July 2016 Newsletter

The Knight Everything Owners Corporation

Welcome to the July 2016 Newsletter

This edition provides advice in respect to the Victorian Parliament’s short stay accommodation proposed legislation relating to Owners Corporations as well as what action the City of Melbourne is taking to deal with the installation of non-compliant aluminium cladding on residential buildings.

The newsletter also addresses current problems that Owners Corporations are facing, shares with you an article written by CLP Lawyers in relation to water leaks, reminds Lot owners how they can download a statement of their account from The Knight website and bids a fond farewell to two long serving employees of The Knight.

We hope that you find the content of this newsletter useful and as always if you have any questions or discussion points that you would like addressed in future newsletters please get in touch.

We are also willing to publish articles written by Consultants working in the Owners Corporation industry for the benefit of readers.

Kind Regards,

Gregor Evans – Director

Short stay accommodation legislation relating to Owners Corporations
belo-200x200-4d851c5b28f61931bf1df28dd15e60ef

With the rise of AirBNB’s popularity this has resulted in many Lots within Owners Corporations being used as short stay accommodation.

In February 2015 the Victorian Government established an independent panel to recommend ways to improve the regulation of residential buildings in order to ensure property is protected from unruly occupiers of short stay accommodation. The findings of this panel were published on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website and are still available to download.

A bill titled ‘Owners Corporations Amendment (Short-stay accommodation) Bill 2016’ was introduced into the Victorian Legislative Assembly on the 24th May 2016 that proposes changes to the Owners Corporations Act 2006 regarding short stay accommodation.

The proposed changes detail what action can be taken by Owners Corporations and individuals where an occupier of short-stay accommodation has been unruly. The changes also detail the jurisdiction of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in dealing with short-stay accommodation disputes.
The bill is yet to be passed. The next sitting of the Victorian Assembly will be held in the middle of August 2016 where it is expected further debate is to occur.

For a summary of the proposed bill please refer the following link:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dont-have-time-dissect-recent-bill-introduced-victorian-gregor-evans?trk=mp-author-card

Non – compliant use of aluminium composite panels (cladding) on residential buildings

A fire that occurred at ‘Lacrosse’, a Docklands apartment building, in November 2014 caused by a smouldering cigarette highlighted the use of non-compliant aluminium composite panels installed on numerous residential buildings throughout Melbourne.

As a result the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) undertook an audit of 170 residential buildings throughout Melbourne to identify installation of non-compliant aluminium cladding.

Buildings identified by the VBA that potentially have non-compliant cladding installed were referred to the relevant Municipal Building Surveyor for further action to be taken. The City of Melbourne’s Building Surveyor has requested Owners Corporations for these properties to provide validation of the type of aluminium composite panels installed in order to determine whether they comply with the Building Code of Australia or were considered as part of an alternative solution.

Meanwhile City of Melbourne’s Building Surveyor has issued a building notice to the Owners Corporation associated with ‘Lacrosse’ requiring rectification of the non-compliant cladding. Subsequently the Owners Corporation has issued proceedings against the Builder requiring that they return to rectify.

From our experience there are certain Builders who appear receptive to being a party to a solution to this significant issue.

Security in apartment car parks

Recently across Melbourne there has been an alarming increase in the number of thefts from building car parks.

As well as entering open and unsecure car parks, thieves are also entering ‘secure’ car parks (car parks that are contained and have an automatic car park door/gate) either on foot or in stolen vehicles by tailgating other vehicles. Thieves are stealing motor vehicles, bicycles as well as valuable personal belongings by breaking into vehicles and storage cages.

To assist Owners Corporations, The Knight has listed below 6 ways to help reduce thefts occurring in car parks.

6 ways for Owners Corporations to reduce thefts occurring in car parks

  1. Education of car park users

A starting point is to educate car park users as to what they can do to reduce the likelihood of their motor vehicle, bicycle or personal belongings being stolen. Car park users should be made aware of the following:

  • Ensure that vehicles are locked at all times.
  • Ensure any valuable personal belongings are not left in vehicles but if they are then they should not be visible. Valuable belongings include coins, keys/remotes, GPS navigators & mobile phones.
  • Do not store any items of value in storage cages (if applicable).
  • If the car park is a ‘secure’ car park don’t allow other vehicles to tailgate when entering and exiting the car park.
  • Be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to Police.

