A lot owner from NSW has lost items from storage on common property. Andrew Terrell, Bright & Duggan provides the following response.
Question: I’m having a dispute with our strata manager about some of my items which have been lost from storage on common property. The items were removed in error. Who is responsible and can I expect reimbursement?
I was hoping you could help me regarding a dispute I am having with our strata manager about some of my items which have been lost from storage on common property.
- A past tenant’s items were left within our storage on common property. The landlord refused to remove these dumped items as since they were in storage on common property, no one couldn’t prove who the rubbish belonged to. They believed it was the strata’s cost to have the items removed.
- Our strata manager conducted an onsite meeting with both me and another committee member to look at this issue along with other issues around our building.
- Due to major water damage within my unit which strata were dealing with, I had placed some containers in this storeroom for safe keeping whilst work was being done. Everyone was aware the items were there. They were placed in a separate area of the storage on common property, not near the abandoned goods
- It was agreed the strata manager would arrange for a rubbish removalist to get rid of the dumped items left by the tenant. The strata manager took lots of photos of the dumped items, along with pictures of my belongings, noting they were aware my items were not to be removed.
- After cleanout day, I check the storeroom and found the storeroom was totally empty. I called the strata manager immediately. They called the removalist company but it was too late; everything had gone to the dump and couldn’t be recovered.
- The strata manager apologised advising it was their mistake, not the removalists, and that they would sort it out ASAP.
- Despite sending multiple emails, the strata manager did not respond, only finally sending a reply when prompted about the matter being raised at our upcoming AGM. They have now put the onus on our Owners Corporation to discuss the matter with me. As far as I am concerned, it has nothing to do with the Owners Corporation, but with either the Strata Manager or the removalist for not taking directions.
Are you able to advise what my rights are with this scenario? I understand the items were lost from storage on common property, but surely the strata manager is somewhat responsible.
Answer: If items were in storage on common property without any written agreement, I don’t believe you have much to go on.
This really can’t be answered by way of responses in accordance with the strata legislation, nor is it a common issue. There’s a good deal of ‘supposition’ in the question and the owner would ideally write to the committee, detailing the events and seek relief from the owners corporation (who may choose to turn to the strata manager).
If the affected owner was storing their items on common property without any written agreement to do so (and if there was an agreement in place, it should go to issues like loss/damage/insurance), I don’t believe they have much to go on.
The strata manager is an agent of the owners corporation and acts as instructed by the owners/committee. The proper party for the affected owner to direct their frustration is the committee.
This post appears in Strata News #203.
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