We received the following questions about termites and other pests in strata complexes from NSW lot owners. Who is responsible for eliminating pests in strata? Is this the responsibility of the owners corporation?
Table of Contents:
- QUESTION: Can two of our eight owners choose to use a different pest inspector from the one approved by the majority of residents?
- QUESTION: A pest inspection raised a few issues for owners to rectify. How does the owners corporation ensure the owners complete the required tasks?
- QUESTION: If ants are a pest problem within lots, is this an owners corporation cost if the issue is not on common property?
- QUESTION: Is termite control in a strata complex the responsibility of the individual owner or the Body Corporate?
- QUESTION: In a 2 lot strata scheme, is a termite barrier compulsory if there is no evidence of termites in our building? One unit had termites 4 years ago and both units put in termite bait stations, but there have been no termites evident since then.
- QUESTION: How many quotes would be required for 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.
Question: Can two of our eight owners choose to use a different pest inspector from the one approved by the majority of residents?
Our small strata of eight houses has yearly termite inspections. Our strata manager advised us to change pest inspectors. The majority of residents have approved the new pest inspector, however, two residents wish to employ the inspectors we had last year.
Are they entitled to do that? Or do they need to follow the majority of the residents?
Answer: The decision would have to have been made by resolution at a general meeting of the owners corporation or the quote approved by a majority of the strata committee at minimum.
For a “majority of residents” to have approved the new contractor, the decision would have to have been made by resolution at a general meeting of the owners corporation or the quote approved by a majority of the strata committee at minimum.
The opposition would be bound by a majority decision of the owners corporation in a general meeting or quote approved by the strata committee (depending on cost and any other restrictions).
This post appears in Strata News #674.
Question: A pest inspection raised a few issues for owners to rectify. How does the owners corporation ensure the owners complete the required tasks?
Our strata plan has had a pest (termite) inspection. The inspection raised a few issues for lot owners to address within their lot property. Some of these issues have been around for a couple of years.
A few owners are reluctant to tend to the issues due to costs and other factors.
How long can the owners put off addressing these issues? If they are not addressed satisfactorily, what remedies are there? Do we put a timeframe in place and tell them they must rectify the damage by a certain date? Should the owners corporation organise the work and seek reimbursement?
Answer: It is almost always beneficial to speak with the lot owner and explain why pest treatments should be undertaken.
It is difficult to ascertain exactly what is required of the lot owners in regard to pest treatments required to the lot property. As far as I am aware, most pest treatments are done externally to prevent pests from entering lots. Therefore, it is usually a common property issue and an owners corporation’s responsibility to prevent the entry of pests. Even when done within a lot, the treatments are usually still the responsibility of an owners corporation.
Whilst the owners corporation has a strict duty to repair and maintain the common property, including regular pest inspections and treatments, a lot owner does not necessarily have a positive obligation to repair and maintain their lot property.
If the owners corporation’s failure to repair and maintain the common property causes damage to lot property, the owners corporation is liable for that damage. Similarly, if an owner fails to repair and maintain their lot property and this causes damage to the common property, the owners corporation would have an action against the lot owner for the damage suffered to the common property.
In these situations, it is almost always beneficial to speak with the lot owner and explain the reasons why the pest treatments should be undertaken, i.e. if they are not undertaken, the rectification of the property may be substantially more expensive. The owners corporation should attempt to persuade the lot owner to do what they have to do, and if that fails, they should seek mediation through the Office of Fair Trading and then NCAT orders if mediation is unsuccessful.
This post appears in Strata News #672.
Question: If ants are a pest problem within lots, is this an owners corporation cost if the issue is not on common property?
Two of the three units in our small 3 lot complex have problems with ants inside their units. They have arranged for a pest control contractor to attend and resolve the issue. The two units have agreed this service is the responsibility and cost of the owners corporation. Should this be an owners corporation cost when the issue is not on common property?
Answer: If the ant issue is caused by the common property, the elimination of the issue should be the responsibility of the owners corporation.
It may be that the ant issues emanate from within the building eg inside the skins of the bricks or, indeed, from outside the two other units but from elsewhere on the common property. If the ant issue is caused by the common property, the elimination of the issue should properly be the responsibility of the owners corporation. Otherwise, the ant issue is a private concern and the two units should share costs.
You should seek agreement from the two other units that if the pest contractor determines the source to be from within their units (and not the common property), the invoice be issued directly to them and not the owners corporation.
This post appears in Strata News #642.
Question: Is termite control in a strata complex 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 termite control in a strata complex 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 manage risks to health and safety.
Termites weaken the 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 themselves 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 coastline, 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 coastline, 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 buildings are dealt with by a licensed professional
In most states, you need a pest management licence if you use pesticides in your scope of work. The licence is required for the use of chemicals, not inspecting your strata building. There would be 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 sources such as 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 article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
This post appears in Strata News #103.
Question: In a 2 lot strata scheme, is a termite barrier compulsory if there is no evidence of termites in our building? 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 termites in the building? 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 on your property. That being said, if your property has been impacted by no evidence of termites in a 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.
Question: How many quotes would be required for 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 support 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.
Answer: The healthy number of quotes to obtain is respective to the unique job or project.
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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