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.
145 Episodes
With property prices soaring but houses outstripping apartments, as detailed in this story, we try to make sense of it all. Why is the gap between the cost of houses and apartments growing, even though apartment prices are coming back up to pre-pandemic levels. And will the current apartment glut in Melbourne – with consequential 11 per cent drops in rents – flip to a shortage, soaring sales prices and runaway rents as soon as our borders reopen and short-term rentals are re-listed? Who knows?  But we try to make sense of it all. LISTEN HERE Then we visit the vexed question, raised on the Flat Chat Forum, of whether or not it’s legal for your owners corporation or strata committee to make donations to political campaigns or fighting funds – even those related to strata issues. If not, is there any way owners can support campaigns and movements they agree with, but not all of their neighbours do? And then there’s another old chestnut form the forum – does your owners corporation have a duty of care to enforce by-laws? We say yes and explain why. That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 House prices seem to have gone nuts all of a sudden. Sue  00:03 They certainly have and unit prices are going up as well, but not by as much. Jimmy  00:07 And in some places, are actually going down, I believe. Sue  00:10 Yes. In some places they are going down; in areas where there's an oversupply. Jimmy  00:14 Okay, well, we're going to be talking about that; we're going to be talking about something that's come up on the Flat Chat forum, about whether or not your Owners Corporation can make donations to campaigns. Sue  00:26 That's interesting. Jimmy  00:27 And we'll be talking about an old chestnut, about whether Owners Corporations have a duty to act on their bylaws. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:41 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain Jimmy  00:43 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. MUSIC Jimmy Okay, Sue, you've been keeping an eye on house prices. Part of your many duties, writing for Domain. Sue  01:06 Yes, that's right. It's been kind of quite hard to keep your eye on them all the time, because they're moving so quickly. Jimmy  01:11 It's kind of surprising, isn't it? That we're, you know, we've just come out of there so we haven't even properly come out of the pandemic. Sue  01:20 But we just seem to be valuing our home so much more now. I mean, most most of us are now working from home a lot more. Time in lockdown has allowed us to look at our houses, and homes and apartments and think, what do we need? We need more space? Are we thinking of relocating? Actually spending a period, thinking about what we want out of life. Jimmy  01:40 And what effect is this having on apartments? Sue  01:43 It's interesting, because house prices, as you so rightly say, have gone up enormously. Apartment prices have generally gone up as well, but by nowhere near as much. So, it does mean with a growing gap between prices;  between houses and apartments, more and more people are having to look at buying apartments, when maybe once they would have wanted to go and buy houses. So, there's gonna be a lot more new people moving into apartments, because, you know, it makes financial sense as well. We kind of all really adore the apartment lifestyle. Some of these people have never lived in apartments before, so they're not really in a position to be able to appreciate that. But, they're looking in terms of finances and when you look at the Sydney median house price now, it's hit a new record,  $1.31 million, which is incredible. The unit median is now $754,000. So, last year, houses cost, on average 55% more than apartments. This year in Sydney, they cost 74% more than apartments. Jimmy  02:02 Wow!
If you have a hankering for the high life and have a lazy $22 million lying around, you could score an apartment in the huge Crown tower above James Packer’s (currently non-functioning) casino. If that’s too rich for your blood, how much would you expect to pay for a two-bed, two-bath pad on a lower floor? All is revealed in our Flat Chat Wrap podcast this week. But before we get to that, there’s the small matter of how data mining is going to lead to a trebling of the number of apartment blocks under construction that will fall under the critical glare of NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler. Listen Here As this story explains, Fair Trading is planning to dig into its accumulated data to find out which certifiers have historically signed off on the most problematic buildings, then reverse engineer that to find out which buildings under construction those certifiers are now connected with. That will trigger a visit from someone from the Building Commissioner’s office who will start tapping tiles and probing plaster to see how well or badly this building has been constructed. Then we get to the issue of the high cost of buying into Sydney’s tallest apartment block, the Crown Tower at Barangaroo. Yes, an apartment changed hands for $22m recently but there are others there that are a lot cheaper … okay, a bit cheaper. The we look at the new 899-unit apartment complex proposed for Campbelltown and discuss the issues confronting owners in separate strata schemes that are also part of a larger scheme sharing some facilities. And finally, Jimmy answers a question asked by Sue last week – will the big insurers ever come back and cover the construction of apartment block over three storeys high. That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. Transcript In Full Jimmy 0:00Big news on the defects front, Sue? Sue 0:02Yes, absolutely. The New South Wales Government is acting to start auditing a lot more buildings than they usually do (and they have been doing over the last six months). Jimmy 0:11Okay, because we saw that report last week about how a huge percentage of defective buildings were certified by like, six different certifiers. Sue 0:23That's right; about a third of risky buildings, by the same six repeat-offending certifiers. Jimmy 0:30We're going to be talking about that; we're going to be talking about a big new development and I'm going to be answering a question that Sue asked last week (and I went off-track, and answered a completely different one). I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue 0:50And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy 1:09And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] JimmyJust as we were about to sit down and record this podcast, a press release came in from New South Wales Fair Trading, Sue, and it's big news. Sue 1:20That's right. Kevin Anderson, the Minister for Better Regulation, has launched a data-led audit regime to target the state's high-risk building certifiers and triple the number of buildings to come under scrutiny by the building regulator. Jimmy 1:34What sort of numbers are we talking about? Sue 1:36Well, at the moment, there's a pre-occupational certificate audit regime, and they target around 50 site-based audits every six months. But, with this new regime of audits, they're expecting to be able to audit an additional 100 to 150 buildings every six months, which more than triples the regulator's compliance and enforcement efforts on residential apartments. Jimmy 2:00Wow. Sue 2:01So, that's a big jump. Jimmy 2:02It's huge. So, they're basing this on certain new data or analyzing data they already have? Sue 2:11Well, they've got apparently, new digital tools, where they can analyze the data really effectively, because apparently, they've got so much data coming in; they've got something like 170 million lines of data to look at certifi...
There’s a horror story, a happy ending and a bit of housekeeping in this week’s podcasts. The horror is the $714 million owed by Home Building Compensation for all the insurable building defects in Australian homes. And that is money that we, the taxpayers, will eventually have to pay It was all revealed in this story in the Sun-Herald which made us think, if that’s the level of defects in homes than can be insured – anything three storeys or under  or any work costing $20,000 or over – how may defects are there in the high-rises that CAN’T be insured? Listen Here The happy ending comes courtesy of Waverley Bowling Club in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs – a struggling sports facility that was at various times going to be two 45-metre high rises plus a training ground for Easts rugby league club, and then an aged care home with attached child care facility. As outlined in this story, Easts, the Waverley club and developers Mirvac have come up with a plan to build 55 luxury apartments for over-55s, plus two world class bowling greens and a café restaurant. By the way, in the podcast I refer to the bowls as bowling balls.  They’re not balls, they're bowls.  I apologise. Finally we chat briefly about why we’ve (ever so slightly) changed the look of the Flat Chat website. I’ve never been a huge fan of form over function and we needed people to be able to access the latest Forum topics high on the front page.  So it looks a little busier but we think it still works.  What do you reckon? You’ll find a full explanation pus an email address where you can send your complaints or kudos, HERE. TRANSCRIPTION IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 So, your friend David Chandler, has interfered with the completion of our renovation; did you know that? Sue  00:06 No! Jimmy  00:07 We were supposed to be getting a silicone guy come in on Saturday, and he couldn't, because there was a building they're working on that the Commissioner had been through and insisted that all the bathrooms had to be 're-caulked', as they call it. Sue  00:25 Oh, gosh! David didn't let me know that! Jimmy  00:29 So basically, there were panic stations. Sue  00:32 So, that's the reason I still can't have a shower in my fabulous new renovated bathroom? Jimmy  00:37 Yeah, David Chandler. Sue  00:38 Bloody hell! Jimmy  00:40 We will be talking about, not renovations, but rectification of defects in a minute, and we're going to talk about a rescue plan for the Waverley Bowling Club, which is going to result in 55 luxury apartments for over 55's, and we're going to talk about the redesign of the Flat Chat website. It's not redesigned; it's a bit of a tweak, that's all. I will explain what we've been up to. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  01:13 And I'm Sue Williams. I write about property for Domain, Jimmy  01:16 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. That was a huge story in the Sun-Herald at the weekend, about the amount that's having to be paid in home building compensation. Sue  01:41 That's right. I didn't quite understand it, though... I wanted you to explain it to me, because builders pay for home building compensation. Jimmy  01:51 HBC, yeah. Sue  01:52 But, then they pass the cost on to homebuyers? Jimmy  01:55 Yes. Sue  01:55 How does that work out? Can you explain to me? Jimmy  01:58 Okay, well, first of all, it's only for buildings that are under four storeys. Sue  02:04 Right. Buildings over that can't get any insurance whatsoever, which is ridiculous. Jimmy  02:09 That's because in 2010, the insurers (the private insurers) said, 'look, all these buildings are being built, that are being self-certified. It's just too big a risk. We're out of here. It's going to cost us our industry, if we insure buildings that we know are going to be shoddily built.
