Is your committee aware of any repairs needed on common property that have not been addressed?
Perhaps that corner of the carpet in the foyer hasn’t been glued down yet as you have more pressing matters to attend to, and you’re putting off fixing that cracked concrete path until more funds are available.
But committees should be warned, a number of recent cases in Australia have shown that lax attitudes to common property repair can have significant consequences.
In a case heard before the Victorian Supreme Court (Brown v OC201532U), damages were awarded to Mr Brown who was injured while attempting to climb over a common property fence and gate which were not functioning.
The owners corporation knew that the rear fence and gate had fallen into disrepair, but were planning on addressing them at a later stage.
The court decided that the injury Mr Brown received was reasonably foreseeable given the state of the fence and gate, and that he was owed a duty of care by the owners corporation. He was awarded $600,000 in damages plus legal costs.
In the case of Taylor v The Owners Strata Plan 11564, a man was tragically killed when a shop’s awning collapsed and fell on top of him. Similarly, the owners corporation were aware of danger but had not taken active steps to repair the awnings.
Tom Bacon, principal lawyer of Strata Title Lawyers, emphasises that most insurance policies providing indemnity for executive committee members will contain a clause that indemnity will not extend to negligent or bad-faith decisions.
Owners corporations should be aware of their obligations in maintaining safe common property in light of the potential ramifications.
But avoiding legal action and personal injury is not the only reason to be proactive in repairs of common property.
Ensuring repairs on common property are addressed promptly will assist in maintaining a pleasant place to live. Keeping up to date with repairs and maintenance will prevent the scheme from appearing old or unappealing, protecting the value of your building. Also, a committee which organises repairs promptly facilitates harmonious living in a community, as lot owners are confident required works are actioned.
Building Management Consultant, Chris Nezmah from STAR BMS says “From our experience, committees engaging in routine maintenance and timely repairs of key pieces of plant equipment experience minimum replacement costs and less breakdowns while effectively saving money in the long run.”
The lesson for committees is simple: take proactive steps to inspect and repair common property to avoid legal ramifications and maintain the harmony of the community.