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FLAT CHAT WRAP

FLAT CHAT WRAP

Author: Jimmy Thomson & Sue Williams

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All about living in apartments (condos), from dealing with your committee to getting on with neighbours and - a dose of healthy skepticism about dubious developers.
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In this week’s Flat Chat Wrap podcast we encounter the best and worst in apartment living, from negative equity in off-the plan purchases, to multiple tenants causing parking chaos in a block that simply doesn’t know how to enforce their own by-laws. In between, as some positive relief, we chat to an architect who won four gongs at the recent NSW Architects award, including for a revolutionary high-end high-rises, as well as an equally ground-breaking boarding house. Off-the-plan pain But first the issue of people who paid a deposits on off-the-plan apartments a couple of years ago, and have watched property values shrink and in some cases their jobs disappear because of the pandemic, just as their new flat is ready for occupancy. This item was inspired by this interview with ABC NewsRadio’s Sandy Aloisi – and you can hear a snatch of it on the podcast – which was in turn inspired by this story in the AFR. As Jimmy and Sue discuss, it’s not just a matter of walking away from the 10 percent deposit, which may cost less than completing the sale of a now over-priced unit for which you can’t get a mortgage anyway. The developers can sue for the difference between your surrendered deposit and the reduced price of the apartment, as well as legal costs.  Any way you look at it, it’s a lose-lose situation for the apartment buyer. Moving on to happier thoughts, we chat to Philip Thalis the award-winning architect behind the spectacularly innovative Verve Building in Newcastle, NSW, pictured here at the head of last week’s podcast show notes. The Verve isn’t just a smart looking block, Philip has worked hard to make sure it contributes to the local environment and community. Boarding house Philip also talks about the “new generation” boarding house he designed for five Muslim brothers who wanted a project to show off their concreting skills (seriously!). Boarding houses have a bad name in property development, not least, says Philip, because there are almost no quality controls over the finished projects, which can be cheap and very nasty. He’s hoping his project will not only inspire other developers to try a bit harder, but encourage the government to put some basic standards into the design and construction of accommodation that has previously had an terrible reputation. Parking madness Then there’s a story straight off the Forum, where a strata scheme is suffering parking madness and they simply don’t know what to do … especially when they can’t even identify the tenants and sub-tenants in the offending unit. And finally our Hey Marthas  take us back to the architecture awards and the toilet block, pictured above, that has its designer flushed with success. That’s all in this week’s bumper edition of the Flat Chat Wrap. Listen here If you haven’t already done so you can subscribe to this podcast, completely free, on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or your favourite podcatcher. If the link doesn’t take you straight there, just search for Flat Chat Wrap, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. And please give us a rating or review … it all helps to keep us going.
In this week’s Flat Chat Wrap podcast, in the run-up to the Australian architectural awards, we talk about some of the innovative apartment block designs that made it the short-list. For a start, there’s the Verve towers in Newcastle which offer more corner units because it’s two slim towers rather than one solid one. Judging by the above picture, it’s two slices rather than two fingers (as Jimmy suggests in the podcast), but the fact that it costs more to build is offset by the ability of the developer to charge more for each flat. Then there are “new age” boarding houses which, because they aren’t really apartments, can be as small as 24 sqm. And there are apartments with built-in designer furniture - which leads to a discussion about an embarrassing bed. Strata Loans Then we talk to Paul Morton, CEO of Lannock Strata Finance, one of our long-term sponsors whose company is one of the few sources of strata loans in the country. Usually when we do interviews we send our guests a list of likely questions (to get them thinking, avoid long pauses and reassure them that they aren’t going to be hijacked). Unusually, Paul answered his in print.  So, never been prone to looking gift horses in the mouth ... here are his rough notes and bullet points. We asked other questions – including if he has noticed strata schemes struggling to pay their bills due to shortfalls in levies. And he said a lot more than we’ve reproduced here.  So you’ll have to listen to get it all. Many apartment owners and committees are nervous about strata loans – why? Fear comes from lack of knowledge and understanding. Nothing is ever good or bad, it’s a matter of costs and benefits, do the benefits of a strata loan outweigh the costs? And as Australians, we’re often kidding ourselves.  We say we don’t like debt, but we do it all the time.  Who buys an apartment without borrowing?  We actually love mortgages, because we know if we have a mortgage we can get a new house.  And apart from the fun that means, we intuitively understand the mathematics, we know that the ROI from having the house or apartment is much higher than the cost of the loan, that’s why we do it. For some people it’s a leap of faith to apply that same intuitive knowledge to the benefits of refurbishing your common property and the return that this creates – increased capital value, emotional return, just feeling good about the place that you live.  But it’s not a leap of faith, it’s just a matter of doing the financial maths, and the emotional maths.  Will the return be greater than the cost of investment? What are the benefits of strata loans over special levies? Spreading cash-flows over time and tax benefits for investors If you or some people in your block won’t be able to pay a special levy, then borrowing is the only way to get that necessary work done.  And even if you can pay a special levy, borrowing’s likely to be a better way. Would it make a different if the government made it easier for strata schemes to split funding for special projects and financial shortfalls between special levies and strata loans? Woo hoo, the government’s got it right.  It doesn’t mandate whether to have a sinking fund, borrow or have a special levy.  And it certainly should not change that and start interfering into what is an owner decision.  The government says that once a year you have to think about the best way to fund those upcoming capital works.  It has to be like that, each property is different, each owner is different, circumstances always alter cases.  The question is what mix of sinking fund, special levy and borrowing is best for your particular building, your community. You are not a big fan of accumulated sinking funds. Why? It’s back to the knowledge and understanding thing. And like strata borrowing or special levies, it’s not a matter of sinking funds being good or bad,