Apologies for subjecting you to another short-term letting vent, but after last week's state government schemozzle when the new holiday rental regulations were announced, then shelved, we thought we’d better have a look at what was going on. And it turns out it was a case of history repeating itself.  Remember a couple of years ago when the then Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and former Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean were about to announce new NSW short-term letting regulations that would basically have handed the whole box and dice to Airbnb-style hosts on a plate? The microphones were plugged in, the TV cameras lights were at full dazzle, and then right at the last minute a couple of Government MPs realised that residential rentals across the state were about to be handed wholesale to a bunch of American “disruptors” with few if any comeback or restraints. Listen Here Suddenly it was mikes off, lights out and “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. Well, something similar happened last week, only the announcement of what would probably have been the toughest short-term letting regulations in Australia was made and then three days later they were shelved until November What happened? Surely it wasn't just that holiday rental giants Stayz and apartment owner advocates OCN both complained bitterly, was it? Listen to the podcast for our somewhat cynical insight into the whole farrago. Also we look at Mascot Towers, two years down the track, the massive financial losses apartment owners face and what we think the government should do. And Sue visits West Australia where property is going through the roof in a state that almost defines the phrase "boom and bust". That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. Transcript in full Jimmy  0:00  Wow, what a week; double whammy! No sooner had we published last week's podcast, all about the new Airbnb or short-term letting regulations, then the government did a U -turn. Sue  0:14  Yeah, they were obviously listening to you, Jimmy and thought, 'wow, we realize there's so many problems with it.' Jimmy  0:20  Then I've looked on the internet and discovered that you couldn't actually hear the podcast anyway. We had about 11 listeners and then you were away; you were in Perth? Sue  0:31  Yes, I was. Jimmy  0:32  So, I couldn't re-record. Sue  0:34  But you managed to sort it out. Jimmy  0:35  Kind of, yes and here we are today. We're going to talk about why we think the government changed its mind. We're going to talk about Mascot Towers; the latest on that. And, we're going to talk about a massive projected increase in house prices in WA. Sue  0:53  A sign of my dedication, going over there to check it out for you. Jimmy  0:56  Absolutely, going round all the real estate agent windows, taking notes. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  1:08  And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  1:11  And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. So, that was a pretty sudden turnaround by the government on short-term letting. I mean, they released it on Friday afternoon, a week ago. 'Take the trash out day' (they call it on the West Wing here, where you get rid of all the stories that you don't want  to have too much coverage in the weekend papers, in the hope that they'll all be forgotten about, come Monday). The Owners Corporation Network got really upset about some of the provisions. The Stayz people (I think they're owned by Expedia), got very, very, very upset and Airbnb stayed very, very, very quiet. Sue  2:07  Who knows what they think? Jimmy  2:08  I think we know what they think. Then suddenly, the planning minister came out and said in the interest of conciliation and fairness and giving everyone a chance to adjust to the plans, they were putting them off until November. Sue  2:22
Sometimes you can be just too efficient. There we were with the NSW government's proposed regulations on short-term letting hot off the printer, plus industry responses and reactions from apartment owners ... then the Government panicked in the face of widespread complaints from all directions and put them on hold. Just as well this week’s podcast also deals with those other perennial issues in strata – parking and defects. However, our chat about the now-shelved short-term rentals code of conduct and related regulations - which seem to have annoyed just about everyone on all sides - is still relevant because these issues aren't going to go away, even if the solutions are seen to be more of a problem than the problem. As detailed here, Planning NSW had done a magnificent job in uniting both pro and anti-holiday letting bodies … if only in everyone being cheesed off with the state’s planners. The changes have been delayed until November 1 to "give everyone a chance to adjust." Have a listen and see what we need but aren't going to get until November at the soonest. And see if you can tell which policies will survive six months of pressure from Airbnb and Stayz. Oh, and apologies to anyone who tried to listen to the podcast but couldn't. Not our fault - there was just some glitch somewhere in the internet. I suspect the Russians, but it's all been fixed now (fingers crossed). Listen Here Then we move on to the prospective property purchaser who found that there’s nothing she or Building Commissioner David Chandler can do about an allegedly defective building that probably should never have had a certificate of occupation issued – certainly not on the basis of the certification signed by an unlicensed and unqualified tradie. In Maryam Behrouz’s case, the building has been certified for occupation, the developer denies the claims of serious defects and she either has to complete the purchase or walk away from her $65,000 deposit. In Mr Chandler’s situation, this all happened before he was given the power to block certification and as a result, he says, it’s not in his domain. Fair Trading – the department in charge of builders, tradies, strata and certifiers –  typically, says it has nothing to do with the problem as it’s “contractual”. Some things never change. And finally, we float the idea of providing a service that can move illegally parked cars without towing them. Have a look at the video along with this story and see what you think. That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. Transcript in full Jimmy  00:00 We had a bit of a podder's nightmare this week. We prepared our episode for this week's podcast, all about the new Airbnb or short term letting laws and regulations and what we thought was good and what we thought was not so good. And we got it all packaged up and ready to go out. And late on Tuesday night after the podcast had gone out, the government changed its mind in the face of some fairly hostile criticism and decided to postpone everything until November. Now that left us with our podcast having gone out to the world, and us commenting on something that's still gonna happen, it's just not going to happen very soon or in the form that possibly we had thought it would. Anyway that I think it's still a worthwhile discussion. The rules are on the table, they're going to be pulled apart and put back together again, and they may end up being pretty much as they are in this discussion. We're also talking about that terrible situation where the young woman had put in a deposit for an apartment and then discovered that not only were there defects but that also the certification was extremely suspect. And we're going to talk about an interesting way of moving cars without towing them when they're parked in the wrong part of your car park. I will as usual be talking to Sue Williams, and I am as usual, Jimmy Thomson,
This week, having survived a computer crisis on the home office front, we delve deeper into the differences between the way renters are treated in Victoria and NSW. In the same week that Victoria’s new rental laws come in, curbing “no reason” evictions of tenants, NSW Fair Trading confirms that they will be reinstated as soon as the post-Covid period is over in September. So why should property owners not have the right to end their tenancy leases when they want to?  