Pet hates and petty issues ‘clogging Qld tribunals’

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Strata schemes pursuing trivial issues such as trying to ban pets from lifts or doormats from lift lobbies are clogging up the adjudication system in Queensland, says the state’s main body for apartment owners.

Hearings on much more serious issued are delayed by up to nine months, partly due to issues that should never have got to that stage as well as underfunding and resultant poor staffing levels at the state’s Strata Commissioner’s office, says the Unit Owners Association of Queensland (UOAQ).

In a recent newsletter the UOAQ refers to case where a body corporate was forced to back down from a ban on doormats in common area hallways.

The Cosmopolitan in Cotton Tree on the Sunshine Coast had taken owners to task for placing doormats outside the front doors of their apartments, despite considerable evidence that they were not, as alleged, a trip hazard.

Worth noting is the adjudicator’s comment in his ruling  that common property is owned by the owners of lots in the scheme, as tenants in common, and they have a right to use it, provided it doesn’t interfere with other owners’ needs. 

Allegedly “expert” opinions that doormats could flap around in a draught, thereby presenting a trip hazard, were dismissed while one resident’s argument that she had slipped and fallen on wet tiles outside the door was rightly given much greater consideration.

Another issue in the nearby Trafalgar Towers complex has irked the UOAQ which notes that the block has gone to the tribunal and lost twice over conditions in and interpretations of its pet by-laws.

The first time, back 2016, the block tried to impose a no-pets ban because, they alleged, they’d never allowed animals in the building, despite the fact that their building manager brought their own dog into the block.

More recently they had tried to impose a rule that pets were not allowed in the lifts and had to be carried in and out of the building in pet cages via a fire stair – despite the fact that the block is 16 storeys high.

This was challenged by a pet owner living on the 13th floor and was also overturned by the tribunal. But reading the transcripts of the hearings, you can understand the UOAQ’s frustrations.

The spurious arguments and dubious allegations – one owner who claimed to be affected by the presence of a dog didn’t actually live in the building – almost guaranteed failure at the tribunal, but the Body Corporate insisted on their day in court.

“The whole industry is crying out for additional resources for an already over-stretched Commissioner’s Office – current delays for Adjudications are around 9 months,” writes UOAQ member Ross Anderson.

“Surely it would be better for all stakeholders if we stop wasting current BCCM (Body Corporate and Community Management) resources on disputes where the outcome is more than certain from the get-go.”

Residents and owners can sign up to receive UOAQ newsletters at uoaq.org.au.

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