It’s a bumper edition of the Flat Chat Wrap this week, boosted by an extract from JimmyT’s guest spot on James Valentine’s Afternoons on ABC radio. But first Jimmy and Sue revisit the worst apartments they have ever seen, inspired by stories of the block in Auburn, Sydney, that prompted Building Commissioner David Chandler to seek and get the most comprehensive changes to building and planning laws the state has seen for generations. But for Jimmy and Sue, it all brings back memories of apartments with full-sized bars where the kitchen used to be, the special “disabled” apartment couldn’t let wheelchairs through its doors and the air con system that blew the smoke from one flat into the next. James Valentine Then we get a taste of Jimmy’s guest spot on James Valentine’s Afternoons (you can hear the whole Monday June 22 session here).  Among the topics discussed were Jimmy’s PodCom (podcast sitcom), voting for and against pets in company title, how much you should pay for building into your roof space, how much detail there should be in your strata committee minutes, mystery maintenance payments and the right to object to an air-con unit over your terrace. Plants and pants Later, Sue and Jimmy tackle the issue of what you might find when you buy into a block where the majority of owners are members of the same family. And then this week’s Hey Martha’s are pets and plants in the office, and pants with elasticated waistbands. Listen here If you haven’t already done so you can subscribe to this podcast, completely free, on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or your favourite podcatcher. If the link doesn’t take you straight there, just search for Flat Chat Wrap, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. And please give us a rating or review … it all helps to keep us going.
After what has felt like several weeks of doom and gloom, we are looking on the bright side in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap podcast. First of all we chat about Sue’s story in Domain about a new mixed development where affordable rentals will be mixed in with full-price apartments … and you will never know who’s paying full fare and who isn’t. The apartments will be identical so there will be no discrimination … unlike other efforts where the affordable units had a different front door from the other flats in the same building. App chat Then we talk to Brent Clark, best known for WattBlock a company that helps apartment buildings with energy saving, solar feasibility studies, NABERS ratings and electric vehicle charging reports. But that’s not why Brent is on the Pod – maybe next time – he’s Zoomed in to tell us about the WhatsApp community in his block in Chatswood, Sydney, which has blossomed from a casual social tool to an essential piece of community infrastructure. From tracking down a noisy shower that was waking up a dozen or more residents every night, to identifying spiders and establishing whether or not they are venomous, the WhatsApp group has now spread to other buildings in the street. Finally, we discuss whether or not our dining habits will change after the restaurants reopen, Jimmy’s relates his encounter with a protesting martial artist and marks one year since the evacuation of residents from the Mascot Towers while Sue notes the election of a very unusual mayor in Vermont, in the USA. Listen here If you haven’t already done so you can subscribe to this podcast, completely free, on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or your favourite podcatcher. If the link doesn’t take you straight there, just search for Flat Chat Wrap, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. And please give us a rating or review … it all helps to keep us going.
There are just two main discussions in this week’s podcast but the topics are both hugely significant in very different ways. In the first we look at the new powers given to NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler to deal with cowboys in the building industry (hence the cowboy music at the top of the podcast). In the second we hear from relationship counsellor and psychologist Amanda Gordon about how to deal with the pressures of being cooped up with your partner in an apartment during this pandemic (and the second wave if there is one). Duty of care David Chandler, the NSW Building Commissioner, has finally seen State parliament pass the laws he needs to start sorting the sheep from the goats in the building industry. And part of the way that will work is that any signs of clustering of bad operators – architects, engineers, certifiers, developers and builders - with poor track records in apartment buildings will draw the attention of his team of compliance investigators. Ultimately builders and developer who don’t work to basic minimum standards will be refused certificates of occupation, meaning they won’t be able to sell the units they built. That should put a serious dent in their business models, now and in the future. Another critical aspect of the laws passed at the same time is the establishment of a continuing duty of care, meaning that anyone involved in building an apartment block as an ongoing responsibility to the ultimate apartment owner. In the past, builders have been able to successfully argue in court that their duty of care was to the developer and if the developer no longer existed – often because they have shut up shop before they could be called to account for their crap apartment blocks – the duty of care expired with them. But no more, as Jimmy explains, in the pod and in this story. Too close for comfort Then we go to Armchair Psychology founder Amanda Gordon who talks about how to cope with the stresses and strains of couples being forced to spend much more time together because of the lockdown and working from home. Her answer is to take the time to fix any relationships that are broken – but also make an effort to find some “alone time”. And she points out the difference between doing things together and doing things at the same time.  Watching TV or even riding bikes is not really doing things together since you are just doing the same solo pursuit at the same time. Playing cards or board games, cooking together and doing quizzes are different because you are interacting … and that’s the key. Finally in our “Hey Martha’s” we find out about the intercom that requires you to squat and Jimmy’s exciting project to create a PodCom – a podcast sitcom with real actors performing on Zoom. Listen here If you haven’t already done so you can subscribe to this podcast, completely free, on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or your favourite podcatcher. If the link doesn’t take you straight there, just search for Flat Chat Wrap, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. And please give us a rating or review … it all helps to keep us going.
