Here at Flat Chat we frequently recommend that cash-strapped apartment residents make use of the services provided by Marrickville Legal Centre, if they need strata law support but can’t afford commercial rates.
But every time I do that, I get a twinge of guilt because I know the service – based in Marrickville, Sydney, but serving strata owners and residents all over NSW – is already pushed to the limit of its resources.
In fact, although partially NSW state government funded, Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC) depends on charitable donations to keep doing what they do. And what is that exactly?
Well, take the case of Tan*, a strata owner-occupier who lives with a physical disability. He approached MLC for help when an out-of-order lift left him unable to access his unit for three months and the owners corp just wasn’t too concerned about fixing it.
However, strata solicitors at Marrickville Legal Centre advocated for Tan with the owners corporation, leading to immediate repair work to get the lift going again.
MLC also assisted Judy*, a vulnerable client living with a complex disability, who was being pursued at NCAT for tens of thousands of dollars due to alleged breaches of multiple by-laws.
Time was running out and the Tribunal was about to rule when Judy’s mother approached MLC for help.
Their lawyers made urgent submissions and prepared evidence for Judy’s case. As a result, the Tribunal found that Judy was in breach of one by-law (but not all) and declined the total penalties sought by the Owner’s Corporation and their lawyers, reducing the payable penalty to just 2% of the original claim.
Now, when you mention a charity that helps strata owners, many people are surprised that people who own property can’t afford their own legal assistance.
But there are plenty of strata owners who have grown old in properties they bought cheaply decades ago, but are now on fixed incomes and can barely afford the levies.
Or there are others who at some point just managed to scrape together the funds for a deposit and a mortgage but are now in reduced circumstances? Should they be forced to sell because they are in a stoush with their strata committee?
And then there are the tenants whose rental agents say an issue is a strata problem and strata committee say it’s the landlord’s problem and the renter is stuck in the middle. Sometimes specialist strata legal advice is the only thing that will work.
That’s where MLC comes in – and it’s the only no or low-cost legal advice centre for strata owners in NSW (if not Australia).
“Marrickville Legal Centre relies on support from the community to strengthen the services they provide to people who are experiencing financial hardship or other forms of disadvantage,” a spokesperson told Flat Chat this week, as MLC launched its annual EOFY fund-raising drive.
“Since 1979, Marrickville Legal Centre has helped thousands who have needed legal assistance. With your financial support, they can continue to do more of what’s important – supporting community members when they need help most.
“You can make a tax-deductible donation to Marrickville Legal Centre this end-of-financial-year to support the delivery of effective legal services with impact for real people in your community.”
The spokesperson added that MLC’s Strata Collective Sales Advocacy Service (Strata Service NSW) offers free advice and advocacy to vulnerable strata owner-occupiers and in some cases, tenants in New South Wales who experience difficulties with strata management, and who are experiencing financial hardship.
Just click on THIS LINK to make a tax-deductible donation and support MLC as they help the people doing it tough in our corner of Strataland.
Remember, if you need help, MLC covers the whole of NSW. You can find out more about what they do on mlc.org.au.
*Names changed for privacy reasons.
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