When an owners’ corporation needs to access someone’s apartment

When an owners’ corporation needs to access someone’s apartment
Tom Bacon

Lot owners and tenants need to be aware that an owners’ corporation (OC) has a lawful right to serve a notice to gain entry to private apartments, in order to carry out repairs, maintenance and other remedial works.

The notice in writing must provide at least seven days’ notice to the owner, and if the lot is tenanted, then the notice must go to both landlord and tenant.

Once properly served, the lot owner or tenant must grant entry to the OC and its agents, contractors and servants.

In addition to these very wide powers, an OC may also gain access without providing seven days’ notice, in an emergency, in circumstances where there is a water leak, or an interruption to a service such as electricity, gas, electricity, telephone, water, drainage and the like.

If a lot owner or tenant refuses entry or permission to enter, then the OC may apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a formal order of access.

If an access order is granted, VCAT may also award damages to the OC if the resident’s failure to provide access caused them to incur costs or exacerbated damage to other lots and the common property.

It does not seem to matter if the OC is requiring access to the apartment for one hour, one day or one month.

In a recent case determined in VCAT, an OC in Docklands was granted access by order to enter a unit to erect swing stages to allow for façade repairs.

The lot owner had earlier refused access by seeking to impose unreasonable conditions of entry to their apartment, such as requiring the OC to pay compensation of $100 per day, and to only enter the apartment during certain hours, and to only have a right of access for a finite duration of time (30 days max).

VCAT awarded the OC $13,000 in damages, finding that it had incurred more costs in the remedial repairs project by virtue of the delays in not getting access to the apartment, and because it had to complete the remedial repairs in two different stages by coming back to the site at a later time.

VCAT also has a general discretion to award legal costs in special circumstances too.

Therefore, lot owners and tenants need to be very cognisant of their rights and responsibilities when they receive these types of notices from their OC manager or building manager. •

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