There’s plenty of variety in this week’s forum, from pets to concieges, and from tourism promotions to a survey that suggests lower-income individuals and families do it toughest in apartment blocks. The Podcast opens with an examination of the Tribunal Appeals Panel’s ruling that strata blocks can have “no-pets” by-laws after all. The verdicts issued last week were the results of two appeals against previous decisions by the NSW Civil Administrative Tribunal that by-laws banning pets outright were harsh and discriminatory. Not so, says the Appeals Panel, and its findings have implications far beyond keeping pets in apartments. Most significantly, they reinforce the right of owners to create rules that some people won’t like (but the majority do). More than a doorman Then we talk to Deb Francis of A Class Concierges about how her team members have been handling the challenges of coronavirus and the lockdowns on strata communities, as well as the day-to-day dealing with residents of prestige buildings. Whether it’s being called on to offer advice on how to handle a live crab destined for the dinner table, or providing after-school care for a little boy whose parents were both working late, the concierge is the calm, on-call “butler” for everyone in their building. And it’s not all fun and games.  Concierges also occasionally have to deal with the dreadful day when a resident simply doesn’t respond to phone calls and knocks on the door. But there are the dangers of being too popular, too.  One of her staff had to join a gym after a resident insisted on providing a cooked breakfast and lunch every day. Gov love for Stayz exposed Later in the podcast, Jimmy and Sue discuss the imminent bounce-back of Airbnb and other short-term letting services, including Stayz (HomeAway) whose residential apartments are being promoted on the NSW government’s “Love NSW” tourism website. Then, a million miles from the world of concierges, pet by-law battles and holiday lets,  there’s the survey that reveals that low-income individuals and families are over-represented in apartments. We discuss why they are often the least well-equipped to deal with the challenges that apartment living presents, and how they are poorly represented by rental agents while landlords are kept in the dark. Finally, in his “Hey, Martha!”, Jimmy has discovered a smartphone app that allows you to cheer for your team when you are at home and they are playing behind closed doors. Listen here If you haven’t already done so you can subscribe to this podcast, completely free, on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or your favourite podcatcher. Click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. And please give us a rating or review … it all helps to keep us going.
We seem to be so caught up in the day-to-day of avoiding or dealing with the coronavirus, so it’s refreshing to know that some people are thinking of a future way beyond that. In this week’s podcast, Sue Williams revisits a story about an ambitious vision for a brand new city planned for the area near the new airport at Badgerys Creek. If the architects and planners have their way, it will be self-sustaining in energy and water and will even grow enough food to export to other areas. Is it a pipe dream?  The architects have been building communities in the deserts of the Gulf states so they know a bit about making the most of a hostile environment. But, asks Jimmy, how does that stack up against the cheap, cheerless and quick-fix options favoured by our politicians? Owners unite ... by Zoom Also in this podcast, we talk to Karen Stiles, the energetic executive officer of the Owners Corporation Network about how that key organisation is coping with the challenge of building a community of communities when coronavirus is trying to keep us all at home. The answer lies in technology, she says, and to prove it, they had a very successful seminar on how to keep the short-term letting wolves from the door, which OCN members (exclusively) can now download from their website. It was also Karen who inspired the name of this week’s podcast – wolves and mung beans, but you’ll have to listen to discover how (and we don't mean the coyotes in California that Sue mentions). But seriously, over the past 18 years OCN has grown into a significant and well-respected organisation which has won itself a seat at the table when policy-makers are deciding the shape of our futures in strata. You’ll realise why when Karen outlines her vision for the future of this organisation. Forced out Then, Jimmy relates the alarming tale of a woman who discovered there were 10 apartments in her building that had been let, short term, to people self-isolating after having been found to be at risk from coronavirus. Health experts advised her to get out of the apartment block for her own safety’s sake.  But it raises the question – who thinks the best way to isolate is to go into an apartment block where hundreds of people live (apart from the parasites and predators of the short-term letting industry)? And Sue’s “Hey Martha” is all about an old Temperance Hall, converted into luxury apartments … with a wine cellar. Listen here If you haven’t already done so you can subscribe to this podcast, completely free, on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or your favourite podcatcher. If the link doesn’t take you straight there, just search for Flat Chat Wrap, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. Oh, and give us a rating or review … it all helps to keep us going.
