Page 2118 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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Unit titles legislation

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.05): Mr Speaker, I want to bring to the house’s attention a specific problem in relation to one lot of units at Belconnen, but I suspect the problem may have wider application. Mr and Mrs James of Belconnen have written a quick letter in relation to their problem. I will read it out and then make a couple of comments. The letter reads:

Having widely discussed the issue of Body Corporate problems experienced within Owners Corporations, we now put forward suggestions as follows: -

At present the Unit Title Act provides through the rules that are imposed under the Act that an owner can only erect or alter any structure in or on a unit in accordance with the permission of the owners corporation.

That means that if you wish to enclose the garage, enclose a verandah, put sails upon your verandah or make other changes to a unit that you own the other owners can refuse permission and there is no need for them to justify the refusal and there is no appeal.

The Unit Titles Act needs to change so that as an owner you can make alterations to your unit unless the owners corporation can point to some disadvantage to the other owners in the complex.

I would suggest that any proposal should be submitted to the other owners who should have, say, one month to object however, any objection must have written reasons attached.

In the event an agreement cannot be reached an owner should have access to a tribunal that has power to make the final decision. There should be a mediation process first to see if a satisfactory agreement can be reached by negotiation.

At present difficult owners in the complex for any reason including spite can simply reject any proposal no matter how sensible without being in any way responsible, or have to give any reasons for their rejection and the owner can do nothing about it.

An owner pays good money to purchase a unit and they should be able to exercise a right to modify the unit unless it can be shown that it materially disadvantages other owners.

Mrs Fran James also rang the Chief Minister on ABC talkback radio some weeks ago and put her particular problem to him.

One of the big problems for this unit—I understand that it applies to a number of unit complexes in Canberra—is vandalism and burglary. I understand that over the past 18 months the Jameses have experienced about 17 or 18 instances of goods being stolen or damage being done to their car. In fact, I was speaking to Mrs James the other day and was told that it was only last week that the latest lot of damage had been done to their car and stuff stolen. Their particular problem was about putting up a cage to protect their car, which was apparently something that another unit provided but was a problem at their unit. In this particular complex, it seems, 60 people who have residential units have

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