This Q&A providing information about goods abandoned by tenants has been answered by our WA Strata helper – Strata Martyr.
Question: We have a pile of goods abandoned by tenants left at our building. The Property Manager and the Strata Managers are not helpful. What can I do to get these items removed?
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I’m an owner occupier in an apartment block in WA. Last week my neighbours moved out and dumped furniture on the verge (mattresses and desks etc) and there are also cockroaches coming out of their empty flat into the hallway and into adjoining units.
I contacted the Strata Manager. They informed me that the Property Manager has carried out their vacating inspection and failed to see any goods abandoned by tenants and no evidence of cockroach infestation. Can I send photos? I think the onus is on the Property Manager to prove otherwise, not me.
Now the local council have put an illegal dumping notice on the goods abandoned by tenants and I have asked the Strata Manager to go back and request action from the Property Manager.
If the Property Manager denies a cockroach problem and the Strata Managers are not being too helpful what can I do to get this sorted? Contact the Department of Health perhaps? It’s unhygienic.
Answer: Your Strata Company will have by-laws. These by-laws, if followed, should offer you some protection.
The adage “if good people do nothing, bad people win” is absolutely true. In Strata it is about compromise and the Body Corporate have the ability to make commercial decisions on behalf of the other owners.
There is a fiducial responsibility to expend funds in a responsible manner. Outside of the obvious problems you have stated this is a matter of “Principal”. “Principle” has a real cost and this cost will be to the Strata Company of which you are an owner and you contribute money to for the day to day management of the Strata Company’s affairs.
The burden of proof falls on the accuser not the accused. The dumping of mattresses and smalls is very common at Strata Complexes. Under the cover night a resident may dispose of good into the Strata Bin enclosure. These are not household waste or recycling and they do not fit in the bins only obstructing others from using the bins. What do we do? In the absence of photo’s preferably showing the offender, we are stumped.
An aggrieved owner (do you have a Council of Management?) may decide to produce a Statutory Declaration stating that they saw the offender dump the goods on the verge. The accused only has to do their own Statutory Declaration stating that they did not dump the rubbish and we are back to square one. It ends up being your word against theirs.
The Strata Titles Act 1985 is “The Yellow Bible” for Strata Complexes in WA and it cover all contingencies in one way or another. How do we combat poor tenants and the transient nature of such leaving discarded goods and pestilence in their wake?
Your Strata Company will have by-laws. These by-laws, if followed, should offer you some protection. If the protection fails, you need to introduce some new by-laws to combat this problem. You may not be able to stop the dumping, but you may be able to forward the cost of rubbish removal to the “Owner” of the offending unit, as it is the owners responsibility that his tenants comply to the by-laws.
Assuming you have just the statutory by-laws that all complexes have, unless changed. Under Schedule 2 Bylaws you will find Sch. 2 Bylaw 6, 9 and 11 which may assist with governance and control of the complex. With saying that and standing on Principal as opposed to Proof, most Strata Companies end up making an allowance for rubbish removal so any dumped goods can be disposed of immediately. Otherwise some residents may misconstrue the rubbish on the verge as a bulk rubbish collection by the local shire and your rubbish pile will grow exponentially.
My procedure would be to write to your Strata Company, Council of Management c/o your Strata Manager requesting that a breach be sent to the offending unit for dumping goods. You would have to make your case as the Council of Management can only allege a breach in the absence of proof and will rely on the goodwill of a responsible owner who is tenanting out his or her offending unit.
The Strata Company could then seek reimbursement from the Owner for disposing of the goods abandoned by tenants. They may say no or they may accept based on the timing of the offence and whether they were getting rid of those tenants for failing to maintain the inside of the unit.
Sch. 2 Bylaw 9 indicates a procedure that may of eliminated this problem if the Strata Company had a nominee present while the tenants shifted out. This by-law could be altered to make it the responsibility of the Owner or their designated nominee to attend during the move. This could have been instructed to the Strata Manager by the Council of Management or the Owner could have instructed their Property Manager to be present. This procedure is important as removalists will try and get as close to the unit as they can. If you have paving on your common driveway it is not designed for a heavy truck and damage can occur. If not witnessed, or the truck driver has been told to park outside the complex, the Strata Company will be up for the cost of repairs.
Rented apartments/units have a bond attached to them for damage this extends to other expense incurred by the owner for a breach of the by-laws which forms part of any rental agreement. The bond and the bad tenants are probably long gone now. The verge is the Strata Company’s responsibility and a shire fine for the goods abandoned by tenants will be directed at the Strata Company as a whole.
Sch. 2 Bylaw 11 should help with the filthy cockroaches. Once again my procedure would be to write to your Strata Company, Council of Management c/o your Strata Manager requesting that a breach be sent to the offending unit for cockroaches coming from that unit. If they are to rent out the unit again, I imagine they will get it spray. Making this complaint may help the Owner to pay for this cost from the bond. You could ask the Council of Management to write to the Health Department, but the owner may be unaware of the cockroach problem and the intervention by the Health Department could identify other issues that lead to a course of action not happily accepted by owners.
Learn from this experience and put into place safe guards to minimise the chance of this occurring again.
This is the world we live in and without clear boundaries and governance chaos will prevail.
DEPOSITING RUBBISH, ETC., ON COMMON PROPERTY
6. A proprietor, occupier, or other resident of a lot shall not deposit or throw upon the common property any rubbish, dirt, dust or other material likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the proprietor, occupier, or other resident of another lot or of any person lawfully using the common property.
MOVING FURNITURE ETC., ON OR THROUGH COMMON PROPERTY
9. A proprietor, occupier, or other resident of a lot shall not transport any furniture or large object through or upon common property within the building unless he has first given to the council sufficient notice of his intention to do so to enable the council to arrange for its nominee to be present at the time when he does so.
11. A proprietor or occupier of a lot ‑
(a) shall maintain within his lot, or on such part of the common property as may be authorised by the strata company, in clean and dry condition and adequately covered, a receptacle for garbage;
(b) comply with all local government authority by‑ laws and ordinances relating to the disposal of garbage;
(c) ensure that the health, hygiene and comfort of the proprietor, occupier or other resident of any other lot is not adversely affected by his disposal of garbage.
Note: Legalities are sorted by Lawyers, consequently this is my general opinion only and suitable specialists in these areas should be sort for clarification on all points.
This post appears in Strata News #142