NB: No car park is 100% secure even though it may be referred to as a ‘secure’ car park.

  1. Install of CCTV cameras

CCTV cameras installed throughout a car park may deter thieves. On occasions where CCTV cameras haven’t worked as a deterrent Police have identified thieves from video footage and managed to retrieve stolen goods.

If CCTV cameras are installed it is suggested that signage is put up throughout the car park to promote the fact that the car park is under surveillance.

Initially CCTV cameras should be installed at the car park access points so that all vehicles and pedestrians entering and exiting can be captured on footage. Police have advised that the optimum position for CCTV cameras is at eye level so that there is a better chance thieves can be identified if they enter the car park on foot.

  1. Install of additional lighting

Thieves want to be inconspicuous and therefore anything that can be done to increase visibility in the car park will assist in reducing the likelihood that a thief will want to enter.

Installing additional lighting throughout the car park, especially at the main entrance, will increase visibility.

  1. Employing security personnel

An effective yet costly approach is for an Owners Corporation to employ a full time security attendant to patrol the car park.

If this option is too costly Owners Corporations may consider employing a part time security attendant to patrol the car park during times when thefts are more likely to occur or engaging the services of a security company that can provide mobile security patrols.

Whilst Melbourne is currently experiencing an increase in thefts from car parks a number of Owners Corporations managed by The Knight have decided to employ part time security attendants.

Depending on a building community’s aspirations some Owners Corporations may be able to encourage residents to volunteer their time to undertake occasional walkthroughs of the car park to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour.

  1. Increase security at car park access points

For open and unsecure car parks installing a boundary fence and vehicle doors/gates will instantly increase security by reducing unauthorised access.

For ‘secure’ car parks carrying out the following works will help to increase security:

  • Remove ‘vehicle door/gate induction loop’ (subject to fire regulations) so that any time a vehicle is to exit the car park the driver has to use their remote to open the vehicle door/gate.
  • Installing an additional vehicle door/gate (if space permits) so that only one vehicle at a time is able to enter and exit the car park.
  • Ensuring that automatic door closers are functioning and appropriate locks are installed to doors at pedestrian entrances.
  1. Increase security of motorcycles/bicycles

Often thieves target expensive motorcycles and bicycles located in car parks. Subject to available space on common property an Owners Corporation may look at installing a lockable storage area for residents to house motorcycles and bicycles.

An Owners Corporation may decide to grant permission for Lot owners to install ground anchor locks within private car spaces so motorcycles can be better secured.

Strata Insurance doesn’t cover your storage cage…

This article discussing strata insurance regarding storage cages for apartments has been supplied by Whitbread Insurance Brokers.

The rapid rise of apartment-style strata living across Australian cities has coincided with a significant increase in the number of people using storage cages to store their belongings. This trend has come about due to the limited space in many modern apartments. Unfortunately, an increase in the use of storage cages has also seen a surge in the rate of storage cage theft.

Personal contents, often those of great value, are kept in storage cages and sadly this makes them an attractive target for criminals. As an insurance broker, we have seen items like televisions, furniture, skis, and racing bikes worth over $5,000 stolen from storage cages. Yet in many cases, owners of these items fail to realise they lack the right insurance to cover the loss and / or replacement of these items.

Make sure all contents kept in your storage cage are covered. Below we have clarified some common myths to help ensure you have the right insurance protection for your valuables.

Myth 1 – Storage Cages are in the common area, therefore contents of storage cages are covered under Strata Insurance.

Incorrect. Despite your storage cage being situated in what may be deemed a common area, it doesn’t mean the contents are covered by Strata Insurance!

Strata Insurance is only designed to cover the building structure including fixtures and fittings, and Public Liability for the common areas.

Contents Insurance policy is required in order to protect against accidental loss or damage to contents within the storage cage.

Myth 2 – All contents insurance policies will cover items kept in my storage cage.

False! Check that your Contents Insurance policy is an Accidental Damage policy, not a Defined Events policy. What’s the difference you ask?

A Defined Events Contents Insurance policy is minimal in coverage, and will only cover you for the series of ‘defined events’ listed in your policy that occur within the home.