Why should they need to prove that their reasons are valid, such as showing that they have permission to undertake renovations, or that they have signed a contract to sell the property? Jimmy puts up a strong argument that many landlords in Australia owe a debt to the community as a whole and that involves treating tenants fairly and decently. You can find the details of the NSW transitional measures for renters and landlords HERE and the Victorian regulations HERE. Listen Here Then we move on to the “brave” developer who, according to a story in a recent Sunday Telegraph, complained about building commissioner David Chandler closing down one of his apartment block building sites because of defects that were being built into the structure – faults that the eventual purchasers would probably end up paying to fix. According to a story in the Sunday Telegraph last week, Omar Abdul-Rahman, director of OandE Developments, had a litany of building defect complaints raised against him, or companies of which he was a director, dating back to 2017. He complained that he had never been on a building site where Australian Building Standards were resolutely adhered to. Maybe so, but if he wasn’t on David Chandler’s radar before, he certainly will be now Finally, we move on to an idea being floated – not for the first time – that voting at strata AGMs should be compulsory, as it is at every other level of the democratic process. Jimmy argues that if strata really is the fourth level of government, then it should have the same compulsion to vote as in national, state and council elections. Sue argues that it’s up to strata schemes to engage their owners more effectively and if they can’t do that, then why should owners turn out for dreary nights at AGMs when either nothing happens or nasty personal disputes are played out in public. That’s all (and more) in this week’s podcast. Transcript In Full Jimmy  00:00 Computers, eh?! Sue  00:01 Yes! Jimmy  00:02 They're great when they work, and they're bloody useless when they don't. Sue  00:07 Well, I had a problem with my computer and you tried to fix it (which I was very grateful for), but apparently you 'bricked' the computer. Jimmy  00:16 You've never heard that phrase before? Sue  00:17 No, I havent. Jimmy  00:18 Which means literally, you have turned the computer into something that is as useful as a brick. Sue  00:25 Yes. Well, thank you very much for that, Jimmy! Jimmy  00:28 I went and helped you get a new set up and almost stuffed that up, because I used the wrong dongle. Sue  00:37 A complete nightmare. I hate computers! Jimmy  00:40 I think they're great. Okay, today we're going to be talking about different attitudes to renters, between New South Wales and Victoria. We're going to be talking about the brave but possibly foolish man who decided to take on Building Commissioner, David Chandler. And, we're going to discuss whether it would be a good idea to have compulsory voting at AGM's in strata buildings. I'm Jimmy Thomson. I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  01:10 I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  01:13 This is the Flat Chat Wrap. So, it was a very interesting coincidence regarding two political changes in Victoria and New South Wales the other week, concerning rentals. In New South Wales,
In what turned out to be a fairly hectic week we hit a very welcome speedbump in the form of enforced rest and relaxation at a new apartment block launch, of all places. The apartment block was Portman on the Park in Sydney’s Green Square where Mirvac launched their latest concept with an evening of meditation, massage and mineral water. You can hear all about that and what’s so different about this project on the podcast where we also caught up with architects Tina Engelen who co-designed another iconic, environmentally conscious block, the Altair in Sydney's Kings Cross. Listen Here So what has changed in her view of her job in the 20-plus years since the Altair was built?  A lot but she still constructs great big wide buildings that are really a series of independent towers stacked side by side. You’ll hear Tina and her collaborator Will Fung talk about the challenges of creating more intimate areas in massive buildings too. You can find out more about the Portman on the Park here. Then we move on to the NSW government’s Real Estate Experts panel which has been set up to make the industry more responsive to the needs of their consumers (it says here). Great idea – shame they didn’t include any consumer groups around the table.  Look forward to more reports on people telling us what they think we should have rather than us telling them what we need. Next, it's the NSW state government’s invisible blacklist for short-term holiday letting miscreants.  Plus, why, unlike in Victoria, landlords don’t need a reason to terminate rental agreements. And finally, there’s a tribute to Barry Dickson, who was the real Darryl Kerrigan of The Castle, holding out in his little bungalow on a corner as high-rises went up all around him.  That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. Transcript in Full Jimmy  00:00 It's been a busy week in strata-land. Sue 00:02 Yes! Jimmy  00:03 Well, we were at what is possibly the most relaxing launch of a new apartment building, ever. Sue 00:10 That's true… Jimmy 00:12 And, all sorts of announcements from the government, so we'd better get cracking! I'm Jimmy Thomson; I edit the Flat Chat website and write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:23 And I’m Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:27 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy  00:47 We were at a very relaxing launch (it was kind of weird, to be honest), at the Mirvac Portman on the Park building. Sue  00:55 It's centered around wellness; everything's very healthy and sustainable and green. The building's meant to make you happy and relaxed, so they tried to make us happy and relaxed at the launch. Jimmy  01:15 Well yes, to give us a sense of what it might be to live there, because they’ve got a building in George St (an office building), which has a ‘WELL’ rating, and they want that to be the first apartment building in Australia to have a WELL rating, so I had a quick look at what gets you a WELL rating. Sue 01:35 What does? Jimmy  01:36 Clean water, clean air and good light, so basically anything that helps you to be physically and mentally healthy, is going to get you those things. We had a water sampling… Sue  01:50 A water tasting, and because I don't drink, I thought I’d be really good at the water tasting, but in fact I was rubbish. Jimmy  02:02 Almost got them all exactly wrong! We had very nice food; very healthy food and then we were all taken into a darkened room and we had to meditate. Sue  02:13 We had a guided meditation… Jimmy 02:18 Which I found quite stressful. Sue 02:21 Because you had to breathe at the same time. There was a special length of breath that you had to have, which was a bit beyond me. Jimmy  02:24 ‘Hold your breath for eight seconds.’ Sue 02:30 That's not relaxing at all! Jimmy 02:32
In this week’s Flat Chat Wrap we discuss the awful story about the young woman who put her life savings into a deposit on a flat in a block that’s turned out not only to be riddled with defects, but was certified by an unlicensed tradie and subsequently OK’d by the local council. Now she faces the very real choice between losing her $60k+ deposit or finalising the purchase of a flat she knows is seriously defective and with no legal approvals. Listen here Then there’s the local council that’s telling developers they can build higher if they don’t install gas but do put solar panels on the roof to supply 40 percent of the block’s electricity needs. This is a clear example of a council taking positive action on climate change – and if you wonder if that’s an over-reach, ask the people being rescued from floods right now. But can electricity ever be as good as gas for cooking?  One celebrity chef thinks so. We also hear about government plans to make it harder for developers to build “affordable” new generation boarding houses.  Why would they make it harder?  Because developers are getting planning concessions and then charging top dollar for the bed-sits. Wow!  Developers taking advantage of planning concessions to make some extra dosh?  Who’da thunk it? And finally, there’s the couple who were so worried about the potential noise from proposed renovations in the apartment block next to their luxury beach-side home, that they bought the whole block. Is it so they can, if they want, shut the renos down? Or do they just want to be able to choose their neighbours? That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. Transcript In Full Jimmy  00:00 They say it never rains, but it pours. It's certainly pouring outside at the moment, and it's been raining stories on your computer, Sue Williams? Sue  00:09 It sure has. Jimmy  00:10 We have a lot to get through today. We've got a story about a woman who's going to lose a deposit on her apartment because somebody certified it, who wasn't entitled to certify it. We've got a story about a developer, building apartments with no gas for cooking. We've got a story about developers wanting to develop… what do you call them? Sue 00:20 New generation boarding houses. Jimmy 00:24 New generation boarding houses, and the couple who have bought the apartment block next door, so that it doesn't get renovated and disturb their peace and quiet. If only we had that much money!  I'm Jimmy Thomson. I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:58 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  01:01 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. Okay, Sue, a terrible story about somebody who put a deposit down on a flat and discovered that the apartment had been certified by somebody who was not in fact, a certifier? Sue 01:33 Yeah, I think he was an unlicensed tradie, wasn’t he?  He was a bricklayer or something like that, who no longer had a license. Jimmy  01:43 So, he just signed off on this certification, and so that meant that the council gave them a certificate of occupancy; is that correct? Sue  01:49 That's right, even though they discovered there were considerable non-compliance’s in the building. There were huge faults in the building, but poor Marianne has no option really, but to carry on with her purchase, because otherwise she's going to lose her deposit. Jimmy  02:07 I mean, what's the point of having certification, if anybody can come along and certify, and there's no comeback? The council just goes, ‘oh, yes, certified.’ Then you say, ‘well, the certifier shouldn't have certified it,’ and the council say, ‘yeah, there's all these compliance issues, but we're going to allow it to go through.’ Where is the consumer protection? Sue  02:26 Yep, it's a ridiculous system; private certification always has been.