What is a strata lawyer’s job?  That’s the question we ask in the Flat Chat Wrap podcast this week. Is it to find a reasonable solution, based on strata law, so that all sides can feel that they have been treated fairly (even if their client has to concede some ground)? Or is it to go in all guns blazing, threatening and bullying the other party, using hypothetical situations where all the “ifs and ands” are lined up to make the target of their intimidation fear they could lose their home, not just the Tribunal case? A case of blatant legal bullying dropped into our laps this week and it gets a good airing on the podcast. Build your own ebook On a lighter note, we discuss what to do if you use all your free time at home to dust off that novel or non-fiction book that’s been gathering dust in the bottom of your desk (or languishing on a floppy disk from your old computer). How hard is it to self-publish an eBook.  Is it worth the effort? How important is it to have a good cover? We talk to accomplished author Grant Hyde who’s taken time from being a sidelined Qantas baggage handler and tour guide to publish on the internet a sexsational novel about the rise and fall of a very naughty footy player. You will find links to Grant’s ebooks and paperbacks here on Amazon, including his sailing ship adventures Islands of Gold and Lords of the Pacific.  And if you have a book in need of a cover, Grant’s graphic designer mate Stephen Fletcher of Big Impact Graphics can be contacted on fletchacha@gmail.com. $23 billion projects Later in the podcast, Sue talks about the “topping out” ceremony at the new 700-unit Pavilion project by Mirvac in the Olympic precinct – made unique because the workers all stood on balconies while the guests – limit of 10 –  performed a ceremony usually conducted on the roof, on the ground floor. On a more serious note, the story also discusses Mirvac’s $23billion portfolio of projects, fears of a 30 per cent drop in apartment prices and how social housing could save the post-covid economy.  That’s HERE. And finally, Sue’s “Hey Martha” is the brilliant take-down of UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s confusing coronavirus message by British comedian Matt Lucas (Little Britain) and you can find a full report on the original HERE. Listen to the podcast here
It’s an extra long Flat Chat Wrap this week, so strap yourselves in. First of all, there’s a discussion about how our pets could be getting stressed from getting too much attention. Apparently dogs and, especially, cats just need to be left alone sometimes, especially when they aren’t used to you hanging around the house all day. Resist the temptation to pat your napping cat on the head every time you walk past, says Sue Williams. And, of course, sleeping dogs should be left to lie. Then we have a chunk of JimmyT’s session on James Valentine last week, where issues like people installing cameras that look on to other residents property came up. By the way,  the answer that we didn’t get to (courtesy of Amanda Farmer, whose weekly podcast Jimmy was also on last week), was that you can pass a by-law forbidding owners from training cameras across common property, even when they’re installed on their lot properties. There was also a question about the height of balcony balustrades in older buildings – do you have to bring them up to code? And a tenant wanted to know if he had to move furniture from his car space when owners were allowed to have junk in theirs. You can also listen to the unadulterated version of James’ radio show from last Wednesday (May 6) on the ABC website HERE.   Finally, Sue  put on her property writer hat to discuss whether now is a good time to buy an apartment … or should we wait until prices drop even more?  You can read her story in Domain HERE. So much to listen to – just as well we can’t go to work!
