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Name it Domain!

Owners corporation law

26 Oct 2014

By Tom Bacon

As developers and urban planners continue to create and build ‘vertical communities’ in the form of large residential buildings, it stands to reason that there is a great need to provide services and amenities.

This is both from a marketing point of view and also to retain quality tenants and improve the quality of life for residents.

Common property gymnasiums have long been provided by owners’ corporations as an amenity or service to residents, and the health and welfare benefits are numerous.

However, it becomes tricky to manage and regulate access to all residents with tenants constantly moving in and out of the building.

An induction briefing by a personal trainer or the building manager is considered essential and mandatory by many insurers providing insurance to owners’ corporations.

Consider this: an owners’ corporation is an unlimited liability entity in law. If a resident seriously injures themselves using gymnasium equipment, then the owners’ corporation and all of its members could be sued by the resident for failing to reasonably safeguard against a foreseeable injury.

An insurer may cover the owners’ corporation’s liability, so long as the owners’ corporation did its best to ensure that all residents were adequately briefed on all safety matters, and otherwise maintained and cleaned and repaired the gymnasium area and equipment, and was not negligent in any aspect.

Risk management dictates that an owners’ corporation should ensure it observes the following checklist as a minimum:

Pass a rule in the owners’ corporation additional rules setting out the terms of use for the gymnasium, including hours of operation, minimum age for entry, standard of dress, etc;

Introduce a rigorous induction policy and ensure that all permanent residents undergo the induction;

Ensure that the induction is administered by a personal trainer (who holds adequate indemnity insurance). If the induction is carried out by the building manager, ensure that he or she is trained professionally by an appropriate entity before they induct any residents;

Instruct cleaners to clean the gym and equipment at least daily;

Engage a service provider to inspect, maintain and repair the gymnasium equipment several times per year;

Engage a health and safety consultant to advise on potential hazards relating to layout of the gymnasium; and

Enforce the induction policy by performing regular audits and inspections and removing persons who have not been inducted (guests from serviced apartments, under-age residents, etc).

Only a robust risk management system would save an owners’ corporation from exposure to liability in the event of a major accident or incident on common property, and a laissez-faire attitude to these types of matters could cost all owners dearly.

Tom Bacon is the principal lawyer of Strata Title Lawyers.

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