Are you over working from home?  Does your formerly perfectly adequate apartment now seem tiny.  Is your kitchen table too high and your laptop screen too small? Are you one of those people who gets up and dresses as if they were going to the office – then just goes to the spare room? Or do you take personal pride in how much of the day you can spend in your pyjamas? Importantly, and are you missing those moments of splendid isolation on your bike, bus or train that transport you mentally into work mode as your body is moved from home to the workplace. As this story from the Guardian shows, some frustrated commuters are prepared to fake it if they can’t actually make it. As pressure quietly mounts to get more people back to the office, there are still plenty of us who don’t have that choice and may even miss the journey to and from work more than the experience of being in an office. Listen Here Enter, the Virtual Commute championed by Microsoft (who else?), it allows you to make that mental transition into your working day while your body stays exactly where it is. We’re talking about that, and other coping strategies, on this week’s podcast. Also, we’ll be looking at how the lure of free money may be helping some people overcome their concerns about the state of the apartment building industry. And, on that topic, we revisit the “worst block in NSW” that prompted Building Commissioner David Chandler to be given his sweeping powers to shut down building sites and demand repairs for badly consturcted high-rises. All, and more, in this week's Flat Chat wrap. Transcript in full Jimmy  00:00 When was the last time you worked in an office? Sue  00:03 Gosh, about 20 years ago, I think. Jimmy  00:09 I occasionally have to, for special projects. I have to go and spend time in an office and I'm really, really bad at it. Sue  00:18 Absolutely. I sometimes have to go into an office, and it takes me ages to work out what to wear. I'm just completely out of practice. Jimmy  00:25 I'm thinking more in terms of people coming up to you and saying, ‘oh, how was your weekend?’ My instinctive response is, ‘what is it to you? I'm trying to work here,’ which is not the appropriate response. There are some people who, apparently, can't wait to get back to the office, who have been working from home. We'll be talking about that and we'll be talking about the end of the Home Builder grant, which is ending in just a couple of weeks. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:59 And I'm Sue Williams. I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  01:02 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy  01:15 There's a big push on, to get people to go back to work in their offices. Mainly, I think, from the little cafes around office blocks in the city. Sue  01:32 That's very expensive real estate, those commercial offices. They're designed to foster the cultural capital of companies and provide good workspaces for people. As you said in the intro, we've worked from home for a long time, so we've got a good desk, we've got good chairs; we've got space. We've got office cats. We've got everything, really, but a lot of people are working in their bedroom or their kitchen, on dining room tables, which are the wrong height, and they're getting back injuries. It's not really very good for them. While productivity soared at first, they've noticed that productivity is now flagging a little bit Jimmy  02:13 I saw a politician saying that, and it made me wonder, has anybody done any test; any checks, or any measures on this? Or, is this just a grumpy old politician saying everybody should be back in the office? This is a politician in Canberra, saying that all the civil servants should be back in their offices, rather than sitting at home in their pajamas. Sue  02:38
There’s a few differences in this week’s podcast from previous editions. For a start, Sue is on the other end of a Zoom call as she takes advantage of easing travel restrictions to get out and promote her new book … and finds herself attacked by birds on the Gold Coast. Having survived that, we discuss the latest twist in the pets saga as celebrity dog owners are told they are living in a cats-only block (maybe that's why they call it NCAT). And the Tribunal Member decrees the recent Court of Appeals ruling that blanket pet bans are invalid is irrelevant. Isn't banning dogs but allowing cats discriminatory? Who are we to judge?  Listen Here Then, another change is that we have short audio grabs from interesting people, rather than long interviews.  And we have several of them. Sue joins Building Commissioner David Chandler on a development and sees for herself the galvanising effect this force of nature – ok, force of structure – has on the developers, architects engineers and builders when he sweeps into a building site. And you’ll never guess the one thing he always heads for, photographs and then confronts the developer with. Finally, Jimmy visits a new apartment that’s been tiled with “micro-recycled” product made from old clothes and glass. That’s all in this weeks’ Flat Chat Wrap. Transcript in full Jimmy  00:00 Well, this is a bit strange. I'm sitting looking at an empty chair, and that's because my normal sparring partner and co-host is not here. She's on the Gold Coast, and that's because now that all the travel restrictions are lifted, she can do her book tour, promoting her new book. In real life; in person. She doesn't have to do it on Zoom, which is ironic, because now she has to do this podcast on Zoom. We'll be talking to her later, about things like the new twist in the pet laws, her visit to a site with Building Commissioner David Chandler, and a new product that I went to investigate in an apartment block, which is a tile made out of old glass and old clothes. I'm Jimmy Thomson, and this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy Sue, what are you doing in the Gold Coast? Sue  01:23 I'm being attacked by birds at the moment. I'm just in the Gold Coast doing a talk about the history of the beginnings of colonial Sydney. Jimmy 01:31 Why would you be doing that? Sue 01:35 It’s related to my book, an historical novel, called Elizabeth & Elizabeth, about Elizabeth MacArthur and Elizabeth Macquarie in the early days of the colony. The book is apparently going extremely well, so I'm doing a little mini-tour. I've done a few Zoom talks and meetings; you know, talks in front of lots of different people, and this is my first one in person. So, with the borders open, they're doing it here. Jimmy  02:01 Which means you have to talk to me via Zoom. Sue  02:06 Yes, that’s right, but never mind. The sound is okay. Jimmy  02:09 It's not bad. You're sounding better than me; I don't know how that works. This whole thing with pets, has reared up again. Sue  02:19 Yeah, and in quite a bizarre way. It always seems to be, you just never can quite predict it, really. We've had the big fight about allowing pets into buildings. Then we've had the Court of Appeals saying, well, no, blanket bans on pets aren't allowed and now we had a couple who had a dog. They went into a building that didn't allow dogs. Kind of a little bit like Jo Cooper at Horizon (which started this whole fuss off), and they were told no, they had to get rid of their dog. So, they went to NCAT, saying, ‘well, the Court of Appeal has said blanket bans are unconscionable.’ Then NCAT came back with a very interesting ruling, because that building didn't actually have a blanket ban on pets. It only had a blanket ban on dogs. It actually allowed cats and fish, so he said the ruling wasn't relevant. Incredible, really, the twists and turns of this whole saga.
