We received the following questions about termites in strata complex from NSW lot owners. Peter Berney of Solutions in Engineering, Rod Smith of The Strata Collective, Tyrin Batty of Seymour Consultants and Dino Biordi of Luna Management have provided the following responses.
Question: Termites in Strata Complex – Is termite control the responsibility of the individual owner or the Body Corporate?
As a recent townhouse purchaser, I am concerned about termite control. I am seeking advice as to whether this is the responsibility of the individual owner or the Body Corporate.
Answer: It is definitely the responsibility of the Body Corporate/Owners Corporation to manage termites.
‘Termite’ or ‘White Ants’ infestations cause millions of dollars in damage each year to timber in strata all around Australia. Requirements for Termite Management are contained under AS 3660.1, but generally speaking, the duty to manage termites or other pests falls under Work Health and Safety Legislation. Since the introduction of the harmonisation of the WHS Act in 2011, requirements have become more or less unified across the states. This includes a general duty to identify hazards and managing risks to health and safety.
Termites weaken structural integrity of the building
Unlike pets like cockroaches, which could arise as a result of an individual unit owner and not make any impact on the common property, termites affect the structure of the building and therefore common property.
Termites can even travel under parquetry and other floor tiles to get to the wall and roofing framing timbers, showing scant regard for the registered boundaries of your unit! Because this is the case in a strata complex, it is definitely the responsibility of the Body Corporate/Owners Corporation to manage termites.
Subterranean termites are a highly destructive timber pest, causing major structural timber damage to domestic and commercial buildings in NSW. Termites can, in some circumstances, cause even more damage than many natural disasters and unfortunately, it is the built-up, urban areas that are most at risk of infestation.
Take for example my strata complex, within 100 metres of the building structures we are surrounded by well-established Gum trees. So it’s only prudent that we get termite inspections conducted on a regular basis.
Natural predators – should we surround your homes with Ant farms?
Termites descended from the cockroach family, whereas ants descended from the wasp family. Termites live in underground nests and travel in mud tubes to protect them from their arch enemy…the ants. Ah but alas, ants will not protect you from termites as the termite defence system is too strong. The soldier termite has a hard helmet-style head with large cutting pincers and a frontal pore to squirt sticky latex to entangle the ants.
- Coptotermes acinaciformis: Found in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are well-established.
- Coptotermes frenchi: Found in urban areas where buildings are constructed of softwood or Oregon.
- Coptotermes lacteus: Found along the coast-line, the Great Dividing Range and adjoining slopes.
- Heterotermes ferox: Found in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are well-established.
- Nasutitermes exitiosus: Found in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are well-established.
- Nasutitermes walkeri: Found right along the coastal and mountain regions.
- Schedorhinotermes intermedius: Along the coast-line, Great Dividing Range, adjoining slopes.
There are some species that like to chow down on living trees. Personally, I prefer mature whiskeys, wines and cheeses so I’m taking a punt that the species that love dry seasoned timbers have better taste buds!
Ensure termites in strata complex are dealt with by a licensed professional
In most states, you need a pest management licence if you use pesticide in your scope of works. The licence is required for the use of chemicals, not inspecting your strata building. There would be very little point just inspecting a property for termites and then doing nothing to exterminate them.
In NSW specifically, a pest management technician or fumigation certificate of competency is required for the occupational use of pesticides, with licences being issued under the NSW Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA).
- Look for signs of termites (mud tubes) or borer damage (flight holes) in timber.
- Check around the property to see if there are any stored timbers, off-cut or tree stumps that could attract termites.
- Look for reliable moisture source such as from faulty plumbing, leaking pipes, shower recess, guttering, broken roof tiles, etc.
- If you find a Termite nest do not disturb them as they will quickly change location. Contact your licensed pest control professional in your area.
This post appears in Strata News #103
This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
Q&A Is a Termite Barrier Compulsory to Prevent Termites in Strata Complex for a Two Lot Scheme?
Question: Can you please advise if in a 2 lot strata scheme if a termite barrier is compulsory if there is no evidence of termites in strata complex? One unit had termites 4 years ago and both units put in termite bait stations, but there have been no termites evident since then.