Are you a gym junkie, hanging out for those palaces of pain, sweat and tears to re-open? Or are you just coming to the gradual conclusion that binge-watching TV while binge-eating corn chips and guacamole will come with a reckoning (somewhere around your waistline), some day soon. Well, if you're going to get moving, there's no time like the present - and time may be something of which you have plenty. So this week the podcast looks at the kind of exercise you could and probably should be doing in these plague-ridden days. Top fitness trainer Shannon Cleary Zooms in to roadtest a few home fitness programs for us and looks at some streaming exercise videos available online for no money! You can find links to the videos HERE. And she recalls who the somewhat surprising keenest audience was for her morning exercise show when she used to be on the telly. Scathing report Before we get down to that, this week’s podcast takes a look at a report issued last week in which the NSW government is taken to task over a raft of alleged failures directly related to apartment living. JimmyT and Sue consider why a scathing analysis of perceived failures in the areas of flammable cladding, certification and building defects barely rated a mention in the Press. OK, we have a global pandemic in full swing but does every story have to be about coronavirus? Apparently so (and we are just as guilty of that as anyone).  So you can expect the Upper House report has already found it’s way to a “nobody cares” file somewhere in Macquarie St. You'll find our comprehensive story on the report HERE. Live auctions return Finally, Sue tells us what a difference it will make to the world of real estate when live auctions and open homes return this weekend. You can read her story HERE. And she’ll explain how she accidentally turned her parents into addicts during the lockdown. It’s all in the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. And you can listen right here. Listen here
Sometimes the way we want to live influences architecture, sometimes architecture influences the way we live. There are still older blocks dotted around Sydney’s harbour suburbs where someone who wanted a penthouse with a view, constructed several floors of units for rent to support (in so many ways) the fabulous pad on the roof. Some original apartment blocks in our inner-cities have tiny kitchens because they originally had restaurants and dining rooms on their roofs (and dumb waiter pulley systems to deliver meals to those who didn’t want to leave their apartments). In this week’s Flat Chat Wrap, Sue Williams discusses a feature she’s written that examines the effect of the current lockdown on the way apartments will be designed in the future. With more people working from home, two trains of thought are in motion.  One, working from home can be a great thing, either permanently or part-time. Two, our homes aren’t ideally set up to allow us to do that. Architects whom Sue has interviewed predict popular demand for proper studies, balconies and shared open spaces, as well as more clearly defined separate areas within the apartments so that residents can get away from each other when they need to. Even two-story apartments could be the next big thing. Home working injuries Sue also raises the issue of workplace injuries in the home – apparently your employer is responsible for your workplace safety, even when you are working off your own dining table. With that in mind, Jimmy explains how squeezing an invisible orange can help your posture, especially when you spend hours hunched over your laptop on a coffee table. A strata lawyer speaks Also in this week’s podcast Jimmy and Sue chat with specialist strata lawyer David Sachs of Sachs Gerace Lawyers about the new short-term letting by-law provision in NSW and the ability of owners corporations to hold general meetings electronically, despite the Catch-22 of not being able to hold the meetings required to permit electronic meetings. Jimmy pats himself on the back for coming up with the one-person EGM plan which David says is perfectly legal, but suggests holding a plebiscite first, to show that the majority of owners want approval for electronic meetings. FYI, since this podcast was recorded, the Queensland government has announced that all body corporate meetings can now be conducted remotely, via electronic interfaces and voting, without requiring prior approval of owners. Surely NSW and Victoria can’t be too far behind, and avoid the one-person EGMs that Jimmy suggested. One interesting observation from David is that  owner corps often “push the envelope” with their decisions to achieve a specific outcome, and they can operate for years until someone who wants something different decides to challenge them at a tribunal. Coronavirus guide Later, Jimmy explains why the NSW SCA guide to dealing with coronavirus is really good but also just a bit too much.  Should information for strata managers and building managers be lumped in with essential advise for owners, committees and other residents? As in this post, he says no. Sue’s “Hey Martha!” is about how Captain Tom Moore raised $55 million for British National Health Service charities … and got to top of the pops. And Jimmy chooses a video showing how a deaf dog discovers it’s time for “walkies”! Listen here
