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I don’t know whether it’s simply due to the numbers of sales, to carelessness, to poor training, or to a combination of all those, but it seems to me that many of the issues spoken about in this Forum concerning various post-purchase “surprises” are due to the whole buying and selling process being broken.
Due to the buoyant market in coastal areas of NSW, our self-managed plan’s experienced higher than normal numbers of sales over the last 2 years, and despite my best efforts via information provided to people undertaking Strata Reports and in S109 Certificates to make the Parties aware of all strata-related matters, including possible contentious ones, I’m invariably the person who has to deliver various degrees of bad news to new Owners after settlement.
Here’s an example with reference to a recent sale:
- I was contacted by a potential purchaser with a request to provide details regarding the amount of the current levies, and bank balances (of course I couldn’t do that so I advised them to seek legal assistance)
- I was then contacted by the sales agent with the same request (I told the agent that they should know better)
- Then the principal of the same agency contacted me to advise that his office had taken a deposit, and that he wanted to arrange to inspect the O/C’s records for the purposes of preparing a Strata Report. So the selling agent is preparing the Strata Report for the purchaser; I checked the Fair Trading website and found that he’s currently licensed for both real estate and strata management, but isn’t there a conflict of interest there? ( I asked the agent to provide an authorisation from the Owner enabling me to produce the records requested, and told him that he too should know better).
- The inspection of records took place, and I was at pains to point out un-consented renovations to the Lot and other potentially contentious and related matters such as past noise complaints due to both some plumbing fittings in the Lot and to the floating floor (but would a selling agent document issues that may compromise a successful sale?).
- The Owner of the Lot decided not the pay the Levies that were then due (even though I’d previously advised her to make the normal payment to avoid the complication of additional administration / debt recovery fees).
- The request for a S109 Certificate (about financial, insurance, and other strata matters) from the Owners Corporation was received. I completed that and included references in both the S109 and in the accompanying e-mail to the un-consented renovations, to the overdue levy payments, and to the administration fees that had been applied and to those which would be additionally applied if the financial adjustments made a settlement weren’t received by a date nominated.
- Time passed, and as I hadn’t received a S118 Notification (about who the new Owners are, contact details etc) and as the next Levy installment is due next month, I contacted the lawyers / conveyancers involved with a request that the required Notification be provided (by the purchaser’s rep.)
- After 2 follow-up phone calls to both of the above, 3 weeks later the Notification arrived together with a cheque covering only the overdue Levies, so I rang the sender to explain the need for a further payment. They initially denied all knowledge, but when I insisted that they check their file for the S109 Certificate that I’d earlier provided, they acknowledged their error and sent another cheque (how do such errors occur, and who other than legal people still writes cheques?).
- Now new tenants have moved into the recently purchased Lot, and the Owners of the Lots below already complaining about the very same noise-related issues that have in the past occurred whenever tenants were uncooperative.
- In the process of mediating the issues to avoid those established at NSW Dept Fair Trading and in the Tribunal, I asked the new Owner if the un-consented renovations had been raised in the Strata Report that he’d earlier commissioned and paid for. He didn’t know (what?), but when he permitted me to walk him through the Report, surprise, surprise …. there was no mention of either the un-consented works, of past complaints, or in fact of anything except the bare bones for which he claims he paid $450!
OK…. so I eventually received all monies owed at the time of settlement, the new owner is on the Strata Roll, his opening account is fully paid, and as he’s undertaken at a not insignificant cost to progressively attend to both the faulty plumbing and to the insulation of the floor, the complainants are satisfied for now, but does anyone have any comments or solutions about what I see as a buying and selling process, that in NSW at least, is clearly broken?
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