What do you do when you want the shared responsibility of strata but don’t particularly want to live with people above and below you? You buy or rent a townhouse, which is the fancy-pants modern name for what we used to call terraces. It seems that while pre-sales and construction of apartments are going down, sales of townhouses are on the way up and in this week’s podcast, we discuss why that might be. Listen Here Then we turn our gazes south to Victoria where their new strata laws have just passed.  OK, they won’t come into force until December, but we ask if they are blazing a trail for NSW strata laws to follow. And we preview Sue’s trip to the front line – well, a new apartment block under construction – with Building Commissioner David Chandler.  Will she need body armour?  Will he? It’s all in the Flat Chat Wrap. Transcript in full Jimmy  00:00 So, it seems that people are buying fewer apartments, but more townhouses. Sue 0:07 Oh, like strata townhouses? Jimmy 00:10 Yep, most townhouses are strata these days, even in Randwick, where they tried to make everybody have company title. Sue 00:18 Right. Jimmy  00:20 There's that, and there's big changes to the law in Victoria, so we'll be talking about that. I'm Jimmy Thomson. I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue 00:31 And I'm Sue Williams. I write about property for Domain. Jimmy 00:35 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy Okay, Sue, there's new figures from a company run by your old sparring partner, Dr. Andrew Wilson. Jimmy What they've indicated is that the government has been pumping money into the building sector; most of that money is going into stand-alone houses. The number of purchases (or the builds starting), for apartments has actually plummeted. It's going right down, but going down by less, is townhouses. You look at the graph (and the graph is on the Flat Chat website)…I'd say in about six months, it could actually meet; the number of townhouses, and the number of apartments are going to be about the same, which shows a big shift in people's thinking about how they want to live. They want to live in strata, because of the benefits of that, but they don't want to necessarily live in apartments. Why is that? Sue 01:57 I wonder if that's the influence of the downsizers on the market. A lot of older people are a bit more nervous about moving into apartments, if they've never lived in them before. They're a bit anxious about having to deal with an owner’s corporation or a body corporate.  I was talking to someone the other day from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. They were saying that, often older people were a bit nervous about moving into apartments, if they've never lived in them before, because they're nervous about who their neighbors might be, and whether there's going to be a noise above them, or next to them or below them. They can't quite get their head around the fact that (hopefully), apartments are built to be almost soundproof, but you know, I grew up in a terrace house… We heard everything our neighbors said; both sides of us and it wasn't such a big deal really. You just kind of got used to it. Well, I didn’t know anything different when I was a kid. Jimmy 03:03 That’s the key; you know, if you've lived in a house where you're separate; even these big McMansions are exactly one meter apart, or whatever it is. You're not going to hear your neighbor so much, except when they go out into the backyard. Sue 03:18 I'm arguing you often do, and there's less you can do about it, when you're living in a house. If the house isn't so well-built, you're always going to hear your neighbors from next door if you’re in a terrace. We know somebody who lives in a terrace and has terrible trouble with neighbors’ noise and that’s in Kirribilli in the lower North Shore of Sydney.
Every so often – about once a month – I get invited on to James Valentine’s Afternoons on ABC 702. Last week the topic was pets in apartments – partly because that was all anyone was talking about. So we had a couple of people ringing up with their pet questions and complaints, all of which has indirectly added to a pet-heavy Flat Chat website this week. And that was exacerbated by my response to a question about whether or not there was a guide to the best dogs for apartments. Listen Here “Oh, yes,” I blithely replied.  “You’ll find it on the website.” I wasn’t sure where but I knew it would be there … except it wasn’t. I don’t know how I managed to convince myself that I’d already done this, but I did and I hadn’t. Which is why I spent my weekend digging through and collating the opinions of half a dozen websites purporting to offer the definitive list of the best dogs for units. If you are interested, you can find that info here.  Otherwise, if you missed the session on Afternoons, sit back and enjoy our chat from last week which we hope was entertaining and informative. Transcript in full Jimmy  00:00 Every so often (I won't say regularly, because it's anything but regular), but just about once a month, I get invited onto James Valentine's Afternoons on ABC 702 radio. Last week, James asked me on to talk about pets, because everybody's talking about pets. Nobody's talking about anything else except pets at the moment. I thought that would make a very good podcast. I'm Jimmy Thomson. This is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] James  00:55 Hello, Canberra, hello, Sydney, hello, Newcastle. Three of the great cities of this nation, combined together with one radio show. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. For those in Canberra who haven't encountered Jimmy Thomson, let me set the scene for you. Jimmy Thomson (for longer than even he cares to remember and for longer than most people can), has been looking at the strata rules of largely, New South Wales and the ACT. Now, you might think to yourself, ‘wow, he sounds like an interesting fellow,’ and this is the odd thing about Jimmy Thomson… He makes it very interesting. As more and more Australians (in all those cities I'm describing), end up living in apartments and strata and townhouses and the like; more of us have got to get our head across what that means and what some of the issues are. Jimmy runs a website called  He's also written for the Domain and the Herald for many years on these issues. You can follow up on anything we're talking about today by going to  and you can look at the debates they've had and the issues that have been there. We found it very, very helpful (and many have, listening to this), to get Jimmy in to talk through changes as they're coming along. Now, we decided to have something of a Flat Chat special today, because Jimmy and I were linked in to a discussion on Twitter, about an assistant dog. Jimmy, g’day! Jimmy  02:27 Good afternoon. James  02:31 Good afternoon. Nice to have you have you along, as always. Look, I'm so annoyed. I can't believe that our building manager is having another go at removing Buddy from the building; Buddy being a dog. We've got the Assistant dog jacket and approval. This person has now gone to their employer and they've sent a letter, because now the building manager is saying ‘oh, the dog is overweight; the dog is over a weight limit. The dog is too big for the building.’ The building manager hates dogs, and it's making it so difficult to deal with this. This is an Assistance dog. These are these marvelous dogs that will be trained in all sorts of ways to help people with all kinds of disabilities, mental health issues, and all the rest. It is absolutely fantastic thing. If there's one dog you might want in your apartment building, it would be an assistance dog. It'll be really great; it will be well-trained and would a...
In this week’s podcast we give the NSW Parliament’s deliberations on it’s new strata pet laws a kick along. As reported here, the Lower House has taken a good six months to deal with a procedural Bill that would have promoted sustainability and tidied up several odd loopholes in strata law. However, it was tagged with an amendment that would have meant pets could only be excluded from apartments if it was detrimental to the animal. Listen Here The amended Bill, which was approved by the Upper House with its Animal Justice Party alteration, had zero chance of being approved by the Legislative Assembly. Right or wrong, the majority Coalition government was simply not going to approve open slather for pet owners in strata. So Sydney MP Alex Greenwich stepped in and wrangled a compromise that basically says pets could not “unreasonably” be refused domicile in apartment blocks while getting a commitment to a parliamentary report on what “reasonable” actually means. And that’s where we hop in with our ten cents worth on the podcast. Rental as anything Elsewhere in the pod, in light of the tax and planning breaks now on offer from the NSW government, we discuss the rise and rise of build-to-rent apartment blocks – there are 40 “in the pipeline” according to real estate marketing giant CBRE. But will they be snazzy upmarket facilities-filled developments like Mirvac’s Liv Indigo? Or will they be cheap and cheerless, renters-only versions of the cram-em-in, stack-em-high chicken coops beloved of some well-known developers?  Time will tell. Commish kicks butt Finally Sue chats about her recent conversation with Building Commissioner David Chandler.  Six months into his much-hyped crackdown on dodgy developers, is he making a difference, especially with regard to confidence in our high-rise buildings? We dig around for evidence. Zany Zoom calls And keeping things upbeat, Jimmy points us to these two videos. The first, is balm to the soul of any strata chair or secretary who’s had to deal with unruly members at an online committee meeting. If you are one of the few people on the planet who hasn't already seen this, it made a global viral video heroine of Council Clerk Jackie Weaver and her ruthless handling of obstreperous members of Handforth Parish Council in England. And on a lighter note, there’s the lawyer who appeared on a Zoom video as a cute little talking kitten. Almost as amusing in the video from Texas is the warning in the top left corner that recording the meeting was an offence. Well, that really worked. But maybe if we all had to adopt animal alter egos, online strata meetings would be a lot less fractious and a lot more fun. Enjoy the podcast and let us know what you think of the new format on Transcript In Full Jimmy  00:00 Big news on the pet front this week in strata. Sue  00:04 Yes! it's all happening, isn’t it? Jimmy  00:04 We've got ‘build to rent’ to talk about and you've been chatting to Building Commissioner, David Chandler? Sue 00:14 Yes, that's right. Jimmy  00:15 Is he making a difference; let's find out, later on. I'm Jimmy Thomson. I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:24 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain with the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age. Jimmy  00:29 This is the Flat Chat Wrap. Well, let's get straight into it. The New South Wales lower house (which is actually the most important bit of Parliament), last week debated an amendment to their sustainability strata bill. Sue  01:01 That was the one where there was an amendment put on by the Animal Justice Party, wasn't it? Jimmy  01:05 Yes. This was originally a bill that was all about fixing up loose ends.