In this week’s Flat Chat Wrap, Jimmy and Sue discuss the competing and often conflicting needs of those who are working from home and those who are working on their homes. On the one hand, there’s never been a better time to catch up on those little jobs – and some big ones – around the flat. People who live in houses are doing it, getting to project manage their own renovations.  For apartment dwellers, it’s not so easy. And for people who are genuinely working from home, having their thoughts and Zoom conference calls interrupted by drilling, sawing and hammering is far from ideal. Other unintended consequences of the Lockdown are the growing piles of garbage in our bin areas as more of us work and eat at home, overflowing clothing and recycling bins as we take the opportunity to have a proper clear-out of the stuff we don’t use or wear any more. Are Boomers the last generation to hold on to clothes until they fall apart rather than go out of fashion? Jimmy recalls a World Cup football teeshirt he still owns after 30 years.  How does he know how old it is?  It has “Italia 90” on the front. Dressing for success All of which leads neatly to what we wear while we’re working from home and how it affects our sense of being at work when we haven’t left our front rooms. Sue references an article she recently had published in the Sydney Morning herald which features a friend, Alice Hidajat, who dresses in a different smart outfit every day to work from home … with her laptop perched on her ironing board. You can see nine of Alice’s WFH ensembles HERE, Sue’s “pyjama inspired” outfit and the extremely casual Warren Coleman at his computer screen. Moving house Speaking of Warren, regular listeners will recall we spoke to Warren a few weeks ago, pre-Lockdown, when he and his partner Therese were getting ready to sell the apartment they’d lived in for 30 years. They avoided the ban on house viewings and auctions by about a week, but had to do their removals under Lockdown conditions.  Jimmy and Sue catch up with Warren via Zoom and ask exactly how that worked out.  Apparently gloves and face masks come off fairly quickly when a sweat is worked up. Social climbers In this week’s “Hey Marthas” Sue honours 99 year old Captain Tom Moore who has raised $25 million (the figure keeps going up) for Britain’s National Health Service by walking sponsored laps of his garden Inspired by him, 90-year-old Margaret Payne, from Ardvar, Sutherland, is aiming to scale the equivalent of the 731 metres of Scottish mountain Suliven, on the stairs inside her Highlands home. She was aiming for $20,000 for the NHS and instead has raised $150,000 by climbing her stairs 282 times. As promised, Jimmy has calculated that if you wanted to do a virtual climb of say Mount Kosciuszko (all 2228 metres above sea level) that will take 13,105 steps (@17cm per riser) or 795 floors of a modern apartment block. Slightly less challenging, you could replicate the actual 863 metre climb from Thredbo to the top of the mountain, which would be 5076 steps or 308 floors. But it doesn’t count if you’re under 90 years old. Listen here
This week’s Flat Chat Wrap has just about everything; pets, tradies, TV shows set in apartments and, of course, Airbnb - plenty to keep your spirits up through the Lockdown. Before we get to Jimmy’s rant about Airbnb (Sue says he is “obsessed”), there are other issues you might want to wrap your headphones around. For instance, did you know you can foster a pet, and that’s foster, rather than adopt, which of course you can do too. But it seems there is a need for people who suddenly have the time and maybe the temperament to give injured, sick and recovering animals the level of TLC they might not otherwise enjoy. Really, if you’re seeking companionship and maybe adding a little purpose that’s suddenly missing from your life, but you’re not sure if you want to make a long-term commitment, this could be anything from a trial run to a stepping stone. It’s a win-win (unless the prospect of the emotional trauma of giving your new friend back seems worse than living alone for weeks).  You’ll hear more about it on the pod and can read about it HERE. Home invasions Then we get to short-term letting agencies, their hosts and various shenanigans all of which come under the category of trying to mitigate the disastrous effects of coronavirus on the global home invasion – sorry, sorry – “sharing” business by taking advantage of the current crisis and, potentially at least, putting apartment residents’ lives at risk. First they wanted to lure people having to self-isolate, including returned travellers, into their abandoned apartments in our homes. Then it was people for whom working from home wasn’t an option. Then it was frontline health workers who rightly wanted to avoid the chance of carrying infections into their family homes. As we’ve said many times, they present like a social service but behave like the corporate predators that they truly are. Sue says our empty hotel rooms are the best possible places to house people who need or want to be isolated. Unfortunately, we’d recorded the podcast before this news came out, taking that idea even further. By-laws: A cunning plan The latest outrage, which even has Sue spitting computer chips, sees Airbnb sending an email from its Irish HQ telling its NSW hosts not to worry about the new laws that allow buildings to ban them because, they say, we can’t hold the meetings to do that under social distancing regulations, and we can’t have electronic or paper meetings unless we’ve already agreed that at a proper meeting in person. What a bunch of charmers! But Jimmy has a cunning plan which he explains on the podcast; basically it involves one chairperson, a security guard and a copy of the NSW Strata Schemes Management Act, Schedule 1, Section 17 (4). Good news for renters Moving on, Sue has good news for renters (and not so good for landlords) with rents plummeting and availability shooting up, especially in Hobart, which just happens to be the city where the State Government offered short-term holiday letting hosts free money if they would just put their properties back in the residential rental market. You hear more about the effects of the Lockdown on rents across Australia and read more about it HERE. Bad news for tradies It’s one of those unintended consequences but Sue has been working on a story about tradies who are doing it tough because strata managers, building managers, committees and individual owners are scared to allow them into their blocks in case they are carrying the virus. So while essential works are being ignored due to a large degree of over-caution, an annual industry worth $2 billion is losing 10 per cent of business per month, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to improve any time soon. Sue gives us the background to the story in the pod, by way of a preview. Keep an eye open for that one in the SMH or online in Domain. TV series set in apartments And finally we have a look at TV series set in flats and apartments,...
