Welcome to our exclusive column by Chris Irons, Dear Strata Solve, untangling your strata problems.
Dear Strata Solve
I’ve had water ingress following recent heavy rain and it has also damaged my carpets. Clearly the committee is responsible for this, aren’t they? How do I get them to fix the ingress and my carpets?
Ingressed at Indooroopilly
Whoa! Not so fast! How, exactly, do you know the committee (by which you really mean the body corporate) is responsible? Has an inspection been undertaken, and if so, by whom and what did they say? Or are you just assuming the committee must be responsible?
If it’s the latter – then unless you are a qualified engineer or plumber, that’s a big mistake. The key to decision-making about maintenance responsibility is obtaining some form of objective evidence – a report, in other words – which opines about what the problem is and where it is coming from. That is essential, even if it costs money and takes time to get someone qualified to do that. Otherwise, you have people just firing off their views left right and centre without any qualification.
Who pays for that report, then? That part is less clear. The body corporate might make a reasonable decision to do that. If it doesn’t then your choice is to dispute that or decide to spend the money yourself. At that point it becomes a cost-benefit analysis based upon how much time you want to wait, to get the situation addressed.
What about second opinions? You might have a situation where the report is not conclusive, or you (or the committee) might not be satisfied with its finding. A second opinion might then be needed. If that report agrees with the findings of the first, it is then pretty conclusive but if it is different to the first, you have got yourself a stalemate and unless you and the committee can come to an agreement, you might have to initiate dispute resolution proceedings.
The general rule of thumb is that the body corporate is responsible for common property. So, in your case, if you have a report which concludes the water ingress comes from common property, or a failure of common property, then that typically means the body corporate is responsible. Otherwise, you might find that it is your responsibility as an owner, if the ingress is found to be coming from within your lot or from something you are obliged to maintain but haven’t.
And as for your carpets, it depends on the above. If the body corporate is responsible for the ingress, it follows they are responsible for damage.
Deciding who is responsible for maintenance is a step-by-step process. Rarely, if ever, will it be obvious or cut and dried and remember the key is evidence. Without it, it is very difficult to stake or deny your claim.
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