Knowledge is key to win legal battles

Twelve months ago the decision by the Australian government to no longer pursue a licensing scheme for the strata sector was a disappointment to us considering our organisational mission to lobby for it.

The main objective for such a scheme in our sector was to stop rogue operators and know there are only qualified body corporate managers administering properties in Queensland that are worth an estimated replacement value of $80 billion. Once the decision had been announced, it was even more important that SCA (Qld) goes ahead with its accreditation pathway that ensure that all of our members undertake minimum training not only as an entry requirement to our organisation but as an ongoing commitment to education.

The SCA (Qld) accreditation pathway, implemented in 2014, has now indeed been recognised as an unofficial tool for judging skills in the sector.

A year of close collaboration with the attorney-general, the acting commissioner, the QUT Property Law Review Panel and stakeholders in the sector gives us a lot of momentum for the New Year. In February, our board will re-evaluate the strategic direction of our organisation to identify how we drive the strata industry in the next few years.

Considering a possible government change, we have to assess priorities and how to tackle them for successful outcomes. The board has recently been re-elected which ensures continuity of our focus and direction – one of which has been close government liaison to bring about positive changes for the million Queenslanders living in strata.

Some case law such as the decision by the High Court of Australia concerning builders’ duty of care remind us that our work is crucial to owners in strata and that we are not done yet. The New South Wales Court of Appeal held that a builder owed an owners corporation (equivalent to a body corporate in Queensland) a duty to exercise reasonable care in the construction of the building to avoid causing the owners corporation to suffer loss resulting from latent defects in the common property, provided the defects met certain criteria. On recent appeal, the High Court of Australia held that a builder did not owe such a duty of care. The impact on bodies corporate is that they are left with no common law recourse and only limited statutory rights against builders who have failed to adequately construct buildings at their schemes.

Defects include extensive corrosion and rust, mould, leaks, cracking tiles, flaking paint, and rotting timber. Our members know that to avoid potential legal action, bodies corporate should ensure that they make a complaint to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission about any building defects, within the correct time period. This is generally within six years and three months after the completion of works, and complaints should be lodged within three months of detecting the defect. We recommend that bodies corporate should obtain a comprehensive building report, identifying all defects, by a licensed, third party contractor prior to the expiration of the time limits.

Often the QBCC may then issue a direction to rectify to the building contractor and, if that is not complied with, the body corporate may have rights under the statutory insurance scheme administered by the QBCC.

In cases like these, a professional body corporate manager will know what a body corporate’s options are and I cannot emphasise enough on the need to find a qualified manager who is experienced and knowledgeable.
To that end SCA (Qld) will continue to educate members.

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