The Flat Chat wrap this week is taken up with three main topics. The first is a petition to parliament to create a blacklist of bad landlords … launched by someone who is a landlord herself. Victoria is about to get one next month and it seems only fair that, if NSW tenants can be put on a blacklist that makes it harder for them to get rentals, then bad landlords should also be named and shamed in the hope they sharpen up their ideas to get good renters. You can find links to the petition here. Listen Here Our second topic is the “skyscratcher” hotel planned for Pitt St,  Sydney.  In the podcast we erroneously reference the architects’ (Durbach Block Jaggers) website as the home of some caustic comments. In fact, we were thinking of the excellent Dezeen online architecture and design magazine (from which we pilfered the illustrations on this page). Check it out if you are at all interested in innovative building design.  And by the way, some reader comments on that site say the plan was just a kite-flying attempt to get publicity and that  development application to City of Sydney had been withdrawn after objections from neighbours. That doesn’t seem to be the case if you look at the detailed application documents HERE on the City of Sydney website. If you’re excited by innovative high-rise architecture (even though it’s an hotel) have a look at Dezeen for more detail. And finally we found the pet-friendliest apartment block in Sydney which has its own cat café.  However, we’ve also found another one in Surry Hills called Catmosphere which offers cat yoga (among other things) for feline-deprived locals. It’s bookings only so don’t just turn up or the fur will fly. Transcript in full. Jimmy  00:00 Bad landlords and skinny buildings; that's what we're going to be talking about today. That new building in Sydney, they’re describing it as a sky-scratcher, because it's too thin to be called a skyscraper. Sue  00:17 Hmm, interesting! Jimmy  00:19 I think they're splitting hairs there. They are our main topics of conversation and a move to have a blacklist of bad landlords. I’m Jimmy Thomson; I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:32 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain with the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age. Jimmy  00:37 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Sue, you've been talking to somebody about a blacklist for landlords? Sue  00:58 Yes. They had a really bad experience renting property, and they're actually also a landlord themselves, so they know what they're talking about. They had a bad experience; lots of things went wrong. Repairs, problems, and the landlord's mother used to visit their home without giving notice and all that kind of thing. They went to Fair Trading, then they went to NCAT and got an order against their landlord. They feel that there are lots of lousy landlords out there, and they deserve to be highlighted so that when you go to rent an apartment or a house, you actually know… Jimmy 01:36 What their track record is. Sue 01:39 Yeah. Whether they have good tenant references; whether they've had rulings against them in NCAT in the past. Whether they've got a bad reputation or whether they're a great landlord. Jimmy  01:49 Well, a blacklist is not going to list people who are great landlords, so that's a kind of separate thing, isn't it? Sue  01:56 Sure, okay. I think you’re splitting hairs, now Jimmy! Jimmy  02:00 We've got a blacklist for tenants, right? Sue  02:02 Yes, that's right, and that's a privately-run blacklist. I think that's quite difficult; it's very hard to get off of once you're on there. Jimmy 02:09 Yeah. Sue  02:10 There should be an equivalent for bad landlords. Jimmy  02:13 So, you get on the tenant’s blacklist by defaulting on your rent; damaging property. First of all,
Hi, did you miss us?  We took a little break last month but we are back with our new, improved Flat Chat Wrap podcast. We – Sue Williams and JimmyT – are now working on the basis that less is more. We are still going to talk about the apartment living issues of the day, large and small, to keep you informed and amused. But we’re going to put a clock on it so while our thoughts may occasionally wander down the odd tangent, our chat will never meander. We’re aiming for somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes per episode which is just long enough for a decent coffee break or a short commute. Listen Here Do let us know what you think and please, by all means, feel free to suggest topics we could discuss.  It’s always good to get fresh ideas. This week we talk about the growing disparity between the median prices of apartments compared to houses and why this is happening.  And you can also read more about that HERE. Jimmy will be talking about the window-sized hole he found in strata renovation regulations and how Fair Trading dodged the opportunity to fix it.  You can also read more about that HERE. And Sue explores the world of community and neighbourhood Facebook pages while Jimmy dreams of a Mexican restaurant called Three Chihuahuas. On with the show (we did say it was going to be short and sweet). Transcript in Full Jimmy  00:00 And we're back. And in case you thought you dropped into the podcast halfway through, we're back from a little break we took over the holidays, to give you the Flat Chat Wrap again. Hello, Sue. Sue  00:11 Hi, Jimmy, nice to be back! Jimmy 00:13 Happy New Year. Sue 00:13 And the same to you. Jimmy  00:15 Today we're going to be talking about a flaw I found in the New South Wales strata regulations, and you've got something about apartment sales? Sue  00:26 That's right. There's a huge report on apartment and house prices this week by Domain. Jimmy  00:33 And there's a new piece of hardware being used for the Flat Chat Wrap now; it's a clock. We're gonna try and keep it tight. People seem to like podcasts that last less than half an hour, so we'll keep it tight, keep it snappy, keep it going. Keep it light, keep it funny, keep it short, keep it sweet. I'm Jimmy Thomson. I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review and edit the Flat Chat website. Sue  01:02 And I'm Sue Williams, a property writer with Domain. Jimmy  01:05 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. Growing gap in house and unit prices Jimmy Sue, there's been a big report about the difference between apartment prices and house prices. Sue  01:28 The latest Domain house report came out last week, and it showed house prices surging remarkably all around the country, but unit prices either rising a little bit or even falling in some areas. The gap between house prices and unit prices has now reached a record 66%. So, the median house price is 66% more than the median unit price, which is the biggest gap they’ve ever had. Jimmy 01:57 Why is this happening? Sue  01:58 Dr. Nicola Powell, the research analyst with Domain, says it's for a number of reasons. Investor activity is down, and investors mostly buy apartments. Because rents are down and the number of tenants are down as well, because we don't have overseas students coming in. We don't have people migrating here and they usually go and live in apartments as well. People are moving to regional areas and coastal areas, because they want more space. Or, they're moving out of apartments, because they want more space in a house as well. And they want to be able to work from home, so they need a study. Jimmy  02:34 There's a COVID effect, and there's people working from home. Sue  02:39 Big COVID effect, yeah. There was a really big move towards apartments, but it seems that COVID has kind of slowed that down,
Do you know what your strata-living tribe is? Are you economically engaged, young and jobless or under-employed, battlers, established owners, downsizers or even public housing tenants? Professor Bill Randolph of UNSW department of the Built Environment was recently interviewed for an extensive feature in the Sydney Morning Herald in which he discussed a survey that reveals the reality of who is living in apartments in Sydney, rather than who is presented on the glossy sales brochures. We are not all, it seems, middle-aged middle-class couples sipping chardonnay on our harbour view balconies.  Far from it. Listen Here Even less likely are we grey-haired newbies who’ve retired and downsized, or been in the same apartments for decades. These tribes do exist, for sure, but not in the numbers promotional material would have us believe. It’s a deliberately shorter (and we hope, sweeter) podcast this week as we dig into the question of who really lives in apartments and why. Awful apartments And there was another SMH article that caught our eye in the past week or so; a treatise by architecture writer Elizabeth Farrelly about how awful it is to live in a shitty apartment in a crap building in a crowded area of the city. Hey, Liz, we could have told you, if you’d only asked. But, seriously, she makes some very valid points, mainly that too many buildings and apartments are designed for sale to people who have no idea what they’re getting into, or to investors whose only thought is the bottom line. To add economic insult to infrastructure injury, they are often managed by cabals of connected professionals whose main purpose seems to be to find ways of extracting more money from renters and owners rather than charging reasonable fees for making their lives more liveable. All of which led to a discussion on this week’s podcast about expectation and experience. Basically, if you have moved from a grossly overcrowded one-bedder in a building with no facilities, are you going to complain about living in a fairly squeezy two-bedder in a block where the lift occasionally breaks down? 25 floors, no lifts As an extreme example, we cite this block in Chongquing, China, which has 25 floors but no lifts.  However, as we explain, it’s not as challenging for penthouse residents as it sounds. The key to all this is money.  If you have enough of it, you can make choices.  If you don’t, you have to choose which compromises you are going to make, whether they be between location, size, facilities or liveability. That’s why it make sense to rent when you first set up home, than help pour money into the developer feeding trough by pursuing this national obsession with owning property regardless of who built it and how well or badly it’s managed. Finally,  we manage to mention the Infinity building in Green Square without mentioning the reason we are mentioning them … it has won The Urban Developer’s Development of the Year – High Density Residential award. There’s all that and more, including a question for regular podcasters: do you like to hear other voices on the pod or would you rather just hear Sue and JimmyT in shorter podcasts (or a bit of both?). Let us know on Non-podders can catch up with our ramblings in the transcript below. Transcript in full Jimmy  00:00 Do you know which apartment tribe you're a member of? Sue  00:03 I think I'm part of the tribe, ‘economically-engaged.’ Jimmy  00:06 Okay, you're not ‘established-owner or downsizer?’ Sue  00:12 Well, I guess I could be ‘established-owner’, but they’re kind of over 65. I’m not over 65. A long way off, Jimmy. Jimmy  00:21 I am! I'm part of both of those things; both of those tribes. There was a big article in The Sydney Morning Herald recently and we're going to be talking about that today. I'm Jimmy Thomson. Sue  00:32 And I'm Sue Williams.
