Investing in property means two things:

  1. You want to make money out of it; and
  2. You don’t want to lose money.

A strata management article was recently posted on the site ‘Look Up Strata’. One of the posts was a timely reminder about defects. That is, defects in strata or community title premises. The poster told of a story about an upstairs balcony railing, which was loose. This wasn’t reported by the tenant or the property manager to the owner’s corporation and it was allowed to be defected. Unfortunately, the railing, which was loose, also allowed for water to seep in. Whilst the seal was broken, water leaked through and caused enormous amounts of damage. The writer indicated that, instead of it being a $300 job, it became a $10 000 job.

The question is knowledge. Surely, we’ll know if a balcony railing is loose. Moreover, a property manager undertaking return inspections should be checking whether upstairs balcony railings are loose or in any way defective.

Balustrades and balcony railings are the responsibility of the owner’s corporation to maintain and repair. Nothing at law, however, will require them to maintain and repair something they know nothing about. Essentially, the tenant through the landlord is given exclusive use to balconies. The owner’s corporation is not permitted to break people’s quiet peace and enjoyment by checking these balconies.

All of us have a duty of care to take all steps to avoid harm, which we may reasonably see. In other words, if we can anticipate a problem, we have a duty of care to take steps to avoid that harmful problem. If we see that maintenance and repairs clearly need to be undertaken, where a problem may be exacerbated by not being fixed, the tenant/landlord/property manager may be responsible for paying these damages.

The job is easy for a tenant! Report it to your property manager.

For the property managers, we believe the following should be undertaken:

  • If you receive a complaint by a tenant, it is immediately passed on to the owner’s corporation in writing;
  • When undertaking routine inspections, check for defects. Remember that, the case of Jones and Barker will only require you to check by an average person’s standard. Obviously, place your hand on the rail and see if it is safe. If you believe it is not safe, this is when you should report it to the owner’s corporation. This should be noted in your routine inspection report and passed on to the owner’s corporation.

It is a simple task, which can be carried out during other tasks and therefore is not a great imposition on anyone. Failure to report repairs may cause the person who ignores it to pay the price.

 

This article was written by Bailey Compton, Principal Solicitor & Director at Leverage Group.

To get in touch with Bailey, please email info@leveragegroup.com.au or call 1300 438 538