she felt like she was ”living under Niagara Falls” every time her neighbour used the bathroom. She said she had been living with the noise for 13 years.

There have also been complaints of theft, including one multi-storey residential block that had all its copper gutters and downpipes stolen. Residents mistakenly thought that the “workmen” who turned up in overalls and spent the day removing the plumbing were part of the scheme’s ongoing maintenance work.

The state government has launched a major review of strata laws in NSW, which were a world first when they were introduced in 1961, with the first scheme in Enfield still in existence. There are now more than 70,000 schemes.

Online submissions closed at the end of last month and the government received 1200 responses.

The Fair Trading Minister, Anthony Roberts, said the majority of matters requiring intervention were mainstream disputes, but the complexity of community living resulted in increasingly difficult mediations.

He said he would release a discussion paper this year and invite further input from the community.

“NSW residents deserve to have the best strata and community scheme laws … that can effectively deal with schemes with multimillion-dollar budgets as well as buildings coming to the end of their usable lifespan,” Mr Roberts said.

Thanks to the Sydney Morning Herald for this article.

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