This week’s podcast may be the first of 2021 but 2020 doesn’t get away that easily. Last year will be remembered in global politics as the year of Brexit, Trump, the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the Trump-rump. Democracy in the USA is hanging by a thread but it will survive. Talking about democracy, on a much more local level, we look back at the battle over “no-pets” by-laws and how it tore apart two apartment blocks, and made NCAT look pretty foolish too. Listen Here Inevitably, we examine the entrails of holiday lets like Airbnb. In NSW, in particular, the slow drip feed of legislation to control the hitherto unfettered spread of holiday lets was a lesson in what happens when politicians make half-baked decisions that they neither fully support nor the consequences of which they fully appreciate. Meanwhile, Airbnb’s flacks continue their policy of answering only the questions they wish you’d asked rather than those for which we require answers. Sadly, it seems, Stayz aren’t much better these days, especially when it comes to manipulating statistics.  It makes you wonder how dumb our politicians have to be to fall for all this claptrap. Collateral damage It would be nice if someone just came out and said “we desperately need tourist dollars and apartment residents – especially renters – are just collateral damage in the ongoing battle for bucks.  Please go and live in a crappy area where no one wants to go and give us some peace.” We also look at the effect of the pandemic across Australia and realise that it’s all intricately intertwined. Covid-19 lockdowns and lock-outs forced a lot of holiday letting hosts out of the market – which was great news for renters – but then compelled people to holiday nearer to home, which saw holiday lets come roaring back when locals who could travel replaced all the foreign visitors who were not allowed to come here. Oh, and the lockdowns persuaded lots of apartment owners to get pets, which takes us back to the first item. Defects Then there was the continuing story of apartment block defects and the powers finally granted to Building Commissioner David Chandler to put the blowtorch to the belly of dodgy developers.  We won’t see the results of his handiwork for years, when apartment blocks stop falling over. And we talk about changes to the legislations of various states plus build-to-rent, the new (old) way of renting. One landlord, no strata committee, great facilities, long leases and no bond. See, something good did come out of 2020 after all. Transcript in full Jimmy  00:00 2020 was a pretty horrific year across Australia, and you'd think the only story in town was COVID-19, but we're looking back at the whole year, purely through the prism of strata. There's a lot to talk about. We'll try and get it all into this episode. I'm Jimmy Thomson. Sue 00:21 And I'm Sue Williams. Jimmy 00:22 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. Jimmy 2020, Sue? Sue  00:40 It was a huge year, wasn't it, in lots of ways? Jimmy 00:42 Glad to see the back of it. Sue 00:43 Yes, absolutely. Let's hope the next one is a good one. Jimmy  00:47 COVID 19; it affected just about every aspect of Australian life, but there was other stuff going on, especially in strata. What was the big story that stuck out for you in 2020? Sue  01:01 I think it must be pets. I mean, that's COVID-related as well, because lots of people got pets because of COVID. They were stuck in lockdown, so they wanted some company and we had that incredible decision by the Appeals Court, to uphold one owner’s claim that a blanket ban on pets was unconscionable. Therefore now, in essence, all apartment buildings in New South Wales have to allow pets. Nobody can impose a blanket ban, Jimmy  01:30 They can impose restrictions on what they do in common property, but that was huge. I don't know if it undermined or supported the whole Tribunal...
