This article about the effectiveness of common property condition reports has been provided by Dean Potgieter, Seymour Consultants.
A common property condition report has become an effective tool to review the condition of the common property and the duties undertaken by the caretaker on a day to day basis. Any inspection is likely to result in some findings no matter how well the property has been maintained and therefore with any job, there is room for improvement.
Common Property Condition Reports Provide Recommendations
The main purpose of the report is to provide recommendations of improvement without offence to be taken by the manager or the committees looking for specific breaches of the Caretaking Agreement.
Where persistent problems occur in relation to basic maintenance duties and there is obvious blatant negligence, these should be considered as breaches. Repeat breaches are typically dealt within the legal profession and our purpose is merely to provide an independent and professional opinion based on the condition of the property at the time of inspection.
The 3 Common Issues Raised in our Common Property Condition Reports
There are three common issues raised in our common property condition reports:
- Litter – It seems trivial to even discuss, but we often will find litter on the ground which has not been picked up for several weeks. We may return a few months later and find the same litter in place. This can easily be avoided by a simple daily walk of the common property and requires a manager that has basic site awareness. Managers who regularly undertake their daily rounds appear to have fewer issues with Committees.
- Weeds – Gardening duties are typically included in duties and weeds are difficult to control but when left unattended, become uncontrollable. Prevention is always better than a cure and therefore it is essential to have a proper weed management plan properly documented and in place. Manager’s need to speak with a qualified horticulturist and develop the appropriate management plan which will specify the seasonal requirements and the appropriate products to use. The body corporate must also co-operate by allowing the products they request to be purchased and not hinder the manager from doing their job. We estimate that 80% of properties which we have inspected have weed problems which have become untenable due to basic lack of care.
- Working at heights – It is important for an onsite manager to understand the duties specified in the caretaking agreement and what duties require the use of professional trades. The Act and the code do not specify safe working heights. The legislation aims to create a safe working environment and therefore managers should investigate and find alternative and safe solutions rather than failing to undertake some basic duties such as hedging or cutting dead palm fronds or nuts. For example, before cutting dead palm fronds or nuts, demarcate a safety zone around the tree using safety cones. Use a telescopic pole with a blade from the ground level.
If cutting hedges, consider the following:
- The weight of the equipment
- The type of platform
- The stability of the surface
- Frequency, intensity and duration of work to be performed
- Weather conditions
- Rest periods
The Road to Less Disputes
It seems that practical solutions are often not explored enough. Often, independent contractors are simply hired and paid for by the Body Corporate for anything which seems slightly debatable, otherwise, the tasks are simply not undertaken. Although the caretaking requirements may differ from one property to the next, there are common patterns that have emerged. Managers who are proactive in their duties seem to have far less disputes with Committees. Managers who contend specific duties are usually forced to explore legal avenues. Similarly, Committees who do no act reasonably towards managers also explore the legal avenues which can be a costly and futile exercise for all respective parties.
Fair and Reasonable
At Seymour Consultants we take an independent approach. We will act fair and reasonable in relation to the caretaking duties and maintenance being undertaken. By using common property condition reports, we identify areas requiring improvement and make recommendations to improve the condition of the common property. We highlight where work has been undertaken to industry standard, or above standard compared to other properties of a similar size, nature and characteristics.
Should you have any specific questions relating to caretaking matters, contact Tyrin Batty on 07 5573 4011.
This post appears in Strata News #291.
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