Strata properties: Who’s liable for loss resulting from damaged property?

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Q. I’d been complaining to my strata manager for six months about my faulty garage door, but he didn’t do anything about it. Now the garage has been broken into and my car has been smashed up. Where do I stand?
A. This is a common complaint from people who live within strata. Like many industries there are good companies and then there are bad companies. All that Complete Building Advisory Service (CBAS) can suggest for anyone faced with this scenario or something similar is the following:
Make sure you keep a detailed paper trail when corresponding with anyone about the problem. Notify everyone in writing and keep as much photographic evidence as possible.
Should your strata manager not be responding in a professional or timely manner then take it up with the principal or director of the company. Many strata management companies have numerous strata managers working within the company so you may find that by raising the problem you will see some action.
If you aren’t on the Executive Committee (EC) then it’s suggested that you keep up to date on all the workings of the strata. Request copies of the minutes to see if your issue has been raised at recent meetings. If you are on the EC then you have a voice over everything concerning your property including who your strata management company is. Use this power to assist yourself and the other owners in managing what is essentially a business, professionally.
If you’re receiving no response to your reasonable requests then obtain quotations from at least three companies. These should then be forwarded on to all parties with your request and a request for a response within a reasonable timeframe, say 14 days. Should a suitable response not be received, advise in writing, again to all parties, that the work will now be undertaken at your cost and then that cost shall be invoiced on to the strata plan unless advised otherwise within seven days.
Start seeking additional advice from the Office of Fair Trading.
Should you not be successful with any of the above then take the matter to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT), lodge a complaint with the Institute of Strata Title Management, or look for another company to manage your strata.
Finally, should all of the above seem too hard at this stage, then there should be appropriate insurance for the strata plan as a whole to cover this kind of scenario. Check with your strata manager about what insurances your specific strata holds and try to claim through one of those. Considering the above scenario, I would hope that the strata manager in question lodges and manages that claim for you at no cost.
The experts
Margaret Lomasis the founder of Destiny Financial Solutions, and is a qualified financial advisor and the author of five bestselling property investment books. She is the 2006 Telstra NSW Businesswoman of the Year.
Jonathan Beaumanis the principal of Complete Building Advisory Service, and has been working within the NSW building industry, including the Building Services Corporation, the Office of Fair Trading, for around 15 years.

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