OK, stop, relax, breathe. We’re not taking a break these holidays so much as easing our collective foot off the gas We thought that, rather than drag someone out of their post-Christmas coma to be interviewed on the Flat Chat Wrap podcast, we’d give you a chance to reprise some of our most listened-to episodes of the past year, some of which you might have missed or want to hear again. In fact there are two “normal” episodes that stand out as our most downloaded. Episode 91 – Crackdown on Dud Developers and Episode 87 – Comedy, coffee and a new way of renting . In Ep 87, we first discussed build-to-rent apartments, had a chat with the owner of a café in an apartment block, and announced the completion of our Pod-Com “Hyperbole Towers” (which you can hear again by clicking on the link below). Pets, pets and pets In Episode 91, we spoke to Karen Stiles, Executive Officer of the Owners Corporation Network, about the impact Building Commissioner David Chandler is going to have on new apartment builds in NSW. Given this week’s news that another major developer has gone bust,  he certainly has his work cut out. Apart from those podcasts, anything with “pets” in the title rated well, no doubt due at least in part to the shenanigans that saw NSW “no-pets” by-laws revoked, reprieved and then re-revoked.  These included Episode 89, Episode 92, Episode 95  and Episode 96. But these podcasts and the rest aren’t not all only about pets – there’s plenty of other stuff going on in strata for us to get our teeth into in these and other episodes. Neglected For the record, our most neglected podcast – at least since we trebled our listeners by moving platforms from our previous hosts, the podcast equivalent of witness protection –  was Podcast 68: Six months of Sundays, classic movies, perfect pods. Maybe it’s because when it went out in April, this episode didn’t have it’s full title attached. Or maybe it was the content – how to survive lockdowns with a smile.  It may be interesting to listen back to hear how we thought we’d fare as the pandemic spread. Sue Williams and I (JimmyT) will be back next week with a full and fresh episode as we review the year in strata across Australia. By the way, I have changed the podcast archive link on our front page to Google Podcasts as Apple iTunes doesn't seem to offer more than 10 old episodes. Let me know if you have an issue with any of that. But, meanwhile, sit back and enjoy (again) Australia’s first podcom (podcast sitcom), Hyperbole Towers and listen to its benighted committee, forced to meet on Zoom with all the back-stabbing, power plays and nefarious goings on that you’d expect. And, once again, thanks to our special guest Todd McKenney for adding some stardust to the show. Listen Here And for those of you who don't yet pod - and it's as easy as clicking on play, above - here's the script in full. You're missing half the fun but enjoy anyway. Hyperbole Towers - The Script    Scene 1: the cafe   FADE IN:   NARRATOR It's 12 minutes past six PM on a  post-lockdown evening and Charlie Lee, chair of the Hyperbole  Towers strata committee, is  wondering where the rest of its  members are.     SFX: Mobile phone ringing   ALFIE (In phone)  Hullo. Building Manager Alfie here... I'm sorry I'm in the  middle of a meeting.   CHARLIE No, you're not.   ALFIE (In phone)  I most certainly am... oh...  hello, Madame Chairperson... I am  in the meeting. Where are you?    CHARLIE I'm in the cafe. At the meeting.  Where are you? And where is  everybody else?   ALFIE (In phone)  We are meeting online, Madame  Chair. As required.   CHARLIE Required?    ALFIE (In phone)  Our new by-law. Remember we had to  pass one so we could have meetings  on Zoom or Skype?   CHARLIE During the lockdown? How could I  forget? Four hours of mindless  arguments punctuated by three  resignations,
With Christmas rapidly approaching and Covid-19 closing in on us again, we thought about not doing  a full podcast this week. A quick intro and replay of Jimmy’s most recent stint on the James Valentine’s afternoons on ABC Radio 702, and that ws going to be it. But once we got chatting, all sorts of topic came up, such as, what is this obsession with toilet roll every time there’s a hint of trouble on the horizon? Why do some people “need” to have 10 times as much as they could possibly use outside of a combination of the apocalypse and a seriously bad curry. Listen Here And why does that outweigh other people’s reasonable hope that they'll find a couple of rolls still for sale on the shelf when they pop into the supermarket? Are we turning into Trumpians, with their "me first, stuff you!" attitudes? And talking about those who lack a highly developed sense of community, we hop into the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers who use their belief in conspiracy theories about microchips in the vaccine and how only old people get Covid-19, to justify not wearing masks on trains and buses in the midst of a pandemic surge. As Jimmy writes in an upcoming column in the Financial Review, there’s no vaccine to prevent or cure stupidity. But, the worrying thing is, the theories might be stupid but some of the people who believe them clearly aren't. We discuss a friend of Sue’s who is an intelligent and articulate woman but who says she probably won’t take the vaccine when it gets here because of fears that it contains a chip created by Bill Gates that will be able to track and monitor us wherever we go. Jimmy likes the idea of this chip and says it could be used the same way as with missing pets, to check who you are and where you belong if you ever go missing (like after a Christmas  or New Year’s Eve Party). All this is in the podcast and the transcript.  What’s not in the transcript is the session on the James Valentine show but that’s worth a listen, if only for the question about whether or not visiting dogs now have to be allowed in apartment blocks now that by-laws banning pets are defunct? If you haven’t listened before, just turn up your speakers, connect your earpods or plug in your headphones, and click on play near the top of this story.  It’s the most fun you’ll have in strata without breaching any by-laws. The transcript Jimmy 00:00 It's kind of hard to stay positive at the moment, isn't it? Sue  00:03 Yeah, I think COVID has come back and kind of depressed us all. Jimmy  00:07 With a vengeance, and a lot of our friends who were planning to go away for Christmas and New Year are stuck at home. Sue  00:14 Yep. Jimmy  00:15 We'll just have to entertain them. Sue  00:17 Yeah, and I think there's a lot of that going on; the ‘new orphans’ are being entertained by friends who've actually bought food and have food, whereas they’ve got empty cupboards. Jimmy  00:26 But I was in the supermarket the other day, and, empty toilet roll shelves! They were filling them up again, so obviously, they're ready for it this time, but what is this strange obsession with… Sue  00:39 It's good news for my local newsagent. I don't know if you've seen it, but it’s packed with toilet rolls, and hand sanitizer because I think it arrived all a bit too late for the last one. Jimmy 00:51 So, he's had it in a cupboard somewhere, or a warehouse? Sue 00:53 No, not at all; it’s completely taken over the shop. All the newspapers and magazines and cards and lollies are all kind of around the edge, because he's got so much stock. He's obviously got nowhere else to put it. Hopefully, this will be good news for him at least, because I do feel sorry for him. He's obviously incredibly over-ordered.  It's so sad every time you go in here. Jimmy  01:17 Anyway, we will try and keep your spirits up. I'm Jimmy Thomson. Sue 01:30
It’s very much a tale of two slices of strata in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap podcast. To begin with, you can listen to two over-privileged, entitled professionals (us) whingeing about what went wrong … and right … when we decided to renovate both bathrooms in our flat at once. BOTH bathrooms? “When I was a lad we had a pothole in the road, and used gravel for toilet paper  …” says one of Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen. Listen Here Regular readers of this website will have been following our reno (mis)adventures on this website for the past few weeks so we thought it was  time to reveal all our triumphs and failures on the pod. From the too-flimsy door that started it all to the crack that appeared in a newly plastered wall, the whole catastrophe is there for your schadenfreude listening pleasure. Free legal advice And quickly moving from entitled renovators to hard-pressed strata residents facing more urgent issues not of their own making, we have belatedly discovered a completely free strata legal service for NSW, based in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Marrickville. Lawyer Justin Abi-Daher joined us on the pod to answer questions about the service like: How long has Marrickville Legal Centre been covering strata?Who is on their strata team and what are their areas of expertise?What is the most common issue or issues that are brought to them?What do they do when both sides of a dispute asking for help?What is the extent of their involvement? E.g. would they ever represent a client at a tribunal or in a mediation?What is the most common piece of advice they give strata residents once they were in the midst of a dispute.To what extent do they find themselves having to explain residents' basic rights and responsibilities?Is there one piece of strata knowledge that surprises people more than any other? Finally we ask this not-for-profit hero to explain how they get their funding and why they need more so badly right now. You can read more about Marrickville Legal Centre HERE and look at their website HERE.  And remember, their strata service isn’t just for Marrickville – it’s for the whole of NSW. If you’re not into podcasts – and really, you’re missing half the fun – you can read a transcript of the pod below. Transcription Here. slightly later than usual, is this week's podcast transcribed in full. Jimmy 00:00 We've got a Christmas gift for our readers and listeners this week; free legal advice. Sue 00:06 That's a good gift. Jimmy 00:07 Some people will say, ‘well, you give legal advice all the time,’ but we don't really, because we're not allowed to. We just kind of point people in the right direction. Later on, we're going to be talking to somebody from Marrickville Legal Center and they do offer free legal advice for strata owners and residents, specifically resident owners, rather than investors and tenants. Sue 00:31 Sounds like a good Christmas gift. Jimmy 00:33 I think it is. Before that, we're going to be talking about our bathroom renovation, because that's been keeping people entertained for the last few weeks on the website. I'm Jimmy Thomson. Sue 00:45 And I'm Sue Williams. Jimmy 00:46 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. MUSIC Bathroom update Jimmy How this bathroom thing started, was trying to fix my bathroom door. Sue 01:07 That's right, because your bathroom door was a bit too thin. Jimmy 01:13 Yes, and it’s the guest bathroom, so privacy was at a minimum. Sue  01:16 And tell us how that worked out, Jimmy? Jimmy  01:19 Well, the bathroom door is untouched and, in the meantime, we've renovated two bathrooms. Sue 01:26 This is like $45,000 later. The one thing that we wanted, is still not yet done. Jimmy  01:33 I said I wanted the bathroom door fixed. You said ‘hey, if you're going to have the bathroom door fixed, why don't you just renovate your whole bathroom?’
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