Can you please advise if in a 2 lot strata scheme if a termite barrier is compulsory if there is no evidence of no evidence of termites in strata complex? One unit had termites 4 years ago and both units put in termite bait stations, but there have been no termites evident since then.
Other owner wants to get termite protection and I do not. Is there any law under strata that we have to have it done or are continued regular inspections ok?
Answer: If your property has been impacted by termites, you may want to consider installing a termite barrier or suitable termite baiting system, as termites can come back in some instances.
Tyrin: Compulsory termite protection only applies to new buildings being constructed which is a requirement under the Building Code of Australia. There is no requirement for existing buildings however a termite barrier or baiting system and annual inspections is recommended as per AS3600.2. We are not aware of any requirement under the Strata Schemes Management Act.
Rod: Tyrin is correct, there is no requirement under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 or 2016 Regulations to have a termite barrier installed to your property. That being said, if your property has been impacted by no evidence of termites in strata complex, you may want to consider installing a termite barrier or suitable termite baiting system, as termites can come back in some instances.
I would, as an absolute minimum, seek the advice of an experienced pest company that has experience with termite affected properties and ensure that your strata receive regular inspections and reports. The pest company will be able to advise on how often you should obtain a report (annually or more frequently depending on the probability of immediate future damage).
This post appears in Strata News #174.
Q&A How many quotes to repair termite damage?
Question: Would you please advise how many quotes would be required on the cost to repair damage caused by termites in our strata complex. We need to investigate and replace timber load bearing frames in three bedrooms destroyed by termites in a two-lot scheme in New South Wales.
Would you please advise how many quotes would be required on the cost to repair damage caused by termites in our strata complex. We need to investigate and replace timber load bearing frames in three bedrooms destroyed by termites in a two-lot scheme in New South Wales. The walls are common property being the exterior support walls of the separate villa.
Is it better to get one, two or three quotes?
The work would entail removing the gyprock, cornices, architraves and skirting boards. Replace load bearing stud frames with treated timber, install new gyprock, cornices, architraves and skirting boards. The roof would need supporting while this work was done.
One builder has told me that he could do the work on a ‘do and charge’ basis based on an hourly rate plus materials. I wonder how this would compare with builders who are quoting on the unknown and would, therefore, have to quote on cost to repair termite damage, allowing for all contingencies.
I would appreciate your response.
Answer: The healthy number of quotes to obtain is respective to the unique job or project.
Thank you for your question.
The healthy number of quotes to obtain is respective to the unique job or project. If the situation is of an urgent nature (e.g. water burst causing subsequent damage), you will need to engage a service provider (established, vetted and preferred) who can meet the service requirements at that specific time, whereby “do and charge” is acceptable.
With my limited knowledge of the project you have outlined, I would undoubtedly obtain three quotes. From what I can understand, there are at least six weeks here where you can delay the commencement of works. This will provide ample time to go to the market with a “request for tender” which would include a specific scope of work (note: preferably drafted by a building consultant).
Given the size of this project, I strongly oppose going with a “do and charge”. I have worked with many builders who can price accurately and competitively. Builders worth their weight in salt, can (with little intrusive investigations) provide you with a fixed quote (inclusive of a contingency if required).
During the quoting process, the builder (or building consultant) will advise if intrusive investigations are needed, usually at a small additional cost, to ascertain the scope of work prior to them providing a submission.
A few points that have worked for us : –
- Quotes for all works should be obtained, abiding by a strict deportment and governance supported by the contractor’s KPIs.
- Small-scale jobs (under $500) to existing vetted service providers do not need quotes. The benefit of trust over time with the service providers will promote operational efficiencies.
- A quote should be obtained if you are price checking against new service providers and/or it’s over $500.
- Obtaining at least two quotes for all jobs valued from $1000 – $3000 recommended.
- A minimum of 3 quotes for all projects amounting to works over $3000. The quotes above $3000 are required to adhere precisely in uniform, per the guidelines (scope of works) drafted by the agent (Building Manager/ Building Consultant) to ensure equivalence and just practices.
This post appears in Strata News #183.
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The photo associated with this post has been supplied by Flickr: Aleksey Gnilenkov – Termites.