Accidental Damage policies are much broader in scope, and are designed to insure all accidental loss or damage to contents, other than events specifically excluded by the insurance policy. Cover provided in an Accidental Damage policy is more comprehensive than a Defined Events policy and in some cases covers contents away from your home e.g. theft of valuables.

As a broker, we always recommend clients take out an Accidental Damage Contents policy if they live in a strata property.

It is important to note however that every Contents Insurance policy differs in coverage conditions. The best way to make sure you are covered, is by doing the following:

  1. Notify your contents insurer that you have contents kept in your storage cage.
  2. Make sure your policy schedule notes in writing that your insurance coverage extends to include contents and personal valuables kept in your storage cage.
  3. List the valuable items you keep in your storage cage e.g. bikes, artwork, instruments, sporting equipment, furniture etc.
  4. Keep your cage locked at all times. If broken into, you will likely need evidence to demonstrate forcible entry in order to be covered.

Myth 3 – Theft or vandalism is the only risk:

False! Property damage to contents held in storage cages is also common.

Recently we saw a claim for water damage as a result of a truck hitting a fire sprinkler in the carpark of a strata complex. This collision set off all sprinklers in the carpark, causing severe water damage to contents inside the storage cages. Sadly, many of the residents were not insured for the damage.

These events are more common than you think, making it all the more important to have the right insurance in place to protect your belongings.

Myth 4 – Liability inside the cage is covered by Strata Insurance.

Not true. Storage cages are deemed to be the property of the strata property owner. If you are an owner occupier, or if you rent out your strata property, it is essential to have a policy in place that includes Liability Insurance for any injuries that could occur inside the storage cage.

Owner occupiers: Accidental Damage Home and Contents Insurance can cover your exposure to this risk.

Landlords: A Landlord Insurance policy can protect you against this risk.

If you live in a strata property and would like for us to arrange a Contents Insurance policy that protects valuables kept in your storage cage, please contact Lidia Siljanoski our Personal Insurance specialist, Ph. 1300 424 627. Alternatively email us info@whitbread.com.au.

This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of personal advice. Please contact Whitbread Associates Pty Ltd ABN 69 005 490 228 Licence Number: 229092 trading as Whitbread Insurance Brokers for further information, or refer to our website.

Keep Wipes out of Pipes!

This topic has been in various media channels recently and is one that all residents should be made aware of.

The advertising of ‘flushable’ or ‘degradable’ wet wipes is being challenged due to the number of sewerage blockages and ‘fatbergs’ that are being cleared from sewerage pipes in buildings all across the world. The word fatbergs is the name that has been given to the items that are causing blockages in sewers as a congealed lump of fat, sanitary items, wet wipes and similar items which do not break down like toilet paper.

Despite the wet wipes being labelled as flushable or degradable, independent tests undertaken by Choice showed that the wet wipes hadn’t broken down in any way during a 21 hour testing period.

The message coming from water authorities all across the world is ‘Keep wipes out of pipes’.

Water Leaks in Owners Corporations
Mark Lipshutz

Undoubtedly the most common building defect issue that is found within Owners Corporations is water leaks. Problems often arise because water penetrates through either common property or private property causing damage to other Lots.

Defective building works may be located on common property and/or within individual Lot boundaries. However, since the case of Owners Corporation PS508732B v Fisher [2014] VCAT 1358 it has been confirmed that on plans where the boundary definition is interior face or median (as is almost always the case), the tiles and membrane are private property. Accordingly, if there is a defect with the waterproof membrane, it is the Lot owner’s responsibility to rectify the defect and the Lot owner will be liable for any damage caused by the leak (most likely to the Lot below).

Section 129 of the Owners Corporations Act 2006 (“Act”) requires a Lot owner to properly maintain in a state of good and serviceable repair any part of the Lot that affects the outward appearance of the Lot or the use or enjoyment of other Lots or the Common Property.