In this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. Jimmy and Sue look at the wealth of good advice about how to get through this crisis without the whole system falling around our ears. We log into a comprehensive newsletter that covers everything from managing facilities to online meeting etiquette for these days of Zoom and Skype. Even if your block is not  managed by our sponsors Strata Choice, you can access their Covid-19 Update page which is full of valuable advice and information. Levies losses At the same time as many of us are seeing a decline in our incomes, our strata schemes are facing increased costs simply because more people are working from home. Understandably, owners are looking to reduce their outgoings and the whole question of levies (or fees) raises its head.  However, it comes down to this: if you want to cut your levies, what services are you going to cut to make the savings? For owners corporations (body corporates), there’s the very real prospect of funds running out in the next quarter as owners who have lost their jobs can’t pay their levies on time. Now, those levies will be paid eventually – even if they have to be extracted from the sale of the unit concerned – but what happens in the interim? Lannock strata finance (another Flat Chat sponsor) is offering a line of credit through their Levy Assist Loans to owners corps to cover the shortfall.  However, that comes with its own complications: how do you collectively pay interest on a loan not everyone needed? The answer, unfortunately, may be to resist the temptation to waive penalty interest on the overdue levies – harsh as that may seem. Or you could just suck it up in the interests of sharing the pain. Would you dob? On a slightly different note, JimmyT and Sue Williams ask, would you dob in a neighbour who wasn’t socially isolating, whether it was hosting dinner parties or hanging out with their friends on common property? And what would you do if you were the secretary or chair who received the report? Informed and entertained And with a view to keeping ourselves informed and entertained during these isolated times Sue came up with a list of classic apartment-related movies,  See how many you would have chosen. Meanwhile, Jimmy talked about the political podcasts that keep him up to date with what’s happening elsewhere in the world, including NPR Politics, Pod Save the World, Guardian Politics Weekly and its Australian Cousin, the BBC’s Coronavirus Newscast and Embedded. And if you’re into property in all its glories, check out the Elephant in the Room, if only because they described Jimmy as “multi-talented” in the blurb for the episode on which he was a guest. Finally there's our best of frenemies, strata lawyer Amanda Palmer, who has just published her 208th episode ot the yourstrataproperty podcast. On a lighter note, to put a (wry) smile on your face, check out Judith Lucy’s Overwhelmed and Dying, Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb’s Chat 10 Looks 3  and the Friday Night Comedy on the BBC. Finally, not really a podcast, more of an audiobook and, admittedly, a bit of acquired taste, Ed Reardon’s Week is a radio sitcom about a failing writer and you can get the fourth series free if you sign up for a 30-day trial of Audible here. And Sue mentioned this brilliant coronavirus parody of Adele's Hello: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5azNpTwVk8 Play the podcast And finally, here’s where you can play our latest podcast:
In this week’s extra-long Flat Chat Wrap, obsession with coronavirus is spreading like, well, a virus.  Jimmy and Sue discuss how it may be having a crippling effect on that other viral sensation from recent years … Airbnb. Not only are their potential guests staying home, whether or not they want to, there was the decision by Airbnb head office to waive all cancellation fees, plus NSW hosts are about to be hit with another blow … new laws coming in next week mean unit owners will be able to pass by-laws banning short-term holiday lets from their blocks. With many holiday letting hosts virtually dumping their properties on to the residential let market, that’s a lot of prime apartments and houses coming up for knock-down rents – well, compared to what they were getting from tourist. So there will be a lot of choice for renters, not least the decision of whether to go for long leases – in case the tourists come flooding back in Spring and they get turfed out to make way – or to gamble on there being even more uncertainty and disruption down the line when their flexibility will be at a premium. Jimmy and Sue discuss which are the best options. With many apartment gyms and pools being closed due to the coronavirus threat –  rather than being managed properly to avoid breaching the social distancing regulations, residents are having to fall back on their own resources.  J&S recommend the Centr fitness videos promoted by actor Chris Hemsworth with six weeks free membership. If that sounds too much like hard work, try the Seven-minute Body Weight workout – aka the “hotel workout” which you can do in your own home without any additional equipment.  There’s an excellent example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jru5B044HOs You can load versions of that on to your phone so you can take it with you (if you were allowed to go anywhere.)  By the way, Jimmy has heard that Fair Trading is about to issue guidelines that suggest the cautious committees who shut our strata gyms down may have gone too far. Meanwhile, you can do what J&S did which was to dig out all their old unused exercise gear – and there’s a lot of it – plus buy a couple of weights from a sports shop (if you can get them, Jimmy says they’re selling like toilet paper) then find an online workout that suits you. And if just the thought of exercise is stressing you out even more than fear of Covid-19, Sue recommends this article in The Conversation about enjoying the simple pleasures of life. And for Sue they include this hilarious video about a man who thinks he’s receiving a Skype call: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0VHQj-6lBA. And finally, a song about what we do – or plan to do – during our coronavirus-enforced isolation, purloined from this BBC Sounds podcast of The Now Show. Listen to the podcast here
In this week’s Flat Chat Wrap, Jimmy and Sue discuss Australia's coronavirus lockdown and what it means to people living in apartments. There’s the whole issue of returned travellers settling in to 14 days of self-isolation and whether or not they really will wear masks when they pass through common property, as government health measures demand. We look at lifts and whether or not we should travel in them with strangers.  And then there are gyms and pools, with news that some apartment blocks are shutting them down, just to be on the safe side. But what do you do when the government also advises you to exercise to boost your immunity?  Is the thump-thump of you exercising at home not really just revenge for the late night doof-doof of the downstairs neighbours’ sound system? Pets and hoarding are also on the agenda along with growing outrage over Airbnb hosts offering self-isolation packages in apartment blocks. Should we turn our asylum seeker detention centres into quarantine camps for suspected Covid-19 carriers and low-level sufferers? And there’s a fascinating clip from a BBC podcast about coronavirus misinformation, with Jimmy explaining how he fell for bogus medical advice passed on by a normally reliable strata source. And you can find a more detailed and expansive look at coronavirus conspiracies here. FYI, if you want the latest real and truly reliable information on Covid-19, log into the Federal Government Health website, the NSW Health website, and the Victoria Health website. There are also websites for Queensland, WA, South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and the NT. Finally, on the bright side, there’s a virtual visit to a couple of zoos, with furry friends to keep you company during your less-than-splendid isolation. Melbourne Zoo has a live ‘animal-cam’ where you can watch cute snow leopard cubs, majestic giraffes, penguins and other animals. Meanwhile, Mogo Zoo on the NSW South Coast has a beautiful picture gallery and you can support these survivors of the recent bushfires who are doing it tough all over again with tourist numbers, obviously, having hit a new low. Enjoy.
