These questions about arranging garden maintenance in Victoria strata complexes have been answered by The Knight and Jane Giacobbe, Strata Reports Victoria.
Question: A resident has been appointed as a volunteer gardener to maintain the common area gardens and is paid with alcohol. Gardens are not being maintained and we are concerned about liability if he injures himself.
We are in a block of 4 of a self-managed scheme in Victoria. We have 2 garden beds on common property. Our interpretation of rule 4.2(1) is that we are responsible for the area in and around our lot. We are to keep this area in a neat and tidy condition including the care of gardens.
This interpretation led us to maintain these garden beds. On construction, we planted a selection of plants and have added some since moving in. We’ve maintained, pruned and watered these garden beds for the last 18 months. A few months ago, the Owners Corporation voted 3:1 that these areas are to be maintained by an official Owners Corporation gardener. This is to be a volunteer resident (not an owner) who is reimbursed costs of materials and is given alcohol as a form of gratitude.
Our concern is:
- The Owners Corporation gardener has not been maintained since the appointment. The area was overgrown and we’ve weeded the garden beds to the passionate objection of the Owners Corporation manager.
- We are concerned about Owners Corporation liabilities if the volunteer gardener causes damage to himself or the properties while gardening on common property.
We are scheduling an Owners Corporation meeting soon and would appreciate your thoughts.
Answer: It would be prudent that you check the owners corporation insurance policy and speak with the insurers.
- The owners do need to look after the plants and gardens and if the Owners Corporation gardener is not doing the job they have volunteered to do, then the owners really must address this and possibly revert back to the previous arrangement or decide on something new. It could be an idea to take some before and after pictures of the gardens to show all owners at your upcoming meeting.
- In the case of your Owners Corporation gardener being classed as a volunteer, it would be prudent that you check the owners corporation insurance policy and speak with the insurers to confirm that you have Voluntary Workers cover.
It may also be an idea to let them know your current situation and just identify whether the owners have any liability.
This post appears in Strata News #264.
Question: What are or aren’t residents permitted to do in common areas? How can we arrange residents working bees to clean and secure areas that are not covered by maintenance contracts without stepping on the Owners Corporation toes?
What are or aren’t residents permitted to do in common areas?
I completely understand that we are not to clean or rectify any areas that are under contract. However, are we permitted to clean drains, pits or other areas that may become a flood problem or potential hazard? Especially after notification from Strata that residents should check common area drains, due to expected extreme weather conditions in the forthcoming days – towards the end of 2017.
This actually occurred and two of the residents discovered an external drain pit (within the common area boundaries) that was partially blocked with concrete slurry. They cleaned the drain and reported it to the builder and Owners Corporation chair, only to be advised (by the Owners Corporation chairperson) that what they did was unauthorised by the Owners Corporation and that we were not to do it again without the chair or Strata’s permission.
AS you can imagine, we are now completely confused, on what we can and cannot do in the future, to help prevent a possible flood or damage to this complex.
The information we are looking for is how we can arrange residents working bees to clean and secure areas that are not covered by maintenance contracts.
Answer: Whilst you undertook the cleaning with all good intentions there may be unintended consequences of such actions.
Whilst you undertook the cleaning with all good intentions there may be unintended consequences of such actions.
There are a variety of events that could occur relating to residents completing unauthorised maintenance works on Common Property, which may include insurance ramifications if something goes wrong. For example, it is possible that by removing the slurry from the drain it may have in the process broken the pipe which would then incur further costs to the Owners Corporation to rectify. There may also be implications if you undertake works on Common Property that may be subject to a defect claim with the original builder (if the building is within its warranty period).
It is always worth asking the question of the Chairperson or Owners Corporation Manager (as the case may be) prior to commencing any works so appropriate approvals are granted. A simple phone call should resolve the matter pretty quickly for minor items.
In saying the above, if there is a potential Health and Safety hazard on Common Property you should immediately notify the Owners Corporation Manager and if safe to do so and within your capabilities, take action to remove the risk or isolate the area until a qualified person arrives to attend to the matter.
Moving forward you should, as a group, put forward a proposal to your Owners Corporation with your idea to arrange regular working bees, stating the tasks you would include in such activities and the areas in which you will conduct them. Your Owners Corporation should then provide you feedback as to the appropriateness of such an idea given that they may have a more broader overview of the requirements of the property and insight into other activates being undertaken concurrently.
It is always good to see groups of engaged residents working together for the betterment of the property and it should always be encouraged in my view as it builds community not to mention the cost savings, hopefully, your Owners Corporation feels the same way.
This post appears in Strata News #178.
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This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
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