Notwithstanding that the defect is a private property matter, the Owners Corporation is empowered by the Act to get involved. Where for example a flow of water emanates from private property, section 48(1) of the Act enables the Owners Corporation to serve a notice stating that the Lot is not properly maintained and requiring that the Lot owner carry out the necessary repairs, maintenance or other works. This notice will require the Lot owner to do so within 28 days, failing which the Owners Corporation may carry out the necessary repairs, maintenance or other works to the Lot and recover as a debt from the Lot owner the costs of the repairs, maintenance or other works.

Further, from a legal liability perspective, it is critically important that Lot owners with leaks emanating from their property act quickly to address the issue. Section 16(1) of the Water Act 1989 provides that:

(1) If-

   (a)  there is a flow of water from the land of a person onto any other

        land; and

   (b)  that flow is not reasonable; and

   (c)  the water causes-

   (i)  injury to any other person; or

   (ii) damage to the property (whether real or personal) of any other person; or

   (iii) any other person to suffer economic loss- the person who caused the

        flow is liable to pay damages to that other person in respect of that

        injury, damage or loss…

that other person is liable to pay damages in respect of the injury, damage or

loss.

Effectively, this section means that if water flowing from a Lot causes damage to a Lot below, the owner of the Lot from which the water emanates is strictly liable for the damage caused to the Lot below. It is not relevant whether the Lot owner has been negligent or even aware of the leak.

Having regard to the water damage being caused by the leaks and the legal exposure of the Lot owner from whose Lot the leak is emanating, it is in everyone’s interests for all leaks to be addressed and rectified as soon as possible. To that end, it is encouraged that all parties work together to address the issue. Your Owners Corporation Manager is a great resource and can provide assistance in navigating the intricacies of the building defects process.

Indeed, if the building is less than 10 years old, the waterproofing defect should be covered by the implied warranties contained in the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995. This means that the Lot owner can pursue the Builder to rectify the defects and pay for any consequential damage.

Should you be involved in a water leak matter and wish to explore your legal options, please contact Mark Lipshutz at CLP Lawyers Pty Ltd on 9042 2070 or at mark@clplawyers.com.au.

The information contained in this article is for general guidance and reference purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice.  Please consult CLP Lawyers to obtain legal advice relevant to your personal circumstances before making any decision or taking any action.  CLP Lawyers will not be liable for any loss resulting from any Action taken or reliance made by you on any information contained in this article.

© 2016 CLP Lawyers Pty Ltd

Download a Statement for your Owners Corporation Account

tax-time

Included in the July Owners Corporation fee notices was an instruction document that outlined how you, a Lot owner, can log into your property portal on The Knight website to download a statement of your account that shows transactions for the previous financial year.

This will show how much you have paid in Owners Corporation fees and will be sufficient to provide to your tax agent.

To be able to retrieve this document you need to visit our website www.theknight.com.au  and register for the property log in section. Once you have been verified as the Lot owner you will receive your password, use this to log in and click on your Members Transaction Statement.

You are then able to enter the date range you require and click Submit. A link will appear which once clicked will produce a PDF document for your records.

Staff Changes at The Knight

Elena and Sheena

The Knight bids a fond farewell to two long serving staff members; Elena Goncharov and Sheena De Silva-Jayasekera.

Elena (Accounts Department) and Sheena (Administration Department) have worked for The Knight for a combined 19 years and all staff at The Knight would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their hard work and efforts over the years. We wish Elena well in retirement and Sheena all the best for the next stage of her career; they will definitely be missed around the office.

The Knight is in the process of recruiting to fill Elena’s position and has recently employed two administration staff to add to The Knight team. Melissa Reid and Melissa Preston have joined as Administration Assistants and we extend a warm welcome to them both. The Knight now boasts a team of 26 employees.

High density living initiatives

1464759_325862540886154_744676086_n

Designer Line
Don’t have a tumble dryer or want to save on electricity costs? The Designer Line can be installed within your apartment and is an environmentally friendly way of drying your clothes.

The Designer Line comes in a number of different colours that may suit the décor of your home.

Website: http://designerline.com/

Fresh patch

If you own a dog or cat and reside in an apartment, unit or townhouse then this may be the product for you.

Recently featured on Channel 10 program Shark Tank Fresh Patch offers a service where they provide fresh patches of real grass to be placed on balconies and courtyards where your pet can do its business. The grass helps to absorb urine and controls odours.

Website: https://www.freshpatch.com.au/