In this week’s Podcast, Jimmy and Sue examine the plusses and minuses in the new NSW rental laws, which tilt things in tenants’ favour but don’t go all the way. For instance, tenants will be able to make changes to their rented properties – subject to approval that can’t reasonably be refused – and they’ll be able to demand minimum standards of habitation. They’ll know what their break fees will be if they choose to end the lease and leave early, and they’ll have to be informed about anything significant regarding the property’s history – like, if it had previously been used to manufacture drugs (the example Fair Trading uses). And landlords will have to show them their apartment building's by-laws BEFORE they sign the lease for a flat. But there will still be the option of no-cause termination of leases for the landlords, who will only be required to give notice if they decide they want the tenant out for any reason – like, if they want to get another tenant in so they can put the rent up a lot. The old “my brother is getting married and needs somewhere to live” story will still be available as an excuse to evict the tenants so the landlord can charge the next residents a higher rent. That might even be more the case with the new laws limiting rent rises to one per year for ongoing tenancies. You’ll find a rundown of the whole comprehensive law changes HERE. Meanwhile we also look at why the NSW Liberals backed away from a law that would ban developers from being elected to local councils. [Spoiler Alert! It’s party politics.] If you recall the original  story a couple of weeks ago, the NSW Libs were about to thwart the Right in their party room and bring in a long overdue law. Now Labor have been trying to get in on the act. And we look at how the coronavirus is changing all our lives, and not always for the worse.  But first we have to cope with all the confusion and contradictions as different experts recommend different things … and then the politicians get involved. All that and more in this week’s extra-long edition of the Flat Chat Wrap. If you want to get new episodes of the Flat Chat Wrap and as soon as they are posted, just subscribe to one of the links underneath the player at the top of this page … it’s completely free!  And if you enjoy the podcasts, please share with a friend, (especially in strata) and leave us a rating – it helps people to find us.
JimmyT and Sue discuss his long chat with the building commissioner, what you can do to avoid coronavirus in your apartment block and how Sue learned about the great Australian toilet roll panic, all over the newspapers ... in India. If you want to get new episodes of the Flat Chat Wrap and as soon as they are posted, just subscribe to one of the links underneath the player at the top of this page … it’s completely free!  And if you enjoy the podcasts, please share with a friend, (especially in strata) and leave us a rating – it helps people to find us.
In this week’s Flat Chat Wrap, JimmyT and Sue Williams discusses the possibility of having free, or non-profit strata managers. Would it work, who would use the service and wouldn’t rich owners in boutique blocks just rort the system if it was done on the basis of the size of the building? Also they talk about the 100-year-old converted mansion where the owners ripped out a faulty alarm system and never got round to replacing it. And there’s the question of a tenant who has replaced the original handle on his rented apartment with an electronic key pad, which not only keeps the landlord locked out, but isn’t fire compliant. If you want to get new episodes of the Flat Chat Wrap and as soon as they are posted, just subscribe to one of the links underneath the player at the top of this page … it’s completely free!  And if you enjoy the podcasts, please share with a friend, (especially in strata) and leave us a rating – it helps people to find us.
Roughly once a month JimmyT drops into the ABC radio studios for a chat with James Valentine about strata and all the myriad related subjects This month they start off talking about charging electric cars in strata schemes but pretty soon the calls from JV's listeners start pouring in. One caller wants to know if the owners in two out of three buildings in the same strata scheme should be responsible for the cabling when the third building gets  NBN fibre to the basement, rather than fibre to the node that the other blocks have. Another caller in a duplex wants to know what to do when their neighbour (and half-owner) wants to render the external walls of their half, but the caller can't afford to match it. A frustrated member of a committee wants to know if there's anything they can do about owners who wilfully ignore warnings not to park in visitor parking. Also, who's responsible when goods stored in a garage get damaged by water pouring through in heavy rains? And is a flat occupied by different sets of employess of the company that owns it short-term letting?  And what do you do when the visiting employees ignore or flout the strata by-laws and rules? These questions were all addressed in the Flat Chat slot in James Valentine's Afternoons. You can catch up with the rest of James' daily shows HERE. If you want to get new episodes of the Flat Chat Wrap and as soon as they are posted, just subscribe to one of the links underneath the player at the top of this page … it’s completely free!  And if you enjoy the podcasts, please share with a friend, (especially in strata) and leave us a rating – it helps people to find us.
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